Skip to main content

Full text of "The influence of dress in producing the physical decadence of American women : annual address upon obstetrics and gynecology"

See other formats


779 

K44x 



HAROLD B. LEE LIBRARY 

BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY 

PROVO, UTAH 



THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 
IN PRODUCING the PHYS- 
ICAL DECADENCE OF 
AMERICAN WOMEN. 

innual Address upon Obstetrics and 
Gynecology.] 

By J. H. KELLOGG, M. D., 

Fellow British Gynecological Society, and the Amer- 
ican Association of Obstetricians and Gynecolo- 
gists, Member Societe d' Hygiene of France, 
American Medical Association, British and 
American Associations for the Ad- 
vancement of Science, American 
Climatological Society, etc. 

BATTLE CREEK, MICHIGAN. 

REPRINTED FROM TRANSACTIONS OK 

Michigan State Medical Society. 
1891. 



■ 
I 






H 



THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 



IN PRODUCING 



The Physical Decadence of American Women. 



J. H. KELLOGG, M. D.. 
Battle Creek. 



[ "Annual Address upon Obstetrics and Gynecology," delivered before the Michigan State 
Medical Society at the Annual Meeting held at Saginaw, June n and 12, 1891. Illustrated by a 
stereopticon.] 

As my subject suggests, I am to undertake to show that 
certain features of the mode of dress common among civil- 
ized American women have been, and are, a prominent 
factor in producing a widespread and marked physical dete- 
rioration among the women of this country. Possibly the 
question may be asked whether such a deterioration exists. 
It is not probable, however, that it will be worth while to 
spend any considerable time in attempting to demonstrate 
the proposition that American women are degenerating 
physically, before an audience made up chiefly of medical 
men and women ; for has there been a medical convention 
dinner within the last quarter of a century at which there 
was not heard the familiar toast, " Woman — God's best gift 
to man, and the chief support of the doctors "? 

A few months ago, I addressed an audience of six or 
seven hundred young women at an educational center in a 
neighboring State, upon the subject of physical culture. 
As my audience seemed to be an amiable one, I ventured 
to ask a few questions, and among other inquiries, asked 
how many women present (all of whom had reached adult 
age) believed themselves to be physically superior to their 
mothers. A bare half dozen raised their hands, and two or 

[3] 



4 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

three of them timidly looked about, apparently to see if any 
one present was prepared to contest their claim. 

One of the most convincing evidences of the physical 
failure of American women is to be found in the fact devel- 
oped by the last census of the United States, that there has 
been, in the last ten years, an enormous falling off in the 
birth-rate, as the result of which several million babies are 
lacking. A lowered birth-rate is a much more serious mat- 
ter than an increased death-rate, although the immediate 
result as regards the population might be the same. An 
increased death-rate may mean nothing more than a tem- 
porary increase in the activity of one or more of the causes 
of disease and death, while a lowered birth-rate means a 
radical and constitutional fault of some sort, threatening 
the very existence of the race. Any one who has had an 
opportunity to become acquainted with the physical condi- 
tion of the average young woman of the present generation, 
will be easily convinced that the next census will show a 
still greater falling off in the birth-rate than the last. A 
corset-choked woman knows very well that she is quite 
unfit, physically, for the rearing of children ; and besides 
the physical unfitness, she finds herself so lacking in forti- 
tude, and so oppressed with nerves and neuralgias and an 
abnormal susceptibility to pain, that she very naturally 
shrinks from the physical ordeal, as well as the mental and 
moral responsibility, which motherhood involves. 

Another most significant fact, for which mothers must 
be held largely responsible, is the enormous business carried 
on at the present time in the manufacture and sale of infant 
foods. According to a paper read by Dr. Hoffman, before 
the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 
at its last meeting, there is consumed in the United States 
every year, not less than eight or ten million dollars' worth 
of infant foods. That these foods are rarely, if ever, perfect 
substitutes for the child's natural aliment, is well known. 
What has created such an enormous demand for these sub- 
stitutes ? Certainly it is not the unnatural increase of the 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 5 

number of infants which has exhausted the natural food sup- 
ply ; for I have already mentioned that there has been, in 
the last ten years, a falling off in the birth-rate amounting 
to several millions. 

These evidences point with tremendous emphasis to the 
fact of the decline of stamina in American women. A host 
of other facts confirming and supporting those given, might 
be brought forward ; but I will not thus unnecessarily con- 
sume your time, since the proposition is not likely to be 
disputed by any intelligent physician who has had wide 
opportunities for observation. 

But I must not devote more of the half-hour allotted me, 
to introductory remarks. Fully realizing that I am likely to 
incur the displeasure of some of my fair auditors before I 
have done with my subject, I may as well declare myself at 
once as prepared to defend the proposition that the average 
civilized American woman is deformed. This very uncom- 
plimentary proposition doubtless impresses my hearers as 
somewhat startling. Nevertheless, I believe the evidence 
which I shall present will convince the majority of you that, 
however repulsive and distressing the fact may be, it is 
true. 

A penchant for modifying the natural form of the body so 
as to produce deformity in some part, seems to prevail quite 
extensively in the human race, although it must be admitted 
that in many savage, and some civilized tribes, this strange 
propensity takes a less dangerous direction than among the 
civilized races. The Indian woman of Alaska ornaments her 
upper lip with a pin stuck through it. Among the women 
of some other savage tribes, fashion demands that a fish- 
bone or a piece of wood be inserted in the under lip in a 
similar fashion, by means of which the flesh is dragged 
down, and a strange deformity produced. The civilized -)6 
woman finds the lobe of her ear a more convenient place 
from which to hang her jewelry, and so she bores a hole 
through this part of her body, and inserts a wire weighted 
with a stone, and thus emulates the example of her savage 



6 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

sisters. There are mothers roaming in the forest, shoeless, 
hatless, and without other garments than a bark apron and 
the picturesque designs of the tattooer's pencil, whose solici- 
tude for their children leads them to compress their heads 
into cones, or to shape them to a fascinating flatness by 
the steady pressure of a board against the infant skull. 
Other mothers, less barbarous, but none the less anxious for 
the welfare of their little ones, squeeze the feet of their 
daughters into shapeless masses of bone and gristle, in 
the firm belief that no young lady can make an eligible 
bride if her foot exceeds in measure the conventional three 
inches. Still other mothers, more civilized, and none the 
less fondly thoughtful of their daughters' interests, base their 
expectations of a successful career for them as much upon 
the meager dimensions of their waists as upon the comeli- 
ness of their countenances or the brilliancy of their accom- 
plishments. 

Some years ago, while engaged in some anthropometric 
studies among Chinese women and the women of the primi- 
tive Indian tribes of Arizona and New Mexico, I was forcibly 
struck, with the marked difference in physical proportion 
between the savage and the civilized woman. I have 
made personally, and secured through others, a large num- 
ber of measurements, which place upon a mathematical basis 
certain points of difference that are exceedingly pro- 
nounced, particularly the larger waist of the savage or semi- 
civilized woman when compared with the highly civilized 
woman. I have since extended my studies of the subject 
to the peasant women of various nationalities, particularly 
French, German, and Italian women, and a single race of 
East Indian women. Early in the course of my studies, the 
thought occurred to me that there might be a positive and 
constant relation between the external configuration of the 
body and the mal-position of various internal organs. I 
accordingly devised a simple apparatus for the purpose of 
making outline traces of the figure at any desired angle. 
With this instrument, I have made a large number of trac- 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 7 

ings (several hundred in all), and have made a careful study 
of the position of the abdominal and pelvic viscera in each 
case. 

The following is a tabulated statement of some facts 
which I have collected, and which bear especially upon the 
matter of waist proportion : — 

Average 

percentage 

Average Average of waist 

height. waist. to height. 

American women 61.64 in- 2 4-44 m - 39-6 

Telugu women of India 60.49 m - 2 4-65 in. 40.6 

English women (brickmakers who wear heavy 

skirts) 60.04 in. 25.00 in. 41.3 

French women 61.06 in. 28.00 in. 45.4 

Chinese women 57.85 in. 26.27 m - 45-4 

Yuma women 66.56 in. 36.84 in. 55.2 

Civilized men — American 67.96 in. 29.46 in. 43.3 

Mrs. Langlry 67.00 in. 26.00 in. 38.8 

Venus de Milo 47.6 

Percentage 
of waist to 
Height. Waist. height. 

