The Physical Life of Woman: - Advice to the Maiden, Wife and Mother
by Dr. George H Napheys
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The extraordinary popularity achieved and maintained by Dr. GEO. H. NAPHEYS' Physical Life of Woman, places it beyond question among the classics of the English language. Convinced of its high literary as well as medical value, the present publishers have spared no pains or expense to place it before the public in the most attractive style.

The text has been most carefully revised and rewritten by the eminent author himself; extensive additions of important matter the fruit of three more years devoted to the study of the subject and the wants of readers, have been incorporated. In type, paper and binding, the most appropriate materials have been selected. And, to satisfy the repeated requests of purchasers, permission has been obtained from the author to insert his portrait, engraved on steel by one of the most skilful London artists.

With these additions, the Physical Life of Woman comes before the public with all the novelty and freshness of a new book, and also with the solid and substantial reputation for practical worth which its sales of nearly fifty thousand copies a year for three years guarantee to it.

We add a


It treats of woman in her three great positions in life, as the MAIDEN, the WIFE, and the MOTHER.

Under the first of these is discussed the mysterious change she undergoes when ripening from the indifferent girl to the tender and sensitive virgin. The dangers she runs at this critical epoch are carefully noted, and the rules to prevent and remedy them clearly set forth. The all-absorbing topic of Love, is next treated of in a pure and elevated style, but strictly from the physician's point of view, and many salutary hints are given to direct the passion to noble ends and in proper channels, and to teach the youthful reader how to shun unfortunate unions.

In the part addressed to Wives the health of the married couple is first considered as being essential to their happiness. Plainly, yet delicately, the rules that should govern them are laid down; the absence of children and their excessive numbers are both mentioned, as requiring appropriate correction, and an unsparing hand is laid upon certain prevalent social vices. A full discussion of the important topic of the inheritance of physical and mental traits will be found, and two most thorough and practical chapters on Pregnancy and Confinement are added, most invaluable to every young wife.

The duties of the Mother are next set forth, in nursing her child, and taking proper care of it, in training its budding powers, and also in giving her own attention to it in some of the more common diseases to which children are subject.

The sections devoted to Health in Marriage will be peculiarly welcome to many women suffering in health from they know not what exact cause, but really from some of those inward or local weaknesses which are here described. While to very many others who are approaching or about passing through the critical epoch of the Change of Life, the full and well-considered views of the author in the part devoted to that period will be read with benefit and gratitude.

A carefully prepared Index and a copious list of authorities close the volume.

[Transcriber's Note: In the Biographical Sketch section, an "a" with a macron has been marked as ā in this file.]




"Je veux qu'une femme ait des clartes de tout."—Moliere.

New Edition.



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1878, BY D. G. BRINTON, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington. All rights reserved.


In presenting a third edition of this work to the public, with the final changes and improvements of the author, the publishers have felt it a duty to attach to it a brief sketch of his life, which drew to so early and lamented a termination. The whole has also been submitted to a careful revision, in order that it might be brought down to the latest advances in the department of science of which it treats, and also to include in it the final suggestions of the author.

While Dr. Napheys evidently considered the second edition of the present work as meeting closely the requirements of readers, and therefore left behind him no notes which would alter the general plan, a number of corrections and minor changes have been made in the text, various paragraphs have been materially modified, and the Appendix referring to authorities more or less altered.

The continued popularity of the work has been shown, not only by the steady demand for it, but by the efforts of various authors to write imitations of it, and various publishers to issue mutilated and imperfect editions. Against these the present publishers would warn innocent purchasers. The present is the only edition containing the important additions and corrections made by the author during the latter years of his life; and none other was authorized by him.

In its present form, The Physical Life of Woman may justly claim to count among the classics of American literature. Its popularity increases with time, and none of the many similar works which have appeared have approached it in public estimation. It is believed that in the present edition no important scientific fact bearing upon the subject has been omitted, and the most recent developments of hygiene will be found discussed.



Three years have passed since the author of the present work ventured to lay it before the public, not without unusual anxiety as to the manner in which he had fulfilled a task he knew to be so fruitful of good results if well done. Those years of trial are over, and they have brought a recognition of his labors beyond his most sanguine dreams. Nearly one hundred and fifty thousand copies of the work have been sold in that period; it has been separately republished both in Canada and England; it has been honored by a translation into German; the imitations of it which have been written form almost a small library; and, more to the satisfaction of the author than all this, it has received the highest praise both at home and abroad, from both the medical profession and the general learned world.

The present new stereotype edition contains the result of three more years of study and experience, enlightened and aided by very many letters from readers, which served to point out wherein the previous edition fell short of their wants. The text has been carefully revised, and in large part wholly rewritten; nearly one hundred and fifty pages of selected new matter have been added; and the latest steps of medical science in this direction have been followed.

Of the parts which are quite new, and which from the inquiries of numerous readers will add greatly to the value of the work, are the sections on the disturbances of the monthly function in girls, the care of the child, the management of diseases of children, the diseases incident to pregnancy, childbed, and nursing, etc.

Indeed, in the present edition the author has aimed to omit nothing which can aid Woman in performing her full duty to herself and others, so far as that duty lies in the sphere of her Physical Life, whether she is called upon to act as Wife, Mother, Teacher, or Guide. His most ardent desire continues to be that the work will be found a sure and safe monitor amid the difficult duties of Maidenhood and Maternity.

LONDON, ENGLAND, October, 1872.


It seems well to offer, at the outset, a few words explanatory of the nature and object of this book. The author feels that its aim is novel, is daring, and will perhaps subject him to criticism. He therefore make his plea, pro domo sua, in advance.

The researches of scientific men within the last few years have brought to light very many facts relating to the physiology of woman, the diseases to which she is subject, and the proper means to prevent those diseases. Such information, if universally possessed, cannot but result in great benefit to the individual and the commonwealth. The difficulty is to express one's self clearly and popularly on topics never referred to in ordinary social intercourse. But as the physician is obliged daily to speak in plain yet decorous language of such matters, the author felt that the difficulty was not unsurmountable.

He is aware that a respectable though diminishing class in the community maintain that nothing which relates exclusively to either sex should become the subject of popular medical instruction. With every inclination to do this class justice, he feels sure that such an opinion is radically erroneous. Ignorance is no more the mother of purity than she is of religion. The men and women who study and practise medicine are not the worse, but the better, for their knowledge of such matters. So it would be with the community. Had every person a sound understanding of the relations of the sexes, one of the most fertile sources of crime would be removed.

A brief appendix has been added, directed more especially to the professional reader, who may desire to consult some of the original authorities upon whom the author has drawn. And here he would ask from his fellow-members of the medical profession their countenance and assistance in his attempt to distribute sound information of this character among the people. None but physicians can know what sad consequences are constantly occurring from the want of it. * * *


Were man's life measured by his deeds, as the poet suggests, how brief would be the long years of many an octogenarian, and how extended the short span which has been allotted to not a few of the world's famous heroes!

This oft-repeated thought strikes us forcibly in considering the biography of the subject of this sketch. Closing his life at an age when most professional men are but beginning theirs, he had already studied broadly, had traveled widely over two continents, had gained credit and fame by the sword and the pen, and had amassed a fund of erudition and experience which the more lethargic lives of most men fail to approach after twice his length of days. It is eminently appropriate that a record of his busy career should be attached to the works on which his celebrity is chiefly bound, and in which he most conspicuously displays that command of language and happy facility of imparting instruction for which he was so remarkable.

GEORGE HENRY NAPHEYS (pronounced Nā'feez, the ā as in fate) was born in the city of Philadelphia, March 5th, 1842. His parents died while he was still at a tender age, and he was placed with some relatives who resided in the city. From early years he was characterized by quick perceptions and a retentive memory. In the Philadelphia High School, from which he received the academic degree of Master of Arts, he was considered the best scholar in his class, a marked distinction in view of the large numbers which attend that institution. Besides acquiring the usual studies of the High School, he gave considerable time to phonography, in which he became so skilled that he could report any ordinary speaker with entire accuracy. This subsequently proved a great advantage to him in his medical career.

After his graduation he repaired to Hartford, Conn., where he was offered and accepted the position of private secretary to a gentleman of prominence in the literary and religious world.

