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who are endeavoring to cure themselves by traditional remedies, by quack medicines, by advice at second-hand, by the use of means that have been recommended by some doctor to some other woman, they would outnnmber the former ten-fold. And it must be remembered, that most of the first class belong also to the second, as often as they dare."
This testimony as to the health of English women, as coming from a woman, is of course doubly valuable; and it comes, too, as a mere digression in the article from which it is quoted, the subject of which is “ Feminine Knowledge.” It remains yet to be proved, it seeins to us, that American women are, as a whole, suffering from more derangement of their peculiar functions than women of other countries. Do accnrately compiled statistics from full and trustworthy sources, warran in asserting that American women are more unhealthy than European women, or are we only assuming the fact from their general external appearance-a criterion by no means a certain one? In the old story, the pail of water containing the living fish was, after all the discussion, found to weigh about as much as the pail with the dead one.
Are we sure of our facts ? Or even if we are sure of these, even supposing that a mother of a large family here is not as strong as a mother of a large family in Germany for instance, we are in no wise warranted in concluding that the two were not as strong before marriage. The wear and tear of American life must be taken into consideration, and no one but an American housekeeper who has ever "kept house" on the other side of the water, can appreciate the immense relief from care and trouble which she has there experienced, and the dread with which she again returns to the care of a house and the dealings with servants in America. It is not work, and not weakness, bat annoyance and
that tire and drive women into nervous diseases. When we find the American and German mothers subjected to the same strain, and only the same strain, may we fairly judge of their comparative strength and health, and only then. Where are the statistics concerning German women resident in this country? There is a vast field of inquiry open on this subject yet; in fact, a “South-sea of discovery,” and till we are sure of our facts, it were well that we were cautious in our conclusions.
The times are gone by when the clergyman uttered the authoritative words of superior knowledge to an ignorant and unquestioning audience. Every clergyman preaches now to a congregation of critics, many of whom are his equals, sometimes his superiors, in general information, and who sit in judgment, more or less adequate, on the statements he may make. In the same manner, the days are past when the physician was the only one who understood anything of the structure and functions of the body, and whose prescriptions were written in an unknown tongue. It is undeniable that the majority, perhaps, of both men and women, are deplorably ignorant of their structure, and the operations of the delicate and exquisite machinery which they bear about with them; but there is also a large number who are not so ignorant, and who trace, with the genuine scientific interest, the phenomena of health and disease. The general diffusion of printed matter is rapidly diffusing knowledge in the department of medicine, as well as in that of theology. The elements of anatomy, physiology, and hygiene, are taught in all our high schools and academies, and it is no uncommon sight to see a class of girls handling the bones of a human skeleton, or, unmindful of stained fingers, searching for the semi-lunar valves in an ox's heart, with as much delight and intelligent interest as that with which they examine the parts of a watch or the machinery of a locomotive; while they can sketch on the black-board, in a few minutes, the form and relative location of all the important organs of the body, and follow the course of the blood from left auricle back to left auricle again, and that of the food, from the teeth to the descending vena cava. And with this basis for study already laid in school, as a part of the common education of a woman, the latest researches and discoveries of the wisest men and women are open to her as well as they are to the physician, and the census reports are at her hand; while, moreover, her knowledge of Latin and chemistry makes plain to her the nature of the remedies proposed in the prescription which she gives to the apothecary.
As a result of our American schools, we have such women now by the hundreds—I am not speaking of those belonging to the medical profession—and does not this question belong to them? As far as the records of experience go they are ready, nay, anxious to receive them, but they ask that these statistics shall be full in some particulars, where they always find them deficient.
This girl is sick? We do not want to know simply that she attended school, and studied and recited regularly ; we want to know also the kind of food she eats, and how cooked, and the regularity of her meals. We want to know the state of ventilation in the school-room and her home; we want to know how many hours of sleep she has, how many parties she has attended, what
underclothing she wears, the manner in which that underclothing is arranged, the weight of her ruffed and double box-plaited dress skirt, and its mode of support, the thickness of the shoes habitually worn, the position of the furnace register in the room, the kind of reading she is allowed to have, and her standing in her class as to thoroughness or superficiality, mental clearness or chaos.
We want also to know what proportion of the cases come from pampered, half-educated devotees of fashion, and what proportion from well-educated, hard-working women. When we have all these statistics, and not till then, shall we be in a condition to attempt a rational solution of the question, what it is that makes our American girls sick. While endeavoring to settle this problem, we shall not, however, forget the wise saying of Dr. O. W. Holmes, that the Anglo-Saxon race is not yet fully acclimated on this continent.
But the collection of just these statistics, so all-im portant, and the vant of which makes all assertion of causes useless, is possible only to women. And, therefore, we venture to claim that this is a woman's question —that the women themselves are the only persons capable of dealing with it.* They are the only ones who can and do know the facts in detail, and the facts being laid before them, can they not, with help, possibly decide quite intelligently as to causes ? They desire any and all evidence that may be given, but do not they themselves constitute the only jurors competent to decide on the verdict? From the medical profession, we get a certain amount of observed statistics,' necessarily questionable from the fact that a large number of women are not sick, are not good for nothing, are not childless, and, therefore, do not consult physicians; but the reasoning which shall judge and weigh the facts presented, assigning to each its proper value, and, discarding unessential elements, shall draw a just conclusion, is not limited to any profession.*
* In this statement I find myself most unexpectedly endorsed :
“ The deterioration in the health of American women is without doubt one of the most serious among modern social problems. It outweighs, in real importance, vast masses of questions usually claiming far more attention.
“ That some of this deterioration may be due to close application to study is possible, but the numbers of those who have ever closely applied themselves to study is so very small, compared with the number of those in broken health, that, evidently, search must be made for causes lying deeper and spreading wider.
“The want of success in grasping and presenting these causes hitherto by men, seems to show that there should be brought to the question the instinct, the knowledge, the tact of woman herself, and it would seem that, for this, she has need of a system of education to give the mental strength required for searching out those causes, and grappling with them.
“More than this, it would seem that if the cause lies to any extent in want of knowledge of great principles of health, or in want of firm character to resist the inroads of certain vicious ideas in modern civilization, a change of woman's education from its too frequent namby-pamby character, into something calculated to give firmer mental and moral texture, would help, rather than hurt in this matter.”—Majority Report submitted to Trustees of Cornell University on Mr. Sage's proposal to endow a college for women.
February 13, 1872.
The concluding paragraphs will be found entire in the Appendix.
* Chancellor Winchell, of Syracuse University, makes this statement :
“ It is not pertinent to the question for us to inquire whether the ursuit of the higher studies be compatib) with the health of
She is to be her own judge in that respect. We allow ber to judge in regard to the healthfulness of all other pursuits. The pursuit of fashion, in some instances, is reported to have been