Average of 43 women, from 18 to 25 years old 60.7 in. 27.1 in. 44.64 

Average of 25 women, from 18 to 30 years old wearing 

corsets or tight bands 62.5 " 23.3 " 37.3 

Average of the same 25 women a few months after re- 
forming their mode of dress 62.5 " 27.15 " 43.4 

Average of 10 girls, from 9 to 12 years old 2 3-5 " 

Average of 2,000 men, from 18 to 27 years, measured 

by Dr. Seaver, of Yale 68.6 " 29.3 " 42.7 



A few remarks upon the above figures will render them 
more significant. Of the 100 American women whose average 
proportions are given in the table, the majority were upwards 
of 30 years of age. 

Dr. M. Anna Wood, of Wellesley College, has measured 
1,100 women between the ages of 19 and 21 years. Her 
measurements make the height of the average American 
woman to be 63 inches, waist 24.6 inches ; percentage of 
waist to height 39. 

The Telugu women of India, as I am informed by Miss 
Cummings, who kindly made a large number of measure- 



■ 



8 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

ments for me, sustain the skirt, which forms almost their 
only clothing, by means of a cord tied around the waist and 
drawn as tightly as possible. This is doubtless the reason 
for the small waists of these women as compared with those 
of the women of other savage or semi-civilized tribes. 

English working women doubtless often do themselves 
great harm by wearing many heavy skirts attached to waist- 
bands. I once found a young English woman engaged in the 
very laborious occupation of making brick, kneading the clay 
with her fist as a baker kneads dough, and beating it into the 
moulds with her fist, who was at the same time carrying 
upon her waist the weight of six heavy quilted skirts, with no 
other support than bands. The average waist measure of a 
dozen English women brick-makers was 25 inches, and the 
proportion to height 43.7 per cent. 

The German peasant woman, unless she has the misfor- 
tune to live sufficiently near some large city to be somewhat 
influenced by the example of her fashionable sisters, discards 
waistbands altogether, and wears her garments suspended 
from the shoulders by means of a waist, which gives her a 
more vigorous figure than the English peasant woman. 

French women are in the last-named respect also more 
fortunate than their English sisters, by reason of which they 
enjoy the advantage of a waist proportion of 45.4 per cent of 
the height. 

Chinese women, of whom I have made a large number of 
measurements, and received much more data through the 
kindness of Miss Culbertson, of the Home for Chinese 
Women, San Francisco, and also from a lady medical mis- 
sionary in China, although considerably below the average 
height of American women, have two inches greater waist 
circumference, which is doubtless attributable to the fact 
that their mode of dress is such as to allow the most perfect 
freedom of movement and room for development at the 
middle portion of the trunk. 

But the primitive Yuma Indian women of Arizona and 
New Mexico excel all others whose waist measure I have 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 9 

taken, the average waist proportion being 55.2 of the 
height. 

The famous English beauty, Mrs. Langtry, has recently 
had published a detailed account of her physical proportions, 
by which it appears that her height is 67 inches, and her 
waist measure only 26 inches. Mrs. Langtry takes evident 
pride in the fact that many of her measurements correspond 
very closely with those of some ancient Grecian models, but 
she omitted to call attention to the fact that her waist 
measure is only 38.8 per cent of her height, while that of the 
queen of all the ancient statues of women which have been 
discovered, the famous Venus de Milo, is 47.6 per cent of the 
height. Mrs. Langtry's waist measure, to be in the same 
proportion as that of the Greek beauty, should be 32 inches. 
I have taken the'pains to make measurements of a consider- 
able number of male statues, the work of eminent ancient 
artists preserved in various European galleries, and find the 
average proportion of the waist to height of seven famous 
models to be 46.4, or a little less than that of the Venus 
de Milo. 

I have recently made measurements of 43 working women 
between the ages of 18 and 25 years. These young women 
were all wearing loose garments, having been induced to do 
so by a representation of the evils resulting from waist con- 
striction. Some had but recently adopted a healthful style of 
clothing, while others had enjoyed the advantage of ample 
waist room for several months or years. In a few instances, 
corsets and tight waistbands had never been worn. I found 
the average waist measure of 43 young women, who were se- 
lected only with reference to age, to be 27.15 inches, or 44.64 
per cent, of the height, nearly 3 inches in excess of the 
average feminine American waist. The waist of a young 
woman with this proportion, and of the same height as Mrs. 
Langtry, would measure 30 inches instead of 26. 

Comparative measures made in the cases of 25 of these 
young women showed that before the adoption of loose gar- 
ments their average waist measure was 23.3 inches. Since 



10 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

that time there had been an increase in waist proportion to 
such an extent that the average waist measure at the time the 
measurements were taken was 27.15 inches. The proportion 
of waist to height in these 25 young women had increased by 
the change of dress from 37.3 per cent to 43.4 per cent, and 
the waist measure had gained 3.85 inches, or 6.16 per cent. 

I recently secured the measurements of 10 girls between 
the ages of 9 and 12 years, and found the average waist meas- 
ure to be 23.5 inches. 

From these facts is it not evident that the small waist of 
the civilized American woman is a deformity ? Can any one 
assign a physiological reason why the civilized woman should 
have a smaller waist than the savage woman, or why Mrs. 
Langtry's waist measure should be 26 inches instead of 32 ? 
Certainly no other reason can be given for the abnormal waist 
of the civilized woman than the fact that this portion of the 
body has been subjected to abnormal pressure in such a man- 
ner as to prevent natural development and to compel the 
acquirement of a deformity. 

If, in answer to the question why the civilized woman of 
to-day has a smaller waist than the beautiful women of ancient 
Greece, whose figures furnished models for the sculptors whose 
masterpieces modern artists have sought in vain to equal, it 
is said that the change observable is a product of evolution, 
or a result of civilization, may we not pertinently inquire why 
a similar change is not to be found in the modern man ? 

Two other pertinent questions may be asked in this 
relation : — 

1. Why does the civilized woman require a smaller waist 
than the civilized man ? Certainly no physiological reason 
can be given, and well-known anatomical facts suggest that 
if there is any natural difference in proportion, woman requires 
a larger waist than man. She has a larger liver in proportion 
to her size and weight than man, and the exigencies of mother- 
hood require provision for an increase in waist capacity to 
which man is not subject. It is interesting to note, also, in 
this connection, that the waist proportion of the Venus de Milo, 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 11 

who may be considered as the typical woman of the ancient 
Greeks, is 47.7 per cent, while that of the average Grecian 
man, already shown, is 46.4. 

We can draw but one conclusion from these considerations, 
namely, that the small waists of the women of modern times 
are an abnormality. My tables also show the average modern 
feminine waist to be nearly two per cent larger in proportion 
to the height than the modern male waist, when it is allowed 
a chance for natural development. 

2. A second question to which I invite attention is, Why 
does the waist of the civilized woman cease to grow at the age 
of 10 or 12 years, while the rest of the body continues to de- 
velop ? Lungs, liver, stomach, spleen, bowels, pancreas — 
all the organs which occupy the region of the waist line, con- 
tinue to grow, but the waist of the civilized woman absolutely 
refuses to increase in size, notwithstanding the developing 
force beneath it, after the age of 12 or 14 years. I find the 
average waist measure of girls from 9 to 12 years of age to be 
23.5. I have in some instances found the waist measure in 
girls of 12 to be 26 inches. The rational answer to this ques- 
tion is the fact that about this age the constricting influence 
of tight bands, corset waists, or corsets begins. The fash- 
ionable dressmaker insists that the young lady's figure must 
be "formed!' an d so as she develops, she grows into a mould 
like a cucumber in a bottle. And thus it happens that we 
find the civilized woman with a waist disproportionately small, 
as we find, among the aristocratic class of Chinese women, 
dwarfed and misshapen feet. The small-footed woman of 
China, in consequence of her deformity, is compelled to hobble 
about in a most ungraceful fashion, requiring usually one or 
more persons to sustain her in keeping her balance. She can- 
not run, skip, or dance as can her large-footed sisters. She is 
willing, however, to endure the inconveniences of being a 
cripple and the loss of the use of her feet and legs rather than 
forego the pleasure of being in fashion. If the sacrifices which 
the civilized woman makes to fashion were no greater, there 
would be comparatively small ground for complaint, but the 



12 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

constant girding of the waist results in mischiefs of vastly 
greater magnitude than those which the Chinese woman in- 
flicts upon herself. 