Thus he was engaged when the civil war broke out. With his natural warmth of feeling and strong emotions, he entered the fray among the first, and went out as Lieutenant, and subsequently as Captain, Company F, 10th Connecticut State Volunteers. The regiment was enlisted for nine months, and was dispatched to Louisiana, General Banks then commanding the Department. It participated in engagements near Baton Rouge and on the Red River, in which Captain Napheys always acquitted himself with bravery and credit.

At the time the regiment was disbanded, an early preference for medical subjects led him to devote a year to the preliminary studies of that profession, but not waiting the full period required for a degree, he was appointed assistant medical officer on the U. S. steamer Mingo, of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. On her he passed a number of months, cruising off the coast of the Carolinas and Georgia, and ascended the St. John river.

These active duties prevented him from receiving his degree of Doctor of Medicine until after the close of the war, when, in 1866, his diploma was conferred upon him by the Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia, one of the most renowned institutions of our country.

After graduation, he opened an office in Philadelphia, and connected himself with the clinics which are held at the College for the purpose of supplying medicine and medical advice to the poor gratuitously, as well as for giving students an opportunity of witnessing various forms of disease. The practical experience he gained in this manner was considerable, and his natural ability soon recommended him to the authorities of the institution, who appointed him Chief of Medical Clinic of the College, a position he held for several years.

One of the advantages of this post was that it brought him into constant communion with many eminent medical men, and rendered him practically acquainted with their treatment of disease. His skill in phonography enabled him to take abundant notes of their lectures, and this led to his early connection with the periodical literature of the profession. Most of the reports he drew up were published in the Medical and Surgical Reporter, a weekly journal, devoted to medical science, published in Philadelphia. The series of reports commenced in April, 1866, and continued, with slight interruptions, until June, 1870. They are characterized by a clear and correct style, and a manifestly thorough grasp of the numerous topics treated.

The success which these ephemeral writings obtained turned his thoughts in the direction of authorship. His tastes and associations led him to employ his powers in two directions: first, in preparing for the general public a series of works which would acquaint them with anatomy, physiology, hygiene, sanitary science, nursing, and the management of disease, to the extent that intelligent general readers can and ought to know about these subjects; and secondly, in writing for professional men several treatises on the means of alleviating and curing diseases.

In the prosecution of the first mentioned of these plans, he was early impressed with the utter absence of any treatise on the hygiene of the sexual life in either sex, written in the proper spirit by a scientific man. The field had been left to quacks or worse, who, to serve their own base ends, scattered inflammatory and often indecent pamphlets over the land; or else, had one or more of the points been handled by reputable writers, it was in such a vague and imperfect manner that the reader gained little benefit from the perusal. While all agreed that a sound treatise on these topics was most desirable, it had been openly averred that it could not be written in a proper style for the general public.

Strong in the conviction that pure motives, literary tact, and the requisite scientific knowledge qualified him to undertake this difficult task, Dr. Napheys prepared, in the early months of 1869, his work on "The Physical Life of Woman." Proceeding with caution, he first submitted the MSS. to some professional friends, and profited by their suggestions. After the work was in type, and before publication, he sent complete copies to a number of gentlemen, eminent as medical teachers, clergymen, educators, and literateurs. Their replies left him in no doubt but that he had succeeded even beyond his anticipations. Almost unanimously the opinions were complimentary in the highest degree, and evidently written after a close examination of the book. As many of these have been printed to accompany the work, in the last and previous editions, it is needless to do more in this connection than to say that they were penned by such judges as Dr. W. A. Hammond, late Surgeon-General U. S. Army; Dr. Harvey L. Byrd, Professor in the Medical Department of Washington University, Md.; Dr. Edwin M. Snow, Health Officer of the City of Providence, R. I.; Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, Rev. Horace Bushnell, D.D., Rev. George A. Crooke, D.D., D.C.L., and others.

On its appearance, the work was received with enthusiasm by both the medical press and the public. While a few journals and individuals were inclined to condemn it and censure the author, the intelligent and the pure-minded, on all sides, recognized in him the only writer who had yet appeared able to treat these delicate subjects with the dignity of science and the straightforwardness necessary for popular instruction.

Satisfied that he had chosen the proper exercise for his talents, he composed and placed in the hands of his publisher, the following year, his not less extraordinary work, "The Transmission of Life," a treatise addressed to the male, as his previous one had been to the female sex. It was dedicated to the late Rev. John Todd, so well known for his interest in young men, and his "Student's Manual" and other works addressed to them. He accepted the dedication and addressed the author a letter, in which occurs the following high compliment to his work: "I am surprised at the extent and accuracy of your reading; the judiciousness of your positions and results; the clear, unequivocal, yet delicate and appropriate language used; and the amount of valuable information conveyed." Similar expressions poured in from many other distinguished critics, as, for instance, Dr. Noah Porter, President of Yale College; the Rev. Henry Clay Trumbull, the Rev. Abner Jackson, President of Trinity College, Hartford, etc.

In the same year (1870) he brought out the first edition of his "Modern Therapeutics," a technical work, addressed to physicians. This was enlarged in successive editions, until in its present form, as continued by other hands in its latest editions, it comprises two parts of 600 pages each. Although the author claimed little other originality in this work than the selection and arrangement of known facts, yet in these respects he displayed the strongly practical and original turn of his mind. As a student of the art of Therapeutics in large hospitals, clinics, and dispensaries, he had convinced himself that it is not by experiments on lower animals, nor yet on the human body in health, that the physician can attain the glorious power of alleviating pain and curing disease; it is only through the daily combat with sickness, by the bedside and in the consulting room. Chemistry and physiology, he believed, could teach but little in this branch; observation and experience everything. Hence, in his work on Therapeutics he announced himself as "aiming at a systematic analysis of all current and approved means of combating disease," selecting his formulae and therapeutical directions from the most eminent living physicians of all nations.

This work was most favorably received by medical men; and, edited and revised by competent hands, continues to be regarded as one of the most valuable works in American medical literature. The unanimous opinion of the leading medical journals, as well as of its numerous purchasers, have testified to its real and great worth to the practitioner of medicine.

Having thus established a wide, popular and professional reputation, one which would have guaranteed him a lucrative practice, it would have tempted another, no doubt, to make the most of this opportunity, so rarely granted a young physician. Not so was it with Dr. Napheys. No sooner had the three works mentioned been completed than he sailed for Europe, in order to familiarize himself with the famed schools of learning of the Old World and its rich stores of material for culture. The summer was that of the Franco-German war; and spending most of it in Paris, he was witness of several of the most exciting scenes which attended the dethronement of the Emperor. These he would describe afterwards with a vividness and power of language rarely excelled.

The excitement of the period did not, however, withdraw his attention from the studies he had in view. These were partially indicated in a series of letters he contributed to various periodicals during his absence. While these letters were principally of a scientific character, it is noteworthy how the relations of medicine to the welfare of man always occupied his attention. Thus we find, in one sent from England, June, 1870, a description of the Liverpool Medical Missionary Society, a charity which combines religious instruction with medical advice; and again, he comments on the popular instruction in hygiene which was supplied at that period to the English workingmen by a committee of competent physicians, organized for that purpose. It was the author's purpose to collect and expand these letters into a volume, but the project was not carried out.

The siege of Paris, which city he left in one of the last trains before the blockade commenced, and the prolongation of the war, induced him to return home. In the United States he found offers from several publishers awaiting him, which would more than occupy him for a full year. There was a new edition of his "Therapeutics" demanded, and a revision of both "The Physical Life of Woman" and "The Transmission of Life." A New England firm urgently pressed him to superintend the production of several hygienic works, and secured him as literary adviser to their house. He assumed the editorship of the "Half-Yearly Compendium of Medical Science," and also of a "Physician's Annual," besides undertaking a number of articles for the periodical press, both scientific and popular.

To this active literary life he devoted the year 1871; but at its close felt more strongly than ever that he must give himself several years of studious quiet, in order to accomplish his best. Refusing, therefore, any further engagements, he sailed for Europe again, late in 1871, and did not return this time until the spring of 1875. In this period, of more than three years, he visited almost all the principal cities of Europe, and enjoyed the friendship of many eminent men at London, St. Petersburg, Vienna, and Paris. Reading, visiting hospitals, and attending clinics, he accumulated a mass of material which he designed to work up into future literary enterprises.

