The cover of the book frankie shows a blue pattern on a white background
Books, Disability & Accessibility, Diversity

Book Review: Frankie- The Woman Who Saved Millions from Thalidomide

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Frankie: The Woman Who Saved Millions from Thalidomide

From the back cover: 

Thalidomide: patented in Germany as a non-toxic cure-all for sleeplessness and morning sickness. A wonder drug with no side-effects.

We know differently now.

Today, thalidomide is a byword for tragedy and drug reform – a sign of what happens when things aren’t done ‘the right way’. But when it was released in the 1950s, it was the best thing since penicillin – something that doctors were encouraged to prescribe to all of their patients. Nobody could anticipate what it actually did: induce sleeping, prevent morning sickness, and drastically harm unborn children.

But, whilst thalidomide rampaged and ravaged throughout most of the West, it never reached the United States. It landed on the desk of Dr Frances Kelsey, and there it stayed as she battled hierarchy, patriarchy, and the Establishment in an effort to prove that it was dangerous. Frankie is her story.


The cover of the book frankie shows a blue pattern on a white background

My Review

Before picking up this book, I had never heard of Dr. Frances Kelsey. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to read Frankie: The woman Who Saved Millions from Thalidomide, because now Dr. Kelsey has become one of my new favorite heroes. Dr. Kelsey’s story is an inspiration to women everywhere who are working in fields that are dominated by men. Through her hard work and determination, Dr. Kelsey prevented countless children and families from experiencing the impact of Thalidomide in their own lives.

I was so inspired by the way Dr. Kelsey refused to be pushed around. She was a brave woman who stood up for herself and for her beliefs. Stories like hers inspire me to continue to do my best every day to help others. Her story is the perfect example of how a relatively quiet life can leave a huge positive impact on the world. Dr. Kelsey did not set out to be a hero. She simply committed herself to doing her job to the best of her ability and I’m so glad that I have now discovered her story through this book.

Frankie: The Woman Who Saved Millions from Thalidomide deals with some complex issues related to medicine and pharmaceutical testing, but it does so in a way that is easy for the casual reader to understand. I found the writing style to be both conversational and engaging. The only criticism that I have is that some of the language used to describe the concept of disability in this seemed problematic to me (i.e. having a disability is described as a tragedy). For this reason, although I enjoyed this book, I would be a bit reluctant to recommend it to others within the disability community.  Nevertheless,  I was able to focus on the main narrative and I greatly enjoyed learning about Frankie’s story.

I would recommend this book to people who are interested in women’s history and stories about unsung feminist heroes.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 


Purchase Links

UK Readers, get your copy here:

US Readers, get your copy here:


About the Authors –

Image: Author photos of James Essinger and Sandra Koutzenko. Both authors look serious and thoughtful. 

JAMES ESSINGER is the author of non-fiction books that focus on STEM subjects and personalities, including Charles and Ada (The History Press) and Ada’s Algorithm (Gibson Square), the latter of which has been optioned for a film. He lives in Canterbury.

SANDRA KOUTZENKO is a bilingual writer whose work spans a variety of categories and topics, ranging from French poetry to English non-fiction, focusing on human nature and the conflict between its potential for greatness and its propensity for destruction.


Social Media Links 

Twitter @TheHistoryPress

Instagram @TheHistoryPressUK


Other Book Reviews
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The Salty River Bleeds- Poetry that makes the reader seriously consider how we treat the environment.

Charles and Ada– The two friends who invented the very first computer!

When Only Faith Remains- the perfect book to help get you in the mood for Christmas!


4 thoughts on “Book Review: Frankie- The Woman Who Saved Millions from Thalidomide”

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