As the flat-headed woman watches with interest and 
growing pride the progressive depression of her infant's skull, 
while from day to day she binds more tightly upon it the flat- 
tened disc of wood ; and as the Chinese woman glories in the 
shriveled and misshaped stump of what was once her child's 
foot, as a developing mark of aristocratic gentility, in like 
manner does the civilized mother pride herself on the, small- 
ness and roundness of her daughter's corset-deformed waist, 
disregarding alike the suggestions of art, the warnings of 
science, and the admonitions which nature gives in the dis- 
comfort and distress occasioned by the effort to secure a 
change in the natural contour of the human form which is 
more monstrous in its violation of the laws of beauty, more 
widely at variance with the dictates of reason, and more dis- 
astrous in its consequences to bodily health and vigor, 
than any similar barbarity practiced upon themselves or 
their children by the members of any savage or semi-savage 
tribe. How such a disfigurement of the physique could ever 
have come to be considered desirable or beautiful, is a prob- 
lem hard to solve, since it involves not only an enormous 
loss of strength and vigor, but a violation of all the relevant 
precepts and principles of art which have been handed down 
to us by the great masters, as well as rules of hygiene in which 
all medical men of every age agree. 

I may ask further, How does it happen that the waist of 
the average girl of 9 or 12 years measures 23.5 inches, while 
the waist of the young woman of from 18 to 30 years who 
has worn corsets or tight bands for a number of years, is only 
23.3 inches ? Why should the waist decrease in size with age 
while every other bodily dimension increases ? 

Still another question of interest arises from the fact to 
which almost every woman can testify, that the waist of the 
average woman accustomed to constriction from clothing, 
increases in measure whenever it has an opportunity for de- 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 13 

velopment, as when the common mode of dress is exchanged 
for a more healthful one, or ordinary clothing laid aside for 
a few weeks, as during confinement to bed from illness. 
Probably few women will question the fact that the waist is 
made smaller by constriction of the corset and tight bands. 
A lady said to one of my nurses, when she learned of her 
healthful mode of dress : " But how do you manage to keep 
your stomach down ?" The corset is worn with a deliberate 
purpose of modifying the form of the waist, which it does to the 
great damage of health and vigor. I have shown by careful 
measurements in some hundreds of cases, that the waist of 
an adult woman increases within a few months, under the 
influence of proper clothing and proper exercise, from one 
or two to six or seven inches. 

Let me call your attention more directly to some of the 
important particulars in which the ordinary mode of dress 
among civilized women, especially constriction of the waist, 
results in physical injury. The chief of these are : — 

1. Downward displacement of all the abdominal and 
pelvic organs, and numerous functional and organic diseases 
growing out of this disturbance of the static relation of these 
organs. 

2. Lack of development of the muscles of the trunk, which 
by long compression and disuse, to a very large degree lose 
their functional activity, resulting in relaxation of the ab- 
dominal walls, weakness of the muscles of the back, general 
physical feebleness, and destruction of the natural curves of 
the body, which are not only necessary for health, but also 
essential to physical grace and beauty, and the development 
of many bodily deformities, such as drooping shoulders, flat 
or hollow chest, sunken epigastrium, straight spine. 

3. An ungraceful and unnatural carriage of the body, in 
sitting, standing, and walking. 

4. An abnormal mode of respiration. 

The idea that a displaced stomach can be a possible cause 
of disease or inconvenience may be new to some. Neverthe- 
less, the researches of Glenard, Bouchard, Dujardin-Beaumetz, 



14 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

and other eminent French physicians, have shown beyond 
room for doubt that displacement* of the stomach, bowels, 
kidneys, liver, and other abdominal viscera, may be productive 
of the most pronounced disturbance of health and a source 
of great inconvenience. Indeed, from my own studies on 
this subject I have become convinced that a displaced and 
dilated stomach is more likely to be productive of immediate 
and harmful consequences of a grave character, than displace- 
ment of the pelvic viscera. But before one can fully under- 
stand the relation of waist constriction to displacement of the 
abdominal viscera, it will be necessary to call to mind a few 
important anatomical facts. 

The trunk is practically divided into two- cavities. The 
division of the lower cavity into pelvis and abdomen is an 
artificial and not an anatomical subdivision, useful for the 
purpose of description, but misleading and confusing, unless 
ignored in studies concerning causation and pathological re- 
lations. Anatomically, the trunk is divided by the diaphragm 
into two cavities only, the upper containing the chief organs 
of respiration and circulation, and the lower containing the 
principal organs of digestion and the genito-urinary appa- 
ratus. The chief anatomical facts which I desire to be kept 
in mind are, the normal position of each of the viscera which 
occupy the lower cavity of the trunk, and the mode in which 
these various organs are held in place. It will be remem- 
bered that the liver, spleen, pancreas, and stomach are all 
located above or at the waist, as shown in the accompanying 
diagram after Ziemssen. Plate II. The transverse colon 
lies at the waist line, the point of junction of the ascending 
and transverse colon on the right side dropping a little be- 
low the line, while the point of conjunction of the transverse 
with the ascending colon at the left side rises considerably 
above the waist line, being held in place by the pleuro-colic 
fold of the meso-colon. The kidneys lie just at the waist. 
The greater portion of the space below the waist is occupied 
by the small intestines, the bladder, and the rectum, with the 
uterus and its appendages in the female, and the prostate 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 15 

gland and other special structures in the male. It is notice- 
able that the organs of the greatest weight and functional 
importance are located at or above the waist. 

How are all these important organs held in position ? 
Although fitted together with the nicety of an articulation, 
the viscera are certainly not held together by anything cor- 
responding to the firm ligamentous bands which unite the 
osseous elements of a joint. Every abdominal surgeon will 
testify to the extreme propensity for escaping from the ab- 
dominal cavity when the slightest opportunity offers, mani- 
fested by some of the viscera. The so-called ligaments 
which hold in place the liver, stomach, spleen, and bowels, 
cannot properly be called ligaments, as very little ligament- 
ous structure enters into their composition. The same must 
be said of the ligaments which are supposed to support in 
place the uterus and ovaries, although it must be added that 
some of the uterine ligaments contain muscular tissues which 
play a very important part in maintaining the uterus in its 
proper relation to the trunk and the contiguous organs. I 
think the idea is gaining ground among those who have made 
a special study of this subject, that the chief factors in the 
support of the pelvic viscera, as well as other of the organs of 
the lower trunk cavity, are the tone of the muscular walls of 
the abdomen and the juxtaposition of the organs themselves. 

Compression of the waist necessarily involves displace- 
ment of the organs occupying this portion of the trunk. 
The unyielding character of the chest walls, and the resist- 
ance of the diaphragm prevent any considerable displace- 
ment in an upward direction. Consequently, the necessary 
result of waist-compression, either by the corset or by tight 
bands, is, that the liver, stomach, bowels, and other organs 
occupying this zone of the body, are carried downward. 
The same compressing force which diminishes the circum- 
ference of the body at the waist, interferes with the normal 
activity and development of the muscles which form the 
anterior wall of the lower trunk, so that they offer little 
resistance to the displacing force applied at the waist. 