With these collected stores he returned to the United States early in 1875, and set to work with his wonted energy. A new and much enlarged edition of the "Therapeutics" was sent to press; a "Handbook of Popular Medicine," designed to give, in simple language, the domestic treatment of disease, the rules for nursing the sick, selected receipts for diet and medicinal purposes, and the outlines of anatomy and physiology, was put in the hands of a publisher; a Synopsis of Pharmacy and Materia Medica, a work of enormous labor, was well under way; and other literary projects were actively planned; when, suddenly, the summons came which, in an instant, with the shears of fate, slit the strand of this activity. The rest of the story may be told in the words of the biographer appointed by the Medical Society of the County of Philadelphia to prepare a memoir of his life:—

"While earnestly laboring to prepare for the press his literary collections, he suffered a severe blow by the sudden death of a person to whom he was deeply attached. Over-work and this emotional shock produced a result likely enough to occur in one of his ardent temperament. One afternoon, while engaged in writing, he fell, unconscious, from his chair, and for several days lay in a very critical condition. On recovering his powers, it was evident his brain had suffered a serious lesion. The old energy and love of labor had completely gone; even the capacity for work seemed absent. Marked melancholy followed, characterized before long by avoidance of friends and the loss of a desire of life. This occurred with increasing force until it led to his death, on July 1, 1876, through some toxic agent, the nature of which was not ascertained.

"Thus early, and thus sadly, terminated a career of unusual brilliancy and promise.

"It is probable that much that he has written will be read with pleasure and instruction by future generations; and the memory of his genial disposition, his entertaining conversation, and earnest sense of professional honor, will long be cherished by those of his contemporaries who enjoyed his friendship."—Transactions of the Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania, vol. xi, p. 720.

Various tributes were paid to his memory by the societies with which he was connected, and by the scientific journals to which he had been a contributor. One of these, after narrating some of the circumstances attending his decease, spoke as follows:—

"Thus did our unfortunate associate close his short but brilliant career. The emotions, the tender sentiments he has described with such a magical pen, he felt himself with an unmatched keenness. They mastered his whole frame with an intensity surpassing all romance. His descriptions of the passions, descriptions which have been the wonder of thousands, such is their fire and temper, were not rhetorical studies, but the ebullition of a soul sensitive to their lightest breath, and not shunning their wildest tempests.

"The genius which dictated the lines he has left us is not to be judged by the conventionalities which suit the cold temperaments of ordinary men; there is a strong vein of egotism in most devotion; but here was one who felt, 'all is lost, when love is lost.'"

This extract well sets forth the extraordinary depth of his sentiments, and the fervor of his feelings. It may be added that these mental traits were not generally ascribed to him by casual or ordinary associates. He was, in manners and bearing, evidently not one who sought friendships or displayed to the general gaze the current of his thoughts. Consequently, of intimates he had but few, and was considered by those whose intercourse with him was superficial, to be much more of an intellectual than of an emotional type of character.

This impression was doubtless increased by the strongly practical turn of his mind, which is conspicuous in all his works. He was the reverse of a dreamer and had little patience with theorists. In his professional study he always aimed at bringing into the strongest light the utilitarian aspect of medicine, its ameliorating power on humanity, its real efficacy in preserving or restoring health and limiting human misery. On this his theory of therapeutics was based, and, inspired by the same opinions, he was one of the most earnest advocates of the day of popularizing medical science in all its branches among the masses. In this effort he was at times severely criticized by that class of physicians—and they are by no means extinct—who think that medicine should be wrapped in mystery, and that the people should be kept in ignorance of themselves and of their own physical frailties, to the utmost possible extent. With these learned obscurantists Dr. Napheys had no patience, and naturally found but slight favor. Fortunately, they were in the decided minority, and, we are happy to add, even that minority is daily decreasing.

Of the various learned societies to which he was attached may be mentioned the Philadelphia County Medical Society, the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, and the Gynecological Society of Boston. His election as Corresponding Member to the latter body (which is an association of scientific men who make an especial study of the hygiene and diseases of women) took place shortly after the first publication of the Physical Life of Woman, and was meant as a direct tribute of respect to him as the author of that work, thus obtaining for it the testimony of the highest body in that specialty then existing in our land.

The general plan on which Dr. Napheys prepared his sanitary writings was one eminently calculated to reconcile those who were most opposed to instructing the general public in such branches. While he confidently believed that vastly more harm than good is done by a prudish concealment of the physiology of sex and its relations to health, he also clearly recognized that such instruction should be imparted at the proper age and under certain limitations; while the general facts common to the species cannot be taught too generally, or made too familiar. Hence, he projected three books, one to be placed in the hands of young women, a second for youths, and a third for a general household book of reading and reference on medicine and hygiene. These three he completed in "The Physical Life of Woman," "The Transmission of Life," and the "Handbook of Popular Medicine."

This plan, he believed, met all the objections to popular medical instruction, at least all well-grounded objections, while at the same time it did away with any necessity for concealing truths important to be known, for fear they should come to the knowledge of those for whom they were not designed, and on whose minds they might have a disturbing tendency.

There can be no doubt but that both the plan and its execution were successful. The many letters he received, filled with thanks from private parties who had gained inestimable knowledge from these works, made rich compensation for the occasional severe strictures he received from those wedded to ancient ways, and who often condemned without even reading his works.

The intelligent reading public, on whom, after all, the writer must depend for a verdict on his works, were unanimous in his favor. They bought them in quantities, and the writer of his life in the Transactions of the Pennsylvania State Medical Society, above quoted, who wrote in 1877, estimates that by that time over a quarter of a million copies had been printed and sold. Translations were made into the German, and several editions pirated and printed in Canada and England. In fact, the works may now be considered to rank as classics in the language, and many years must go by before another such series can be written, on topics of this nature, with equal delicacy of touch and accuracy of knowledge.



Knowledge is safety—The peculiarities of sex—Examples of individuals belonging to both sexes and to neither sex—The sphere of woman 15-22



What it means—Age when it arrives—Causes that hasten it—Causes that delay it—Brunettes mature early—The signs of puberty—Its dangers—Spinal disease—Green sickness—Hysterics—Secret bad habits—Hygiene of puberty—Diet—Exercise—Clothing—Precautions during the monthly changes—Between the monthly changes—What to do when the changes are delayed—When they are painful—The age of nubility.

LOVE 52-89

Its power in life—What it is—It is necessary and it is eternal—Of second marriages and of divorce—Courtship—Love at first sight—How to choose a husband—Shall cousins marry?—Marriage between different races and different nations—The proper age of a husband—His temperament—His moral and mental character—Words of warning—Signs of character on the body—The engagement—Concerning long engagements—The right time of year to marry—The right time in the month to marry—The wedding tour.



The wedding night—Should husband and wife sleep together or apart?—The most healthful bed—The dignity and propriety of the sexual instinct—The proper indulgence and the restraint of sexual desire—Marital relations, when they should be suspended—When they are painful—Barrenness, its causes and its cures—Advice to wives who desire children—The limitation of offspring—When it is proper—Justifiable means—Injurious means—The crime of abortion—The nature of conception—Signs of conception—How to retain the affections of a husband.


The varieties of inheritance—The legacy of beauty—The complexion—What physical qualities each parent bestows—The inheritance of fertility and longevity—Even deformities sometimes transmitted—How to have beautiful children—Talent and genius may be transmitted—The physical traits of fathers in daughters, and of mothers in sons—Examples—Influence of education on inherited qualities—Transmission of disease—Of mutilations—How to avoid inherited ill tendencies—The excess of women—How to have boys or girls at will—Twins and triplets.


Veneration of the pregnant woman—Signs of pregnancy—Quickening —Mental changes—Miscarriage, its causes, symptoms, and prevention—Mother's marks—What makes them?—How to avoid them—Education of the child in the womb—Are double pregnancies possible?—Instances of double children—Can a child cry in the womb?—Is it a son or a daughter?—Are there twins present?—The duration of pregnancy—How to calculate when the confinement will come—Care of health during pregnancy—The food, clothing, exercise, bathing, ventilation, and sleep—Effect on health of body and mind—Relations of husband and wife during pregnancy.


Preparations for childbirth—The signs of approaching labor—The symptoms of actual labor—Attention is required during labor—To the mother—To the child—To have labor without pain—The risks of childbed—Weight and length of new-born children—The duration of labor—Stillborn children—Imprudence after childbirth—To preserve the form after childbirth.