16 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

In nearly twenty years of medical practice, I have had to 
deal almost exclusively with chronic disorders of various 
sorts, and especially with two classes of chronic disease, — 
digestive disorders, and maladies peculiar to women. Hav- 
ing under observation from 1,000 to 1,500 cases annually, 
under conditions favorable for careful study and comparison, 
I long ago noticed the remarkable frequency of the asso- 
ciation of certain forms of pelvic disorder (especially in 
women with a narrow waist and a protruding abdomen). I 
did not, however, attach so great importance to the matter 
as I should have done, I frankly confess, had I not had an 
erroneous notion respecting the normal contour of the 
female figure. It was only after careful study of this matter 
among savage women, and women whose figure had never 
been modified by the deforming influence of the ordinary 
civilized dress, that I acquired a basis from which to view 
this subject in a rational way. I then began careful inquiry 
into the matter, and for several years back have made, in all 
cases of pelvic diseases of women coming under my observa- 
tion, a careful study of the condition and relative position 
of the various abdominal viscera, as well as of the pelvic 
organs. 

In 250 cases of women suffering from pelvic diseases, 
taken consecutively and without selection, in each of which 
a careful examination was made with reference to the con- 
dition and position of each of the abdominal viscera as well 
as of the pelvic organs, I observed the following disturb- 
ances of the static relations of the viscera: — 

In 232 cases, downward displacement of stomach and 
bowels. 

In 71 cases, right kidney distinctly movable and sensitive 
to pressure. 

In 6 cases, both kidneys freely movable. 

In 9 cases, downward displacement of the spleen. 

In one of these cases, the spleen lay at the bottom of the 
abdominal cavity. I have made a large number of outline 
tracings in cases of women suffering from pelvic diseases, 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 17 

and supplemented these by careful examination of the posi- 
tion and conditions of the abdominal and pelvic viscera, 
with the following results, as regards the relation of the 
static changes in the abdominal organs, to similar changes 
in the organs of the pelvis. 

In 150 cases of pelvic disease, the stomach and bowels 
were displaced in 138 cases. 

In 66 cases, the stomach and bowels were displaced with- 
out displacement of the uterus. In 26 of these cases, there 
was also a displacement of one kidney, and in five, a dis- 
placement of the liver. 

In only seven cases was there displacement of the uterus 
without displacement of the abdominal viscera, and three of 
these were cases of large uterine fibroids in which the 
viscera^ displacement was probably present, but masked by 
the morbid growth. 

I shall have thrown upon the screen, presently, outline 
tracings of the figures of some of these cases, which will 
show very clearly the amount of visceral displacement 
occasioned by an improper dress. My statistics seem 
to show very clearly that visceral displacement is not a 
disease which is especially confined to the pelvis. Indeed, 
a careful study of the means by which the pelvic organs 
are held in place, suggests that they are better provided 
for in this respect than any other of the viscera below 
the diaphragm. The data which I have collected respecting 
the relative frequency in the displacement of the pelvic 
organs, and other organs of the abdominal cavity, clearly sup- 
port this idea. In 150 cases of pelvic diseases, there were 
only four cases in which displacement of the pelvic organs 
was present without displacement of one or more of the ab- 
dominal viscera, while there were 66 cases in which the 
stomach and bowels were displaced without any displace- 
ment of the pelvic organs. In 26 of these cases there was 
also a displacement of the kidney, and in five a displacement 
of the liver. It is evident, then, that visceral displacement 
of the organs of the lower trunk must be regarded (of course 
2 



18 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

leaving room for exceptions) as a general disorder, affecting 
more or less the entire contents of the abdomen and pelvis, 
rather than as a disease confined to one or two of the organs 
in which the subjective symptoms happen to be most prom- 
inently manifested. 

How a displacement of the stomach, a kidney, the bowels, 
the uterus, or an ovary, may occasion disease, is a patholog- 
ical question which it is not necessary to spend time in dis- 
cussing, since the disturbance in blood-circulation, and hence 
in nutritive changes (possibly, also, in the supply of nervous 
energy), and the development of abnormal and pernicious 
nerve-reflexes, are etiological factors, the influence of which 
is too well known and understood to be disputed, and which 
are likely to come into active operation under the morbid 
conditions established in an organ crowded by abnormal 
pressure out of its proper place. Nature has placed each 
internal organ in the position in which it can do its work 
most easily and efficiently ; and the studies of the results of 
visceral displacement which have been made by eminent 
scientific physicians, have shown that to morbid conditions 
of this sort may be fairly attributable the most serious, and 
not infrequently the most obstinate, disturbances of some of 
the most important vital functions, and through them, of all 
the other functions of the body. 

The question may arise, whether we are treating the sub- 
ject fairly, in charging upon errors in dress, so great and so 
serious modifications of the human form as we have pointed 
out, and whether it is not possible that visceral displace- 
ments in some of those cases to which I have called attention 
are to be found in men as well as in women. In order to 
place this subject upon a rational basis, I recently made a 
careful examination respecting the position of the stomach, 
liver, and bowels in 50 working men and 71 working women, 
all of whom were in ordinary health. 

In the 71 women examined, prolapsus of the stomach 
and bowels was found in 56 cases. In 19 of these cases, the 
right kidney was found prolapsed, and in one case, both kid- 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 19 

neys. The 15 cases in which the stomach and bowels were 
not prolapsed were all persons under 24 years of age. 
None of these had ever laced tightly, and four had never 
worn corsets or tight waistbands, having always worn cloth- 
ing suspended from the shoulders. It is noticeable that in 
a number of cases in which corsets had never been worn, 
tight waistbands had produced very extensive displacement 
of the stomach, bowels, and kidney. In one of these the 
liver was displaced downward. 

In the 50 men, I found only six in whom the stomach and 
bowels could be said to be prolapsed. In one the right kid- 
ney was prolapsed. In only three was the degree of pro- 
lapse anything at all comparable with that observed in 
the women, and in these three (and in one other of these six 
cases, making four in all) it was found on inquiry that a belt 
or something equivalent had been worn in three cases, as a 
means of sustaining the pantaloons. In one case the patient 
attributed his condition to the wearing of a truss furnished 
with a belt drawn tightly about the waist. This belt had 
been worn a sufficiently long time to be an ample cause for 
the visceral displacement observed. In the two cases of 
slight visceral prolapse in which belts had been worn, there 
was considerable deformity of the figure due to general weak- 
ness, and a habitual standing with the weight upon one 
foot. By comparison, we see the relative frequency of vis- 
ceral prolapse in the men and women examined, was 12 per 
cent of the men and 80 per cent of the women. In other 
words, visceral prolapse was found to be 6^3 times as fre- 
quent in women as in men. It is also noticeable that, with 
the exception of two cases of visceral prolapse in the men, 
the visceral prolapse in the men was due to the same cause 
which caused visceral prolapse in women ; viz., constriction 
}f the waist. It makes no difference, of course, whether the 
:onstriction is applied by means of a corset or a waistband 
3r a belt. 

I have met a number of cases of visceral prolapse in men 
n which the disease was directly traceable to the wearing of 



20 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

a belt. One case was that of a military officer, who wore a 
tight sword belt, in which he carried almost constantly a 
heavy sword. I have also made some observations of the 
same character among blacksmiths, who have a habit of sus- 
taining their pantaloons by means of the strings of their 
leather aprons tied tightly about the waist, the suspenders 
being loosened so as to give greater freedom to the move- 
ments of the arms. Farmers, also, sometimes seek to liber- 
ate their shoulders by wearing the suspenders tied about the 
waist. Leaving out of consideration the four cases of men 
in whom the visceral displacement was due to the same 
causes which produce this morbid condition in women, we 
find but two cases in which the viscera had become dis- 
placed from other causes, or one in twenty-five, — a frequency 
just one twentieth of that in which this diseased condition is 
found in women who consider themselves enjoying ordinary 

health. 

These facts,- it seems to me, are amply sufficient to estab- 
lish my proposition,— that constriction of the waist is the 
cause of downward displacement of the pelvic viscera, and 
of the diseases which naturally grow out of such disturbances 
of the static relations of the organs occupying this portion of 
the trunk. 

The injury inflicted upon the body at its central portion 
by constriction of the waist, attacks the very citadel of its 
strength and vigor, the stomach and its associate organs con- 
stituting the headquarters for the supply of force and energy 
for the whole system. It is doubtless for this reason that the 
great abdominal brain, the largest collection of nerve matter 
in the sympathetic system, is found in such close relation to 
-the stomach. Lying, as it does, exactly in the plane of the 
waist, any abnormal pressure at this point must act directly 
upon this great center of reflex nervous activity. 