NURSING 243-270

The duties and privileges of a mother—Hindrances to nursing, and when it is improper—Rules for nursing—Influence of diet on the mother's milk—Influence of pregnancy on the milk—The mother's mind and her infant—Striking examples—Position of the mother while nursing—Qualities of a good nursing mother—Excess and deficiency of the milk—Wet-nursing by virgins, aged women, and men—Rules for care of health while nursing—Relations of husband and wife at this time—Over-nursing and the signs of it—Directions for mothers who cannot nurse their own children—How to select a wet-nurse.



The causes of infant mortality—Bringing up by hand—Weaning, when and how to do it—Teething—Vaccination and re-vaccination —The food of infants and children—Concerning sleep in early life—The clothing of children, its pattern, amount, and quality—Bathing, ventilation, and exercise in early childhood—On learning to walk—The advantages of games and plays—On training the sight and hearing.


How to recognize and treat croup—Head colds—Fits—Nose-bleed— Worms—Bed-wetting—Looseness of the bowels—Indigestion—Hints on home government—Is the race physically weaker?



Morning sickness—Pain in the abdomen—Varicose veins—Piles— Diarrhoea—Constipation—Cough—Wakefulness.


Puerperal mania—White-flowing—Milk-leg—Inward weakness— Various causes of weakness—Tight lacing one of them—Their treatment—Gathered breasts—Cracked nipples.





What it is—Age when it comes—Signs and symptoms—Effects on the character—Those who suffer most—Diseases and discomforts attending—Precautions and remedies.

NOTES 405-420

INDEX 420-426



'Knowledge is power,' said the philosopher. The maxim is true; but here is a greater truth: 'Knowledge is safety,'—safety amid the physical ills that beset us,—safety amid the moral pitfalls that environ us.

Filled with this thought, we write this book. It is the Revelation of Science to Woman. It tells her, in language which aims at nothing but simplicity, the results which the study of her nature, as distinct from that of man, has attained. We may call it her physical biography.

It is high time that such a book were written. The most absorbing question of the day is the 'Woman Question.' The social problems of chiefest interest concern her. And nowhere are those problems more zealously studied than in America, which has thrown aside the trammels of tradition, and is training its free muscles with intent to grapple the untried possibilities of social life. Who can guide us in these experiments? What master, speaking as one having authority, can advise us? There is such a guide, such a master. The laws of woman's physical life shape her destiny and reveal her future. Within these laws all things are possible; beyond them, nothing is of avail.

Especially should woman herself understand her own nature. How many women are there, with health, beauty, merriment, ay, morality too, all gone, lost for ever, through ignorance of themselves! What spurious delicacy is this which would hide from woman that which beyond all else it behooves her to know? We repudiate it; and in plain, but decorous language,—truth is always decorous,—we purpose to divulge those secrets hidden hitherto under the technical jargon of science.


The distinction of the sexes belongs neither to the highest nor to the lowest forms of existence. Animals and vegetables of the humblest character have no sex. So it is with spirits. Revelation implies that beyond this life sexual characteristics cease. On one occasion the Sadducees put this question to Christ: There was a woman who lawfully had seven husbands, one after the other; now, at the resurrection, which of these shall be her husband? or shall they all have her to wife? He replied that hereafter there shall be neither marrying nor giving in marriage, but that all shall be 'as the angels which are in heaven.' Sexuality implies reproduction, and that is something we do not associate with spiritual life.

It further implies imperfection, which is equally far from our hopes of happiness beyond the grave. The polyp, which reproduces by a division of itself, is in one sense more complete than we are. The man is in some respects inferior to the woman; the woman in others is subordinate to man. A happy marriage, a perfect union, they twain one flesh, is the type of the independent, completed being. Without the other, either is defective. 'Marriage,' said Napoleon, 'is strictly indispensable to happiness.'

There is, in fact, a less difference between the sexes than is generally believed. They are but slight variations from one original plan. Anatomists maintain, with plausible arguments, that there is no part or organ in the one sex but has an analogous part or organ in the other, similar in structure, similar in position. Just as the right side resembles the left, so does man resemble woman.

Let us see what differences there really are:

The frame of woman is shorter and slighter. In the United States the men average five feet eight inches in height, and one hundred and forty-five pounds in weight; the women, five feet two and a half inches in height, and one hundred and twenty-five pounds in weight. Man has broad shoulders and narrow hips; woman has narrow shoulders and broad hips. Her skull is formed of thinner bones, and is in shape more like that of a child. Its capacity, in proportion to her height, is very little less than in man,—about one-fiftieth, it is said,—which, so far as brain-power is concerned, may readily be made up by its finer texture. Her shoulders are set farther back than in the other sex, giving her greater breadth of chest in front. This is brought about by the increased length of her collar-bone; and this is the reason why she can never throw a ball or stone with the accuracy of a man. Graceful in other exercises, here she is awkward.

Her contour is more rounded, her neck is longer, her skin smoother, her voice softer, her hair less generally distributed over the body, but stronger in growth than in man. She breathes with the muscles of her chest—he with those of his abdomen. He has greater muscular force—she more power of endurance. Beyond all else she has the attributes of maternity,—she is provided with organs to nourish and protect the child before and after birth.


Nature is very sedulous in maintaining these differences. It is the rarest thing in the world to find a human being of doubtful sex. Many a physician disbelieves that there ever has been a person of both sexes—a true hermaphrodite. They are very scarce, but they do exist. There is one now living in Germany. It bears a female name, Catherine Hohmann. She was baptised and brought up a female; but Catherine is as much man as woman. The learned professor of anatomy, Rokitansky, of Vienna, asserts most positively that this is a real hermaphrodite. Her history is sad. Born in humble circumstances, when of marriageable age she loved a man, who wished her to emigrate with him to America. But when she disclosed to him her deformity, he broke off the engagement and deserted her. Then her affection became fixed on a young girl; but how could she make her suit to one apparently of her own sex? With passions that prompt her to seek both sexes, she belongs to neither. 'What shall I do here on earth?' she exclaimed, in tears, to a man of science who recently visited her. 'What am I? In my life an object of scientific experiment, and after my death an anatomical curiosity.'

There are also persons—very few indeed—who have no sex at all. They are without organs and without passions. Such creatures seem to have been formed merely to show us that this much-talked-of difference of sex is, after all, nothing inherent in the constitution of things, and that individuals may be born, live and thrive, of both sexes, or of neither.


Our province lies within the physical sphere of woman. But we will here allow ourselves a momentary digression. It will be seen that while these differences are not radical, yet they are peculiarly permanent. They hint to us the mental and intellectual character of woman. What opinion should we hold on this much-vexed question?

To this effect: The mental faculties of man and woman are unlike, but not unequal. Any argument to the contrary, drawn from the somewhat less weight of the brain of woman, is met by the fact that the most able men are often undersized, with small heads. The subordinate place which woman occupies in most states, arises partly from the fact that the part she plays in reproduction prevents her from devoting her whole time and energies to the acquisition of power, and partly from the fact that those faculties in which she is superior to man have been obscured and oppressed by the animal vigor and selfishness of the male. As civilisation advances, the natural rights of woman will be more and more freely conceded, until the sexes become absolutely equal before the law; and, finally, her superiority in many respects will be granted, and she will reap the benefits of all the advantages it brings, without desiring to encroach on those avocations for which masculine energy and strength are imperatively needed.

The most peculiar features of woman's life are hers for a limited period only. Man is man for a longer time than woman is woman. With him it is a lifetime matter; with her it is but for a score of years or so. Her child-bearing period is less than half her life. Within this time she passes through all the phases of that experience which is peculiarly her own.

And these phases, what are they? Nature herself defines them. They are three in number,—the Maiden, the Wife, and the Mother. In one and then another of this triad, her life passes. Each has its own duties and dangers; each demands its own precautions; each must be studied by itself.

Let us at once commence this important study, and proceed in the order of time.



At a certain period in the life of the female, she ceases to be a girl, and becomes a woman. Hitherto she has felt no distinction between herself and the boys, her playmates. But now a crisis takes place, which is for ever after to hedge her round with a mysterious, invisible, but most real barrier from all mankind.

This period is called the age of puberty. Its sign is a flow of blood recurring every month; its meaning, that the female has entered upon that portion of her life whose peculiar obligations are to the whole race—no longer to herself alone. The second part of her twofold nature is opened. Why is it that on her, the weaker sex, this extra burden is laid? Why this weakness, these pains, this recurring loss of vital fluid?