By the inactivity of the muscles of the trunk, and the failure 
of development due to continued pressure, the muscles of the 
central and anterior portions of the trunk become abnormally 
weak, so that their natural tone is insufficient to support the 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 21 

abdominal contents in their normal position. As I have al- 
ready shown, an additional injury results from the failure of 
these weakened muscles to perform their duty as guys, which 
balance the upper half of the pelvis upon the trunk, and by 
their efficient action in health, maintain a graceful and health- 
ful poise of the body. 

The strong and beautiful curves which are observed in a 
spirited horse are not only attractive from an aesthetic point of 
view, but are also of the highest significance from a physio- 
logical standpoint. In the healthy, vigorous animal one ob- 
serves that the head is held high, the neck and back strongly 
curved, the limbs firmly set, and the whole expression indicates 
vigor and strength. The same is equally true of the human 
body. An erect head, well curved back, prominent chest, 
retracted abdomen, and firmly set limbs, are indicative of an 
energized carriage of the body which is characteristic of health. 
The flat chest, posterior dorsal curve, projecting chin, pro- 
truding abdomen, are equally indicative of a relaxed and weak 
carriage of the body, characteristic of feebleness and disease. 
The spiritless and tired horse does not hold his head down ; 
he lacks the vigor and disposition to hold it up. So the 
woman who has been accustomed to the support of stays of 
steel or bone, finds herself, when without these means of sup- 
port, feeling, as she says, " as though she would fall to pieces." 
The muscles of the waist lack the ability to balance the chest 
and shoulders upon the hips. 

As I shall show you presently in the outlines which will 
be thrown upon the screen, the direct effect of the corset, and 
of any constriction of the waist, is to break down the natural 
curves of the back, straightening the spine, thus depressing 
the chest, and causing the shoulders to fall forward, and pro- 
ducing general collapse of the front wall of the trunk. 

In consequence of the weakening of the muscles which 
support the trunk, and especially weakness of the waist mus- 
cles, an ungraceful and unnatural carriage of the body appears, 
not only in walking and standing, but in sitting. The weak- 
waisted woman is comfortable only when sitting in a rocking 



22 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

or easy chair. She cannot be comfortable unless the back is 
supported ; consequently, in sitting the muscles of the trunk 
are completely relaxed, thus causing collapse of the waist and 
protrusion of the lower abdomen by the depression at the 
waist occasioned by the depression of the ribs. 

Such persons, in standing, assume a great variety of awk- 
ward and unhealthful positions, some of the most common of 
which will be shown presently upon the screen. The most 
common faults are dropping the shoulders, projecting the 
chin, hips too far forward, weight resting upon the heels or 
upon one foot, and a general lack of even and graceful bal- 
ance of the body. In walking, the forward position of the 
hips makes it impossible to plant the whole sole of the foot 
down at once and firmly, so the weight is thrust continually 
upon the heels. This difficulty is increased by wearing high- 
heeled shoes. A swinging, swaying, wriggling, or otherwise 
awkward gait, is the most common mode of walking one sees 
in women, very few of whom are good walkers, in consequence 
of the inability to balance the body, through the weakness 
of the muscles of the waist. 

The fourth charge which I have made against the com- 
mon mode of dress, in which the waist is constricted, is that 
it induces and necessitates an abnormal mode of respiration. 

In normal breathing, the shape of the chest-cavity is 
changed in the act of inspiration in such a manner that 
its diameter is increased in all directions. The greatest 
increase, however, is in its longitudinal diameter, due to 
flattening of the diaphragm ; and in the lateral transverse 
diameter of the lower part of the chest, due to the action of 
the inspiratory muscles, and, according to Briiger, also in 
part due to the depression of the abdominal viscera by the 
contracting diaphragm. In normal respiration in children of 
both sexes, and in both men and women of savage tribes, in 
whom the dress of the two sexes is practically alike, the 
chief movements noticeable to the eye in inspiration are 
widening of the chest at its lower part and bulging of the 
abdominal wall. There is at the same time a rhythmical 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 23 

action of the muscles of the pelvic floor, induced by the 
increase of abdominal pressure resulting from the flattening 
of the diaphragm, acting against the resistance of the tense 
abdominal muscles. 

That the respiratory movements are practically alike in 
adult persons of the two sexes, I think has been fully estab- 
lished by the observations of Mays, Dickinson, and others, 
as well as by my own studies upon Indian women of various 
tribes, Chinese women, Italian peasant women, and American 
women whose breathing has never been interfered with by 
tight-fitting clothing. 

The relation of corsets and tight bands to respiration has 
usually been studied with reference to their influence upon 
the lungs or the respiratory process. The important relation 
of the respiratory process to the abdominal and pelvic 
viscera has too often been overlooked, although the disturb- 
ance of the normal relation existing between respiration, and 
the circulation of the blood in the abdominal and pelvic 
viscera, is undoubtedly a matter of far greater importance than 
any interference with the respiratory process occasioned by 
constriction of the waist. The effect of inspiration is to in- 
crease abdominal tension. This is accomplished by the flatten- 
ing of the diaphragm, which is facilitated by the increase in the 
lateral transverse diameter of the lower part of the chest, 
induced by contraction of the serratus and other inspiratory 
muscles. The effect of abdominal tension is to facilitate the 
emptying of the veins of the portal circulation, in which 
there is a natural tendency to congestion, as the result of 
the resistance of the hepatic capillary system, which inter- 
venes between them and the general venous system. In 
normal respiration, in which the intra-thoracic pressure is 
diminished by proper expansion of the chest cavity, this 
emptying of the portal circulation is also facilitated by a sort 
of suction action, which draws the blood from the abdominal 
viscera into the thoracic cavity. Thus, in normal respiration 
there is a double action, the tendency of which is to accelerate 
the circulation in the abdominal and pelvic organs ; and it is 



24 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

reasonable to suppose that the health of these organs must 
largely depend upon a continuous and efficient action of this 
pumping process, which is so essential a feature in the main- 
tenance of the blood current in this region of the body. 

When the waist is constricted, both elements of the re- 
spiratory process through which the abdominal pelvic circula- 
tion is assisted, are seriously weakened. The increase of tne 
abdominal tension, resulting from the pressure of the dia- 
phragm, is prevented by the fact that the transverse diameter 
of the lower portion of the chest is not only diminished, but 
fixed. The lateral attachments of the diaphragm are thus 
approached in such a manner that this muscle is rendered 
incapable of efficient contraction. At the same time, the 
intra-thoracic negative pressure is diminished through the 
crippling of the inspiratory act. The lower portion of the 
chest being held firmly, any increase in the transverse 
diameter of this part is impossible. The normal descent of 
the diaphragm being prevented, the longitudinal diameter of 
the chest cannot be increased to the proper extent. The 
chest is left free to act only in its upper part, the elasticity 
of which is much less than that of the lower portion, in 
consequence of the rigid character of the ribs, and the short- 
ness of the cartilages which connect the ribs to the sternum, 
as well as the comparative weakness of the muscles which 
act upon this portion of the chest. 

The crippled condition of respiration in a woman whose 
waist is constricted by a corset or tight bands, is clearly 
shown by the readiness with which such a woman gets out 
of breath when called upon to make unusual exertion, or 
when there is a special demand for lung activity from any 
other cause. The first thing done for a fainting woman is to 
cut her waistbands and corset strings ; but no one would 
ever think of tearing open a man's vest or slitting up his shirt 
front under the same circumstances. 