Perhaps, as has been observed, it is a wise provision that she is thus reminded of her lowly duty, lest man should make her the sole object of his worship, or lest the pride of beauty should obscure the sense of shame. But this question concerns rather the moralist than the physician, and we cease asking why it is, and shall only inquire what it is.

To this science returns a clear reply. In the anatomy of woman there are two small bodies, in shape and size like large almonds, called the ovaries. They lie one on each side of the womb, and are connected with it by tubes about four inches in length. These bodies are solid, but contain a great number of diminutive vesicles, which, by some mysterious law of nature, mature one at a time, every thirty days, for thirty years of woman's life. When mature, the vesicle separates from the ovary, traverses the tube into the womb, and is thence expelled and lost, or becomes, by contact with the other sex, the germ of a living being. This process is accompanied by a disturbance of the whole system. Wandering pains are felt; a sense of languor steals over the mind; the blood rushes with increased violence through the vessels, and more or less of it escapes from the veins, causing that change which we term menstruation.

The ancients had a tradition that in the beginning of things the world was made from an egg; the naturalists of past generations had this maxim: Everything living comes from an egg; and science to-day says the same. For this vesicle we have mentioned is in fact an egg, similar in structure to those which birds, fish, and turtles deposit. The only differences are, that the one is developed out of the body, the other within; the one has a shell, the other has none.

Therefore physiologists give this definition: Menstruation is ovulation,—it is the laying of an egg.


This has been a matter of careful study by physicians. They have collected great numbers of observations, and have reached this conclusion: In the middle portion of the temperate zone, the average age when the first period appears in healthy girls is fourteen years and six months. If it occurs more than six months later or earlier than this, then it is likely something is wrong, or, at least, the case is exceptional.

Exceptional cases, where this average is widely departed from in apparently perfect health, are rare. But they do occur. We have known instances where the solicitude of parents has been excited by the long delay of this constitutional change, and others in which it has taken place at an almost tender age, without causing any perceptible injury to the general health.

There is an instance recorded, on good authority, where a French child but three years old underwent all the physical changes incident to puberty, and grew to be a healthy woman. But what children can surpass the American in precocity? This French child-woman is quite left in the shade by one described in a recent number of a western medical journal, who from her birth had regular monthly changes, and the full physical development which marks the perfect woman!

Thus, sometimes, a wide deviation from the average age we have stated occurs, without having any serious meaning. Yet at no time is such a deviation to be neglected. In nine out of ten instances it is owing to some fault in the constitution, the health, or formation, which should be ascertained and corrected. Otherwise years of broken health and mental misery may be the sad results. Mothers, teachers, it is with you this responsibility rests. The thousands of wretched wives, who owe their wretchedness to a neglect of proper attention at this turning-point of their lives, warn you how serious is this responsibility.

The foundation of old age, says a distinguished author, is laid in childhood; but the health of middle-life depends upon puberty. Never was there a truer maxim. The two years which change the girl to the woman often seal for ever the happiness or the hopeless misery of her whole life. They decide whether she is to become a healthy, helpful, cheerful wife and mother, or a languid, complaining invalid, to whom marriage is a curse, children an affliction, and life itself a burden.

We reiterate our warning: Mothers, teachers, you to whom children are confided at this crisis of their lives, look well to it that you appreciate, understand, and observe the duties you have assumed. Let no false modesty prevent you from learning and enforcing those precautions, so necessary at this period of life.


As a rule, we find that those who develope early, fade early. A short childhood portends a premature old age. It often foreshadows, also, a feeble middle-life.

Having ascertained, therefore, what is the average age at which puberty takes place with us, let us see what conditions anticipate or retard this age.

The most important is climate.

In hot climates, man, like the vegetation, has a surprising rapidity of growth. Marriages are usual at twelve or fourteen years of age. Puberty comes to both sexes as early as at ten and eleven years. We even read in the life of Mohammed, that one of his wives, when but ten years of age, bore him a son. Let another dozen years pass, and these blooming maidens have been metamorphosed into wrinkled, faded old women. The beauty of their precocious youth has withered almost literally like a flower which is plucked.

Very different is it in the cold and barren regions of the far north. There man, once more partaking of the nature of his surroundings, yields as slowly to the impulses of his passions as does the ice-bound earth to the slanting rays of the summer sun. Maturity, so quick to come, so swift to leave in the torrid heats, arrives, chilled by the long winters, to the girls of Lapland, Norway, and Siberia, only when they are eighteen and nineteen years of age. But, in return for this, they retain their vigor and good looks to a green old age.

Between these extremes, including as they do the whole second decade of existence, this important change takes place normally in different latitudes. We have said that in the middle temperate zone the proper age is fourteen years and six months. Let us now see what conditions lead to deviations from this age in our climate.

First on the list is that sacred fire handed down to us from our ancestors, which we call, in our material language, the constitution.

The females of certain races, certain families, it is often noticed, mature earlier than their neighbours. Jewesses, for example, are always precocious, earlier by one or two years. So are colored girls, and those of creole lineage. We can guess the reasons here. No doubt these children still retain in their blood the tropic fire which, at comparatively recent periods, their forefathers felt under the vertical rays of the torrid zone.

Nor is this all. It is well ascertained, from numerous observations, that brunettes develope sooner than their blonde sisters; that those who will grow to be large women are slower than those whose stature will be small; that the dark-haired and black-eyed are more precocious in this respect than the light-haired and blue-eyed; that the fat, sluggish girl is more tardy than the slender, active one; that, in general, what is known as the nervo-bilious temperament is ever ahead of that called the lymphatic or phlegmatic.

It is a familiar fact, that it is not a good sign to see this change before the usual average time. It betokens a weakly, excitable, diminutive frame. Hard labor, vigorous, regular muscular exertion—prime health, in other words—never tends to anticipate this epoch, but rather to retard it.

With this warning fresh in our ears, let us now rehearse what causes constantly incline unduly to hasten puberty, and thus to forestall wise Nature in her plans for health and beauty. They are of two kinds,—physical and mental.

Idleness of body, highly-seasoned food, stimulating beverages, such as beer, wine, liqueurs, and, in a less degree, coffee and tea, irregular habits of sleep,—these are the physical causes of premature development. But the mental causes are still more potent.

Whatever stimulates the emotions leads to an unnaturally early sexual life. Late hours, children's parties, sensational novels, 'flashy' papers, love stories, the drama, the ball-room, talk of beaux, love, and marriage,—that atmosphere of riper years which is so often and so injudiciously thrown around childhood,—all hasten the event which transforms the girl into the woman. A particular emphasis has been laid by some physicians on the power of music to awaken the dormant susceptibilities to passion, and on this account its too general or earnest cultivation by children has been objected to. Educators would do well to bear this caution in mind.

How powerfully these causes work is evident when we compare the average age of puberty in large cities and in country districts. The females in the former mature from six to eight months sooner than those in the latter. This is unquestionably owing to their mode of life,—physically indolent, mentally over-stimulated. The result, too, is seen with painful plainness in comparing the sturdy, well-preserved farm-wife of thirty, with the languid, pale, faded city lady of the same age.


Two short years change the awkward and angular girl of fourteen into the trim and graceful maiden of sweet sixteen. Wonderful metamorphosis! The magic wand of the fairy has touched her, and she comes forth a new being, a vision of beauty to bewitch the world.

Let us analyze this change.

The earliest sign of approaching puberty is a deposit of fat in the loose cellular tissue under the skin. This gives roundness to the form, and grace to the movements. According to a distinguished naturalist (Buffon), it is first observable by a slight swelling of the groins. Thence it extends over the whole body. The breasts especially receive additions, and develope to form the perfect bust.

Parts of the body previously free from hair become covered with a soft growth, and that which covers the head acquires more vigor and gloss, usually becoming one or two shades darker. The eyes brighten, and acquire unwonted significance. These windows of the soul betray to the close observer the novel emotions which are arising in the mind within.

The voice, too, shares in the transformation. The piping, slender articulation of the child gives way to the rich, melodious, soft voice of woman—the sweetest music man ever hears. To the student of humanity, to the observant physician, nothing is more symbolical of the whole nature than the voice. Would you witness a proof of its power? Watch how a person born blind unerringly discriminates the character of those he meets by this alone.