The proper action of the chest may be aptly compared 
to that of a pair of bellows. The lower ribs, to which the 
strong breathing muscles are attached, serve as the handles. 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 25 

The breathing apparatus of a woman whose waist is con- 
stricted by a corset or tight bands, is nearly as much em- 
barrassed in its action as would be a pair ofljellows with the 
handles tied together. The clavicular respiration, so con- 
spicuous in women who constrict the waist, is not seen 
among savage women, nor in a woman whose respiratory 
organs have not been restricted in their action by improper 
clothing. That this mode of breathing is quite abnormal 
might be fairly inferred from the structure of the upper part 
of the chest, which is certainly not such as to suggest any 
considerable degree of mobility. But this mode of breath- 
ing is not only abnormal, but, as I think I have already 
shown, it may be productive of disease. This is true of 
ordinary respiration, but it is most emphatically true of 
forced respiration, such as is induced by singing or active 
muscular exercise. Under the imperative demand for an 
increased supply of air, the respiratory muscles are made to 
act with undue violence. In consequence of the constriction 
and the compression of the abdominal walls by the corset, 
this abnormal force is largely expended upon the organs of 
the pelvis, which are forced down out of position. The pel- 
vic floor is more yielding than the rigid walls of the upper 
chest, and is depressed, thus laying the foundation for chronic 
displacement. A civilized woman, wearing the common 
dress, cannot expand her waist more than one fourth of an 
inch when taking a deep inspiration. Expansion must occur 
somewhere, and the abnormal mode of dress necessitates 
that it shall be at the upper and lower extremities of the 
trunk. The greater resistance of the upper ribs, and the 
yielding character of the structures which form the pelvic 
loor, lead to a lowering of all the organs which are dependent 
upon the latter for support. 

The tracings which I shall present also show an impor- 
tant fact as to the influence of constriction of the waist upon 

>reathing. These tracings were made with a pneumograph, 
:he tracings obtained by which represent the whole of the 

espiratory movement. Fig. i, Plate I., represents normal 



26 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

respiration. Noting the time relation between inspiration 
and expiration, it will be observed that expiration is per- 
ceptibly longer than the movement of inspiration. I find 
this relation to be, on the average, about five for inspiration 
and seven for expiration. Fig. 2 is a fac-simile of the trac- 
ings produced by the same person while wearing a corset, 
who without a corset produced the tracings of Fig. i. It will 
be seen that there is an increase in the time of inspiration as 
compared with expiration, which one would naturally expect 
from the resistance offered by the corset. It will also be 
noticed that a marked change in the form of the tracings is 
produced by the constriction of the waist. The expiratory 
portion of the tracing, which appears above the horizontal line, 
drops suddenly, instead of making a gradual decline, as in 
normal respiration. The tracings obtained from the woman 
in a corset, show most clearly an abnormal resistance to in- 
spiratory action. 

In natural breathing, the action is chiefly at the waist, 
although the entire trunk wall and every organ within the 
trunk participates in the movement. The action begins with 
expansion, first at the sides, and then in front, then a slight 
elevation of the upper chest, and, in forced respiration, a 
slight drawing in of the lower abdomen at the same time. 
In ordinary respiration, there is simply a lifting forward of 
the whole front wall of the chest and abdomen, the move- 
ment extending all along the line from the upper end of the 
breast bone to the pubis. 

The so-called abdominal respiration is unnatural and un- 
healthful ; indeed, it has been in many cases productive of 
serious injury. Teachers of elocution and vocal music often 
instruct their pupils to breathe abdominally ; that is, to give 
prominence to the movements of the lower abdomen in 
breathing. When the waist is constricted, the inability of the 
chest to expand at the sides, compels an exaggerated move- 
ment downward, so that the viscera are forced down into the 
abdomen to an unusual extent. In natural respiration, the 
expansion of the waist, or increase in circumference of the 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 27 

trunk at its center, prevents this excessive downward move- 
ment. It will be readily seen how by violent efforts to force 
the breath downward with the waist confined so as to prevent 
proper expansion, the supporting ligaments of the various 
viscera might in time be so stretched as to produce a general 
sag of the abdominal contents. 

Correct breathing is as necessary to the health of the 
pelvic and abdominal viscera as to a healthy condition of 
the lungs ; for the respiratory act not only pumps air in and 
out of the body, but draws blood to the heart, assisting par- 
ticularly the portal circulation, and thus also aiding in the 
absorption of the products of digestion, and so facilitating 
the digestive process. It is quite possible also, that the 
rhythmical movements imparted to all the viscera of the trunk 
by normal respiration, are a sort of vital gymnastics, essen- 
tial to the health of each organ. 

It is thus evident that, in its interference with the proper 
respiration, as well as from the mechanical injuries which it 
inflicts, the common mode of dress, which involves constric- 
tion of the waist, is the most potent means of impairing the 
health and vigor of the whole body, and may justly be reck- 
oned as perhaps the greatest of all factors in the general 
decadence in physical vigor so apparent among women of 
the present and rising generation. 

That there has not been a general rebellion against this 
unnatural and mischief-making mode of dress on the part of 
the intelligent women of this enlightened age, is probably 
due to the popular but fallacious idea which seems to be so 
thoroughly fixed in the minds of both men and women, that 
woman is " the weaker vessel," and naturally subject to ail- 
ments and weaknesses and general physical inefficiency from 
which men enjoy immunity. Any one, who has made him- 
self familiar with the activity of the women of savage nations, 
or even the women of the peasant classes in civilized coun- 
tries, must have recognized the fallaciousness of this popular 
idea, which had its birth in the age of chivalry, and has come 
down to us along with numerous other fancies and supersti- 



28 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

tions, which have no foundation either in natural experience 
or physiological science. 

The average civilized woman is certainly very much in- 
ferior to the average civilized man in physical vigor. The 
constancy of this observation has led both the profession and 
the laity to regard women as naturally weaker than men. 
But that this is not necessarily so, is shown by the constant 
experience* and observation of travelers among uncivilized 
tribes. Travelers in China are often astonished at the" im- 
mense loads which Chinese women carry upon their shoul- 
ders. Some years ago, I saw a woman in the market-place at 
Naples, Italy, carrying off upon her head an immense load of 
vegetables, which required two men to lift it into position. 
De Saussure relates that when he had finished his observa- 
tions in the valley of Zermatt, he packed a collection of min- 
eralogical specimens in a box, and called for a porter to carry 
it out of the valley, as the mountain roads were too steep to 
be traveled by four-footed animals of any sort. After a 
fruitless search for a man who was able to transport his box 
of specimens, he was finally told if he wished a porter to 
carry his package he must employ a woman, as no man could 
be found who was able to even lift the box. He accordingly 
engaged a woman who offered herself for the service, and 
stated that she carried the heavy box of minerals over the 
steep mountain roads without the slightest injury either to it 
or to herself. Stanley reports that the two hundred women 
porters whom he employed on one of his expeditions, proved 
to be the best porters he ever had in Africa. 

When in England, a few years ago, I made an expedition 
into the "black country" for the purpose of studying the 
women brick-makers and nail-makers of that region. I 
found at Lye, some of the finest specimens of well-devel- 
oped women I ever saw anywhere, women who had spent 
all their lives in brick-yards or before the forge, swinging 
the blacksmith's hammer and making the anvil ring. These 
women never go in out of the rain for fear they will get wet 
and take cold, and although working in mud and water a 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 29 

great share of the time, have no other protection for their 
feet than shoes, often full of holes and almost without soles, 
and wholly inadequate to protect the feet from water. They 
are constantly engaged in lifting heavy weights. One woman 
I saw tossing and kneading upon a block a mass of clay, 
which, as I found by actual test, weighed over sixty pounds. 
She handled it in her hands as though it were only a small 
mass of dough ; and although thus employed from early 
morn until late at night, she was in no way disabled by her 
occupation. A physician of long experience, who practiced 
in the place, assured me that so far as his practice among 
women was concerned, it amounted to nothing in a gyneco- 
logical way, but that his obstetrical practice was very large. 
Not long ago, a public meeting was held in Birmingham, 
England, by the nail-makers of that district, for the purpose 
of protesting against the employment of women in the busi- 
ness of nail-making. The reason given by a prominent 
member of the association for this objection to the employ- 
ment of women, was that by this kind of labor a woman 
became so " unsexed " that she could outwork a man, con- 
tinuing her labor hours after a man was completely used up. 

These facts, and many others which might be cited, show 
that woman is not necessarily weaker than man. The weak- 
ness of woman is not due to natural constitution, but to a 
vicious mode of dress and neglect of physical exercise, 
although, possibly, heredity has some influence in the matter 
at the presertt day. 