Beyond all external modifications, we find others, which indicate how profound is the alteration now taking place. The internal organs of the body assume new functions and new powers. The taste for food changes, hinting that the system has demands hitherto unknown. Those organs we have adverted to, called the ovaries, increase in size, as also does the uterus. The very framework of the structure does not escape. The bones increase in weight, and those around the hips expand, and give the female her distinctive form, upon the perfection of which her life and that of her children depend.


Such are the changes which strike the eye. But there are others which are not less significant, and which demand far more urgently our watchful heed. New thoughts, strange desires, are invading the soul. A novel relation is assumed to the world. It is vague, misunderstood, but disturbing all the same.

The once light-hearted girl inclines to reveries; she seeks solitude; her mother surprises her in causeless tears; her teacher discovers an unwonted inattention to her studies, a less retentive memory, a disinclination to mental labor; her father misses her accustomed playfulness; he, perhaps, is annoyed by her listlessness and inertia. What does it all mean? What is the matter with the girl?

Mother, teacher, father, it is for you to know the answers to these questions. You have guarded this girl through years of helpless infancy and thoughtless childhood. At the peril of her life, and of what is of more value than life, do not now relax your vigilance. Every day the reaper Death reaps with his keen sickle the flowers of our land. The mothers weep, indeed; but little do they realize that it is because they have neglected to cherish them as was their duty, that the Lord of Paradise has taken them back unto Himself.


The symptoms increase until at length the system has acquired the necessary strength, and furnished itself with reserve forces enough to complete its transformation. Then the monthly flow commences.

In thoroughly healthy girls it continues to recur at regular intervals, from twenty-five to thirty days apart. This is true of about three out of four. In others, a long interval, sometimes six months, occurs between the first and second sickness. If the general health be not in the least impaired, this need cause no anxiety. Irregularities are found in the first year or two, which often right themselves afterwards. But whenever they are associated with the slightest signs of mental or bodily disorder, they demand instant and intelligent attention.

It used to be supposed that the periods of the monthly sickness were in some way connected with the phases of the moon. So general is this belief even yet in France, that a learned Academician not long since thought it worth while carefully to compare over four thousand observations, to see whether they did bear any relations to the lunar phases. It is hardly worth while to add that he found none.

We have known perfectly healthy young women who were ill every sixteen days, and others in whom a period of thirty-five or thirty-six days would elapse. The reasons of such differences are not clear. Some inherited peculiarity of constitution is doubtless at work. Climate is of primary importance. Travellers in Lapland, and other countries in the far north, say that the women there are not regulated more frequently than three or four times a year. Hard labor and a phlegmatic temperament usually prolong the interval between the periodical illnesses.

An equal diversity prevails in reference to the length of time the discharge continues. The average of a large number of cases observed in healthy women, between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five, is four days and a fraction. In a more general way, we may say from two to six days is the proper duration. Should it diverge widely from this, then it is likely some mischief is at work.

In relation to the amount of the discharge, every woman is a law unto herself. Usually, it is four or five ounces in all. Habits of life are apt to modify it materially. Here, again, those exposed to prolonged cold and inured to severe labor escape more easily than their sisters petted in the lap of luxury. Delicate, feeble, nervous women—those, in other words, who can least afford the loss of blood—are precisely those who lose the most. Nature, who is no tender mother, but a stern step-mother, thus punishes them for disregarding her laws. Soft couches, indolent ease, highly spiced food; warm rooms, weak muscles,—these are the infractions of her rules which she revenges with vigorous, ay, merciless severity.

It is well known, too, that excitement of the emotions, whether of anger, joy, grief, hatred, or love increases the discharge. Even the vulgar are aware of this, and, misinterpreting it as half-knowledge always does, suppose it a sign of stronger animal passions. It bears no such meaning. But the fact reads us a lesson how important it is to cultivate a placid mind, free from strong desire or fear, and to hold all our emotions in the firm leash of reason.

Physicians attach great importance to the character of the discharge. It should be thin, watery, dark-coloured, and never clot. If it clots, it is an indication that something is wrong.


We have shown that there are constantly individual deviations, quite consistent with health, from any given standard. They only become significant of disease when they depart decidedly from the average, either in the frequency of the illness, its duration, the amount of the discharge, or the character. More or less pain, more or less prostration and general disturbances at these epochs, are universal and inevitable. They are part of the sentence which at the outset He pronounced upon the woman, when He said unto her, 'I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception.' Yet with merciful kindness He has provided means by which the pain may be greatly lessened, and the sorrow avoided; and that we may learn and observe these means, their neglect often increases a hundred-fold the natural suffering.

At this critical period, the seeds of hereditary and constitutional diseases manifest themselves. They draw fresh malignancy from the new activity of the system. The first symptoms of tubercular consumption, of scrofula, of obstinate and disfiguring skin diseases, of hereditary insanity, of congenital epilepsy, of a hundred terrible maladies, which from birth have lurked in the child, biding the opportunity of attack, suddenly spring from their lairs, and hurry her to the grave or the madhouse. If we ask why so many fair girls of eighteen or twenty are followed by weeping friends to an early tomb, the answer is, chiefly from diseases which had their origin at the period of puberty.

It is impossible for us here to rehearse all the minute symptoms, each almost trifling in itself, which warn the practised physician of the approach of one of these fearful foes in time to allow him to make a defence. We can do little more than iterate the warning, that whenever, at this momentous epoch, any disquieting change appears, be it physical or mental, let not a day be lost in summoning skilled, competent medical advice.

There is, however, a train of symptoms so frequent, so insidious, so fruitful with agony of mind and body, that we shall mention them particularly. They illustrate, at once, how all-important is close observation, and how significant to the wise physician are trifles seemingly light as air.

If you notice a girl of fourteen or sixteen, who, in walking, always gives one arm in preference to the other to her companion; if, in sleeping, she mostly lies on the same side; if, in sitting, she is apt to prefer a chair with a low back, and throws one arm over its back; if you perceive that she always sits with one foot a little in advance of the other; if she, on inquiry, confesses to slight, wandering pains in one side of her chest,—do not chide her for awkwardness. These are ominous portents. They mean spinal disease, than which a more fearful malady is hardly known to medicine.

Not less stealthy is the approach of disease of the hip-joint, of white swelling of the knee, of consumption,—all curable if taken in hand at the very first, all well-nigh hopeless when they have once unmasked their real features.

Apart from these general dangers, to which those of thoroughly sound constitutions are not exposed, there are disorders called functional, to which all are subject.


When we speak of the 'green sickness,' we mention perhaps the most common of all, and one of which every mother has heard. Doctors call it chlorosis, which also means greenness; for one of its most common and peculiar symptoms is a pale complexion with a greenish tinge.

It never occurs except at or near the age of puberty, and was long supposed to be merely an impoverishment of the blood. Now, however, we have learned that it is a disease of the nervous system, and one very often confounded by physicians with other complaints.

Its attack is insidious. A distaste for exertion and society, a fitful appetite, low spirits,—these are all the symptoms noticed at first. Then, one by one, come palpitation of the heart, an unhealthy complexion, irregularity, dyspepsia, depraved tastes,—such as a desire to eat slate-pencil dust, chalk, or clay,—vague pains in body and limbs, a bad temper; until the girl, after several months, is a peevish, wretched, troublesome invalid.

Then, if a physician is called in, and gives her iron, and tells her nothing is the matter, or is himself alarmed, and imagines she has heart disease or consumption, it is a chance if she does not rapidly sink, out of mere fright and over-much dosing, into some fatal complaint. Let it be well understood that chlorosis, though often obstinate and obscure, is always curable if properly and promptly treated. The remedies must be addressed to the nervous system, and can be administered with intelligence only by a competent medical adviser. It can be prevented by a hygienic mode of life, and, as its most common causes are anxiety, home-sickness, want of exercise, or overwork at school, nothing is so salutary in its early stages as a change of air and scene, cheerful company, a tour to the mountains or some watering-place, and regular exercise.

Many young women suffer considerable pain during their monthly illness. This may arise from many different causes, such as, congestion, inflammation, malformation, or a wrong position of the parts, or over-sensitive nerves. They can only be successfully treated when the cause is known; and they may rest assured that this suffering, in nearly every case, can be removed.