The practical bearings of this question are too evident to 
require more than mention. 

i. It is evident that pelvic disease involving the displace- 
ment of organs is only a part of a general disorder in which 
every organ below the diaphragm may be involved, and any 
system of treatment which addresses itself exclusively to the 
disorders found present in the pelvis, must be unsuccessful. 
Here is to be found the secret of the failure of so many 
methods and systems which have been proposed for the 
relief or cure of pelvic disease, particularly displacements. 



30 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

I do not hesitate to make the assertion that any method of 
treatment, cither medical or surgical, which does not address 
itself to the removal of the causes of the disorder as well 
as to its effects and amelioration of symptoms, must result 
in failure. Temporary relief, often apparent cure, may be 
effected, but sooner or later the patient will find himself in 
the same wretched condition as before. This explains the 
almost universal failure of pessaries, local application of 
electricity, operations upon the perineum, and the various 
forms of anterior and posterior colporrhaphy, operations 
for shortening the round ligaments, ventro-fixation of the 
fundus, and a great variety of other methods and procedures 
which have been adopted for the relief of the various forms 
of displacements of the pelvic organs. The pessary some- 
times succeeds, provided there is some coincident change in 
the habits of the patient which increases the strength of the 
muscles of the waist and abdomen. But, in my estimation, 
nothing can be more absurd than to thrust a pessary up 
among a mass of prolapsed abdominal and pelvic viscera, 
stretched away from their normal moorings, jostling one 
another about in the abdominal cavity, swaying in what- 
ever direction the body happens to incline. No wonder that 
such patients often complain that the pessary gives pain. 
Certainly it is no marvel that ulceration, ovarian irritation 
and inflammation, and even salpingitis, are not uncommon 
results. 

Thirty years ago, Banning undertook to effect a cure of 
pelvic disorders by means of braces which supported the 
trunk in a natural position. The weak point in this system 
was its inability to give strength to the weakened muscles. 
An external skeleton consisting of an iron frame-work is 
no more efficient in developing the muscles of the trunk 
than one composed of hickory or whalebone stays. The 
"Neptune's girdle," or "umschlag" of the old German water- 
cures, not infrequently perfected cures by allaying local con- 
gestions, irritation of the abdominal sympathetic ganglia, 
and especially by supporting the relaxed abdominal walls, 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 31 

and holding up in position the prolapsed viscera. Patients 
are sometimes cured by being sent on long journeys abroad, 
in which they gain muscular strength and vigor by mountain- 
climbing, horseback-riding, and the active exercise neces- 
sarily involved in sight-seeing. 

Cures have been effected by each of these and other hap- 
hazard methods of treatment, but they were accidental, and 
not due to scientific methods, and patients were not infre- 
quently made worse. I have known of cases in which young 
women were injured for life by being advised by their phy- 
sicians to exercise in a gymnasium, without the same careful 
prescription as to the kind and amount of exercise to be 
taken, as a judicious physician would give respecting the 
administration of a powerful drug. 

2. It must be evident that a large share of the symptoms 
present in cases belonging to the class which is generally 
referred to the gynecologist, are really due to disorders of 
other organs which are involved in the general disturbance, 
or, as the French call it, deseqnilibration, of the viscera of 
the lower half of the trunk. 

Most women suffering from pelvic diseases complain of 
pain when on the feet, dragging pain in the bowels and the 
lower portion of the back, pain at the extreme lower end of 
the spine, soreness and pain in the region of the navel, a 
feeling of lack of support in the lower abdomen, a sensation 
commonly described as goneness at the pit of the stomach, 
weakness of the lower limbs, pain in the back, crawling, 
tingling, numbness, stinging, and other sensations in the legs, 
cold hands and feet, burning of the soles and palms. Some- 
times the patient says she is only comfortable, when on her 
feet, when holding up the bowels with the hands. Such 
patients tenaciously cling to the corset, because they evi- 
dently need some support. These patients also often com- 
plain that when they undertake to stand without a corset, 
there is such a sinking at the stomach that they are com- 
piled to sit down. The evident cause is the dragging of 
:he prolapsed bowels and stomach, occasioned by the relaxa- 



32 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

tion of the abdominal muscles by which the branches of the 
pneumogastric and sympathetic nerves are put under an un- 
natural strain. It is evident that in these cases a large part 
of the symptoms are due, not to the pelvic disorder, but to 
the general disease of which this is a part. 

If we expect to cure a woman who is a chronic sufferer 
from pelvic disorders, we must treat the patient rather than 
the malady. This is a principle which applies, in fact, to 
most chronic disorders ; and a failure to recognize this prin- 
ciple is the rock upon which professional effort often splits. 
It is as hopeless to undertake to cure such maladies by the 
usual routine methods, which are addressed to local symptoms 
and conditions only, as to expect to kill a noxious weed by 
picking off its flowers or a few of its leaves. The whole dis- 
ease must be eradicated, root and branch. This can only be 
accomplished by the removal of all the morbid conditions 
which are the real causes of the multitudinous symptoms by 
which the disorder is recognized and for which it is often 
named. Rational treatment of this class of diseases must, 
then, include, first of all, the adoption of a proper dress, 
which will be one in which every muscle of the trunk will 
have perfect freedom to act. The patient must be instructed 
to have her dress measure taken with the waist fully ex- 
panded, and to allow an inch or two for growth, in the hope 
that to some degree she may overcome the deformed con- 
dition which she has induced by ignorant obedience to fash- 
ion, rather than to the laws of physiology and the dictates 
of common sense. 

Health corsets are a device of the devil to keep women 
in bondage who are seeking for deliverance from the weak- 
ness and misery from which a really healthful mode of dress 
might emancipate her. Shoulder braces and harnesses of 
every description are, on the whole, a snare and a delusion. 
The only correct principle is to suspend everything from 
the shoulders by means of a waist which will equally 
distribute the weight upon natural bearings, and at the 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN, 33 

same time give latitude for the greatest freedom of waist 
movement. 

If all women would at once adopt a healthful mode of 
dress, probably half of our profession would be obliged to 
seek some other calling. Certainly, at the present time, 
more than half our business consists in efforts to repair 
damages which ignorant women have inflicted upon them- 
selves. Neither a proper knowledge of the requirements of 
the body, nor a just consideration of the principles of beauty, 
justifies the popular mode of dress. The idea that a small 
waist or a round waist is beautiful, is a mischievous and 
dangerous notion, which ought to be eradicated from the 
public mind. Nature never made a waist round, slight, or 
tapering, as though it were chiseled out of a block of wood ; 
and why should we allow ourselves to be persuaded by the 
fashion-mongers that a thing which from an artistic stand- 
point is truly hideous, is otherwise than monstrous and 
repulsive ? An artist who would make a nude figure with 
the waist modeled after a French corset, would not be allowed 
to exhibit his work in any respectable gallery. 

A singular illustration of the inconsistency of human 
nature is to be found in the fact that the same artist who 
takes so great care of his " model's" figure that he will not 
allow her to wear a corset, or subject herself to waist con- 
striction of any sort, never thinks to criticise his wife, who 
squeezes herself into a French mould of the latest pattern, re- 
gardless of the fact that the circumference of her trunk is 
decreased by several inches at the middle, only at the ex- 
pense of a commensurate increase below the waist, making 
an unsightly protuberance of displaced adipose tissue, relaxed 
abdominal muscles, and a promiscuous assemblage of stomach, 
bowels, kidneys, spleen, and other things, which have been 
forcibly ejected from the snug corners in which nature care- 
fully stowed them away, and thrust into an unnatural and 
unsightly mass below. We see in the enormous busts and 
bustles which fashion prescribes, an evident attempt to cover 

3 



M THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

up the uncouthness of form which the corset and other fash- 
ionable modes of torture have induced by means of these ex- 
crescences, and by their aid to approach as far as possible to 
the ideal figure, which, in its native grace and beauty, requires 
no such accessories. 



EXPLANATION OF PLATES. 

PLATE I. 

FIGURE i. Pneographic tracing, showing the respiratory 
movements of a healthy woman. That portion of the curve 
above the base line represents expiration ; the curve below 
the line represents inspiration. This tracing was obtained 
by means of a new form of pneumograph, or pneograph, 
which represents the whole respiratory movement, and which 
I have elsewhere described. 