Sometimes a girl grows to the age of eighteen or twenty without having her periodical changes. We have already said that this is not unusual in some climates and in some families; so, as long as the general health is good and the spirits cheerful,—always an important point,—it need cause no anxiety. But if the health grow poor, and especially if there be pains and weakness recurring monthly without discharge, then something is wrong, and the doctor should be consulted.


There is a disease of the nerves to which girls about the age of puberty are very subject, particularly in the higher circles of society, where their emotions are over-educated and their organization delicate. It is called hysteria, and more commonly hysterics. Frequently it deceives both doctor and friends, and is supposed to be some dangerous complaint. Often it puts on the symptoms of epilepsy, or heart disease, or consumption. We have witnessed the most frightful convulsions in girls of fourteen or fifteen, which were brought on by this complaint. Sometimes it injures the mind; and it should always receive prompt and efficient attention, as it is always curable.

This disease is apt to produce a similar affection in other girls of the same age who see the attacks. For this reason, hysterical girls should not be sent to large schools, but cured at home. Often a strong mental impression restores them. The anecdote is told of a celebrated surgeon (Boerhaave) who was called to a female seminary where there was a number of hysterical girls. He summoned them together, heated a number of iron instruments before their eyes, and told them that the first one who had a fit should be cauterized down the spine. They all recovered immediately.


We now approach a part of our subject which we would gladly omit, did not constant experience admonish us of our duty to speak of it in no uncertain tone. We refer to the disastrous consequences on soul and body to which young girls expose themselves by exciting and indulging morbid passions. Years ago, Miss Catherine E. Beecher sounded a note of warning to the mothers of America on this secret vice, which leads their daughters to the grave, the madhouse, or, worse yet, the brothel.

Gladly would we believe that her timely admonition had done away with the necessity for its repetition. But though we believe such a habit is more rare than many physicians suppose, it certainly exists to a degree that demands attention. Surgeons have recently been forced to devise painful operations to hinder young girls from thus ruining themselves; and we must confess that, in its worst form, it is absolutely incurable.

The results of the constant nervous excitement which this habit produces are bodily weakness, loss of memory, low spirits, distressing nervousness, a capricious appetite, dislike of company and of study, and finally, paralysis, imbecility, or insanity. Let it not be supposed that there are many who suffer thus severely; but, on the other hand, let it be clearly understood that any indulgence whatever in these evil courses is attended with bad effects, especially because they create impure desires and thoughts, which will prepare the girl to be a willing victim to the arts of profligacy. There is no more solemn duty resting on those who have the charge of young females than to protect them against this vice.

But, it is exclaimed, is it not dangerous to tell them anything about it? Such a course is unnecessary. Teach them that any handling of the parts, any indecent language, any impure thought, is degrading and hurtful. See that the servants, nurses, and companions with whom they associate are not debased; and recommend scrupulous cleanliness.

If the habit is discovered, do not scold nor whip the child. It is often a result of disease, and induced by a disagreeable local itching. Sometimes this is connected with a disorder of the womb, and very frequently with worms in the bowels. Let the case be submitted to a judicious, skilful medical adviser, and the girl will yet be saved. But do not shut your eyes, and refuse to see this fact when it exists. Mothers are too often unwilling to entertain for a moment the thought that their daughters are addicted to such a vice, when it is only too plain to the physician.


Concerning the maladies of puberty, we may broadly say, that if we are obliged to have recourse to medicine, it is because we have neglected hygiene. That the period requires assiduous care, we grant; but given that care, drugs will be needless.

In a general way, we have already emphasized the danger of indolence and the benefits of exercise or labor; the perils of exciting the emotions, and the advantages of a placid disposition; the impropriety of premature development, and the wisdom of simplicity and moderation. This is an old story—a thrice-told tale. Let us go more into minutiae.

One of the most frequent causes of disease, about the age of puberty, is starvation. Many a girl is starved to death. Food is given her, but not of the right quality, or in insufficient quantity, or at improper hours. The system is not nourished, and, becoming feeble, it is laid open to the attacks of disease, and to no form of disease more readily than to consumption.

To correct this, let the food be varied, simply prepared, and abundant. Good fresh milk should be used daily, while tea and coffee should be withheld. Fat meats and vegetable oils, generally disliked by girls at this age, are exactly what they need; and were they partaken of more freely, there would be less inquiry at the druggists for cod-liver oil.

A modern writer of eminence lays it down as one of the most common causes of consumption in young people, that just at the age when their physical system is undergoing such important changes, that invaluable article of diet, milk, is generally dropped, and nothing equally rich in nitrogen substituted in its place.

Exercise, whether as games, the skipping rope, croquet, walking, dancing, riding, and calisthenics, or as regular labor, is highly beneficial, especially when it leads one into the fresh air, the sunshine, and the country. A particular kind of exercise is to be recommended for those whose chests are narrow, whose shoulders stoop, and who have a hereditary predisposition to consumption. If it is systematically practised along with other means of health, we would guarantee any child, no matter how many relatives have died of this disease, against its invasion. It is voluntary inspiration. Nothing is more simple. Let her stand erect, throw the shoulders well back, and the hands behind; then let her slowly inhale pure air to the full capacity of the lungs, and retain it a few seconds by an increased effort; then it may be slowly exhaled. After one or two natural inspirations, let her repeat the act, and so on for ten or fifteen minutes, twice daily. Not only is this simple procedure a safeguard against consumption, but, in the opinion of some learned physicians, it can even cure it when it has already commenced.

At first the monthly loss of blood exhausts the system. Therefore, plenty of food, plenty of rest, plenty of sleep, are required. That ancient prejudice in favour of early rising should be discarded now, and the girl should retire early, and if she will, should sleep late. Hard study, care, or anxiety should be spared her. This is not the time for rigid discipline.

Clothing is a matter of importance, and, if we were at all sure of attention, there is much we would say of it. The thought seriously troubles us, that so long as women consent to deform themselves and sacrifice their health to false ideas of beauty, it is almost hopeless to urge their fitness for, and their right to a higher life than they now enjoy. No educated painter or sculptor is ignorant of what the model of female beauty is; no fashionable woman is content unless she departs from it as far as possible.

Now beauty implies health, and ugliness of form is attained not only at the expense of aesthetics, but of comfort. The custom of fastening growing girls in tight corsets, of flattening their breasts with pads, of distorting their feet in small high-heeled shoes, and of teaching them to stoop and mince in gait, is calculated to disgust every observer of good sense and taste, and, what is of more consequence, to render these girls, when they become women, more liable to every species of suffering connected with child-bearing.

The monthly change is the prelude to maternity. On its healthful recurrence depends present comfort and future health; and not these alone, but also happiness in marriage, easy child-beds, and the constitution of children to a degree the thoughtless girl and even the mature woman rarely understand. She, therefore, who neglects the due care of her own condition, violates a duty owed to others as well as herself. We would have mothers impress this on their daughters. Let no mistaken modesty prevent them.

Especially at their commencement should the monthly changes be carefully watched. The mother should prepare her daughter's mind betimes for such an expected incident in her life, thus preventing a useless fright, or the employment of injurious means to stop what the child may look upon as an accident.

Nor should the maternal care cease here. Such tender sympathy should exist on the one side, such trusting confidence on the other, that the mother should acquaint herself with every detail of each recurring period until the function is thoroughly established. She should inquire into the duration of each epoch, the abundance of the discharge, the presence of pain, and its effects on the general health. She should convince herself that all these do not vary from the standards of health we have previously laid down. Or should they do so, she should not delay to use the proper means to bring them to that standard.

Long observation proves that if, during the first two or three years which follow the attainment of puberty, the health of the girl is successfully guarded, and this, her most important physical distinction, meets with no derangement, her life-long health is well-nigh secured; but, on the contrary, if she commences her sexual life with pain and disorder, she is likely to be a life-long sufferer.

We are about to approach a topic of vital importance, therefore, in summing up as briefly as may be, the precautions necessary to attain this end. They can most conveniently be divided into those to be observed during the monthly changes, and those more general rules of health to be obeyed in the intervals of the periods.


At the head of all cautions and warnings which we could give about the care of the health at these monthly periods, we put rest, rest, bodily and mental. Do less than usual, we say to all, whether the necessity for it is manifest or not. Over-exertion is a most fruitful cause of disease. Long walks, shopping, dancing, riding, hard work whether for pleasure or profit, should be avoided to the utmost.

The advantages of rest cannot be over-estimated. A striking example of it occurs to our mind. Most readers are aware how toilsome are the lives of the Indian women among our Western tribes, and also how singularly easy and almost painless is their child-bearing. The pangs of travail are almost unknown to them. The cause of this has puzzled even physicians. We can tell them. It is because it is an inviolable, a sacred rule among all those tribes, for the woman, when having her monthly sickness, to drop all work, absent herself from the lodge, and remain in perfect rest as long as the discharge continues.

Traces of this wide-spread custom among primitive people, extended themselves, are discoverable among civilized lands. The famous general council of the Christian Church held at Nice in the fourth century, passed a rule disapproving of women coming to church at the times of their menstrual sickness. The cold and dampness of large edifices, the mental excitement and its unfavourable effects and the exertion requisite for long walks to and fro, would justify this rule on purely hygienic grounds, and such may have caused its adoption.

A moderate and uniform temperature favors health at such epochs; while exposure to heat or cold, and the drinking freely of iced water or stimulants should be shunned.

The popular belief that bathing is hurtful, is correct so far as either cold or hot baths are concerned; but it is well to know, in the interests of comfort and cleanliness, that a moderately warm-bath, about 80 deg. Fahr., will do no injury. Such a bath can be taken without any hesitation.

We sanction, also, another well-known rule, and that is, that no purgative medicine should be taken immediately before or during the change. If called for by some other disorder, a mild laxative is all that should be administered, unless by the direction of a physician.


If girls suffer from irregularities in this respect, the causes can generally be found either in some affection threatening the general health, such as scrofula, consumption, green sickness, etc., or else in their mode of life. For the former, the family physician must be consulted; but if it is the latter which is at fault, the remedy is in the hands of the parents.

Boarding-school life, city life, mental troubles—these are the three fertile sources of disturbances in the sexual functions of girlhood.

No one rates at higher value than ourselves the training of the mind; but we do not hesitate a moment to urge that if perturbations of the functions become at all marked in a girl at school, she should be taken away. Better live at home in seeming idleness a year at that time of life, than become a dead-weight, through constant ill health, on her husband in after life.

So of the unwholesome excitement of a city life. There is a poison in crowds, and it acts in a thousand unseen ways. With the ceaseless noise, the broken sleep, the late hours, the impure air, and the nervous tension which all these produce, it requires no strength of imagination to perceive that the city is not the best place for the delicate girl.

We have mentioned mental troubles. Perhaps there are, among those who read this, some superficial enough to smile at the possibility of serious mental troubles in girlhood. There are, we know, many unfeeling enough to give them no attention when they do see them. But we have an unfailing witness in the sympathetic heart of the mother. She has not forgotten how bitter were the crosses of her own younger years; she knows that the sensitive soul of woman wakes early to the keenest appreciation of grief as well as joy. If anything, years blunt us, and the sorrows of youth are often the bitterest of our lives.

Let the mother, therefore, read with her wondrous maternal instinct the trials of her daughter; let her become her most intimate confidant, and pour upon the wounded spirit that balm which none but a woman, and that woman a mother, knows how to apply. Such a relationship of mother and daughter is no less natural and wholesome than it is beautiful.


In health an equal interval, or one nearly equal, elapses between the monthly illnesses. Often in the spring, however, their appearance anticipates the expected date of their occurrence, and in the autumn they are frequently a day or two late. These variations are owing to the temperature, heat accelerating and cold retarding the process of ovulation.

Such slight irregularities need not give rise to anxiety; but if there is an unwonted delay, combined with other symptoms of ill-health, as headache, pain in the side and back, a sense of languor and exhaustion, loss of appetite, and nausea, and fitful sleep, then it is important that some steps be taken to bring on the courses. For this purpose, soaking the feet in hot-mustard water, a tumbler of hot ginger or camomile-tea, a brisk walk, or a gentle laxative will generally be found sufficient. Gently kneading the lower abdomen and loins is a familiar, and if intelligently done, a safe means for the same purpose.

More violent means than these should be eschewed. Whichever are used subsequent to their employment, rest, in a recumbent position, in a warm room should be secured.


There are wide individual differences in this respect. Some young women suffer much from local pains, headache and languor at such epochs, without apparently losing anything in general health; others experience no distress whatever.

The causes of painful periods are various. Sometimes they depend on a tendency to rheumatism or to ague. Over-work, or excessive devotion to social duties and pleasures, is often their source. Cold and damp are common incidental causes. Green sickness and general debility are sometimes to blame.

Of course the treatment must depend on which one of these is present. It is a good rule, however, always to wear flannel next the skin; also, to avoid exposure to the weather for several days before the change is expected. A large, hot, linseed-meal poultice, over which a dessert-spoonful of laudanum has been sprinkled, or a large mustard-plaster, spread on the lower abdomen, will afford much relief. A hot brick or bottle of hot water wrapped in flannel, and applied to the small of the back, is often of great service. Rest in bed is always to be recommended. A tea-spoonful of sweet spirits of nitre will sometimes bring early relief.

But if these simple means are not sufficient, it would be better to consult a physician.

A common belief is that such troubles are cured by marriage. Sometimes they are, but we do not approve the remedy. The state of marriage should be entered upon in perfect health and full vigor. Upon it depends the health of future generations, and it were better for them did only those assume its bonds who are able to endow their children with sound physical frames.


It does not follow, because a girl is capable of marriage, that she is fit for it. Science teaches us many valid objections to too early unions. It goes farther, and fixes a certain age at which it is wisest for woman to marry. This age is between twenty and twenty-five years.

Anatomists have learned that after puberty the bones of a woman's body undergo important modifications to fit her for child-bearing. This requires time, and before twenty the process is not completed. Until the woman is perfect herself, until her full stature and completed form are attained, she is not properly qualified to assist in perpetuating the species.

We might urge that up to this moment neither does her self-knowledge qualify her to choose a life-companion, nor can her education be finished, nor is her experience sufficient for her to enter on the duties of a matron. But we do not appeal to these arguments. There are others still more forcible. If her own health, life, and good looks are of value to her, if she has any wish for healthy, sound minded children, she will refrain from premature nuptials.

A too youthful wife finds marriage not a pleasure but a pain. Her nervous system is prostrated by it; she is more liable to weakness and diseases of the womb; and if of a consumptive family, she runs great risk of finding that fatal malady manifest itself after a year or two of wedded life. It is very common for those who marry young to die young.

From statistics which have been carefully compiled, it is proven that the first labors of very young mothers are much more painful, tedious, and dangerous to life, than others. As wives, they are frequently visited either with absolute sterility, and all their lives must bear the reproach of barren women, or, what to many is hardly less distasteful, they have an excessively numerous family.

What adds to their sufferings in the latter event, is that the children of such marriages are rarely healthy. They are feeble, sickly, undersized, often with some fault of mind or body, which is a cross to them and their parents all their lives. They inherit more readily the defects of their ancestors, and, as a rule, die at earlier years than the progeny of better-timed unions.

These considerations are formidable enough, it would seem, to prevent young girls from marrying, without the need of a law, as exists in some countries. Moreover, they are not imaginary, but real, as many a woman finds out to her cost.

The objections to marriage after the age of twenty-five are less cogent. They extend only to the woman herself. She should know that the first labors of wives over thirty are nearly twice as fatal as those between twenty and twenty-five. Undoubtedly nature points to the period between the twentieth and twenty-fifth year as the fittest one for marriage in the woman.



Love, pure love, true love, what can we say of it? The dream of youth; the cherished reminiscence of age; celebrated in the songs of poets; that which impels the warrior to his most daring deeds; which the inspired prophet chooses to typify the holiest sentiments,—what new thing is it possible to say about this theme?

Think for a moment on the history or the literature of the world. Ask the naturalist to reveal the mysteries of life; let the mythologist explain the origin and meaning of all unrevealed religions; look within at the promptings of your own spirit, and this whole life of ours will appear to you as one grand epithalamium.

The profoundest of English poets has said—

'All thoughts, all passions, all delights, Whatever stirs this mortal frame, All are but ministers of Love, And feed his sacred flame.'

That life which is devoid of love is incomplete, sterile, unsatisfactory. It fails of its chiefest end. Nature, in anger, blots it out sooner, and it passes like the shadow of a cloud, leaving no trace behind. Admirable as it may be in other respects, to the eye of the statesman, the physician, the lover of his species, it remains but a fragment, a torso.

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