FlG. 2. Pneographic tracing furnished by a woman wear- 
ing a corset. The subject was the same person who furnished 
the preceding tracing, and the tracing was made with the 
same instrument adjusted in the same manner. The evident 
increase in the length of the expiratory movement, or rather 
decrease in the length of the inspiratory movement, as well 
as the change in form of the expiratory movement, are 
strongly suggestive of the interference with respiration oc- 
casioned by constriction of the waist. 

FlG. 3. Pneumographs tracing of the upper and lower 
costal movements in breathing, furnished by a healthy man. 
The pneumograph employed in taking this tracing was a 
modified form of the instrument designed by Paul Bert. In 
obtaining the upper costal movement, the instrument was 
adjusted at the middle of the sternum and the spine opposite. 
In obtaining the lower costal tracing, the instrument was 
adjusted to the sides of the chest. 

FlG. 4. Pneumographs tracing furnished by a civilized 
woman wearing a corset. It will be noticed that this tracing 
is almost exactly the reverse of the preceding. 



S 



Expiration. Inspiration 




Fig. i. Pneographic tracing of a healthy woman. 
Expiration. Insp. 




Fig. 2. Pneographic tracing — woman in corset. 
Costal. Waist. Costal. Waist. 





FIG. 3. Man. 

Costal 



Fig. 4. Woman in corset. 
W»i* l. 




Costal. 



Fig. 5. Chippewa Indian woman. 
Waist. Costal. 



Waist. 





Fig. 6. Woman who never wore a corset. 
Costal. 



Fig. 7. Man in corset. 
Waist. 




Fig. 8. Dog. 



Costal. 



Waist. 




Fig. 9. Dog with corset on. 

PLATE I.— Breathing Movements in Man and Dog. 



ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 35 

FlC. 5. Tracing obtained from a Chippewa Indian woman 
who had never worn a corset. 

FlG. 6. Tracing furnished by a civilized woman who had 
never worn a corset. It will be noticed that the last two 
tracings have the same character as the tracing furnished by 
a healthy man, shown in Fig. 3. 

Fig. 7. Tracing furnished by a man wearing a corset. 
This tracing is practically identical with the one shown in 
Fig. 4, furnished by a woman wearing a corset. 

FlG. 8. Tracing obtained from a healthy dog. 

FlG. 9. Tracing obtained from a dog with a corset on. 
By examination of the last two tracings it will be seen that 
a healthy dog breathes just as does a healthy man or healthy 
woman whose respiratory movements are unobstructed, and 
that a dog wearing a corset breathes as does a woman under 
the same circumstances, chiefly with the upper instead of the 
lower portion of the chest. 

PLATE II. 

FIGURE i. Diagram of the trunk, showing position of 
the viscera, after Ziemssen. It will be noticed that the 
lower border of the stomach falls at a point about midway 
between the lower end of the sternum and the umbilicus. 

FlG. 2. Diagram showing the action of the diaphragm, 
front view. 

FlG. 3. Diagram showing the action of the diaphragm, 
side view. 

PLATE III. 

This plate is a representation of natural figures. 

FIGURE i. Outline of a healthy, well-developed man, 
thirty years of age. 

FlG. 2. Outline of a well-developed woman, of twenty- 
six years. 

FlG. 3. A Greek statue. 

FlG. 4. Outline of an Italian model girl. 



36 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

TLATE IV. 

Outlines showing the effect of the corset in destroying 
the natural symmetry of the figure. 

FIGURE i. Side profile of a young woman who had once 
been addicted to tight lacing, but had greatly improved her 
figure by reforming her dress. 

FIG. 2. Side profile of the same person with corset on. 
This tracing shows clearly the influence of the corset in de- 
stroying the natural dorsal curve, and producing protrusion 
of the lower abdomen. 

FIG. 3, Front profile of a young woman of seventeen 
years who had never worn anything tight in her life. The 
two side sets of lines illustrate the form of the waist with a 
corset on and with it off. This young woman's waist meas- 
ure was three inches less outside all her clothing with the 
corset on, than next the skin with the clothing removed. 

FlG. 4. Side profile of the same person who furnished 
the preceding outline, showing the distortion of the figure 
and displacement of the internal viscera occasioned by tight 
lacing. 

PLATE V. 

FIGURE i. The outline of a young woman who supposed 
she had always dressed healthfully, having worn a health- 
corset and suspended her clothing from her shoulders. The 
so-called health corset was tight and rigid with stays, and 
the skirt-bands were also tight and the skirts heavy. In 
consequence, the bowels and stomach were prolapsed, the 
lower border of the stomach reaching three inches below the 
umbilicus. 

FlG. 2. The solid lines within the figure indicate the 
position of the stomach, liver, and right kidney. The dotted 
lines indicate the lower border of these organs when in nor- 
mal position. The young woman was in most wretched 
health. She had suffered for many years from nervous dys- 
pepsia, and also from pelvic congestion and displacement of 
the uterus and ovaries. 



o 

n> 
n 
K 
CO 

P 
rt 

C 



OP 





[ 

























« 








Kj 








a 2 


^^^^^^^^^^^1 


Mjijj^P^sm^y 












3 3 


^^^^IHhhBSP^' 












— < 








n> o 


* 




1 


1 £0 

C 3 


H^B^HH 


jSjkSJot 


. 


a? 3 


B^^^^^^^^^H^^^^H^BPBECKE£Qv7f/ v ' 


EM • ;- ■ " , ' ' " 


£1*3* 




"'■','.'' 




r* o 




jC^MHQQ '^'QKmii 


^^^^^fl 


- n 




, H^^^H 




n 
















o 








f+ 








13* 




^H 




n 




nawBHMSfl Sfefv 




ir. 









ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 37 

FlG. 3. Outline of a woman of forty-two years, who, 
when a young woman, had compressed the waist for the 
purpose of getting rid of an enlarged spleen, which was 
finally crowded down below the waist-line, and, finding itself 
cut loose from its moorings, wandered about in all parts of 
the abdominal cavity. When first examined, the spleen — 
four or five times its normal size — lay between the uterus 
and the bladder, and was mistaken for a fibroid tumor. I 
discovered my error the next day, when I found the spleen 
lying several inches distant from its ^?sition of the day 
before. 

FlG. 4. Front-view outline of the same patient. The 
solid lines 5 and L indicate the position in which the stom- 
ach and liver were found. 

PLATE VI. 

FIGURE i. Side-view profile of a woman who had suffered 
many years from nervous dyspepsia and a variety of nervous 
and pelvic troubles. She had consulted a great many physi- 
cians of eminence, but had found no relief. 

FlG. 2. Front view of the same patient. The liver, 
stomach, and kidneys were several inches below their normal 
position. The displacement of the abdominal viscera was 
directly traceable to the influence of tight skirt-bands and 
heavy skirts. The patient was greatly improved in health 
by strengthening the abdominal walls, thus enabling them 
to hold the prolapsed organs more nearly in position. 

FlG. 3. Side-view outline of a woman whose figure was 
greatly deformed, as the result of tight lacing and wearing 
heavy skirts suspended by tight bands. The liver occupied 
the position shown in the elliptical outline at L. The dotted 
line L indicates the normal position of the organ. 

FlG. 4. This outline represents the side view of a man 
who had injured himself by wearing a belt. The liver was 
prolapsed two inches below the lowest ribs, and the stomach 
had fallen two or three inches lower. He was suffering from 
nervous dyspepsia, which was traced directly to the irrita- 



38 THE INFLUENCE OF DRESS 

tion set up in the prolapsed organs, as the result of their 
abnormal position. 

PLATE VII. 

FIGURE i. Side profile of a woman of thirty-two years, 
who was suffering from uterine and ovarian prolapse, and 
prolapse of stomach, bowels, and kidneys. In consequence, 
she was a victim of nervous dyspepsia, general debility, and 
a variety of reflex nervous symptoms. Three months of 
careful regimen and^training restored her to excellent health. 

FlG. 2. Side profile of a man of forty years, a physician, 
in whom neglect of physical exercise and a bad position in 
standing and sitting, had caused prolapse of the stomach 
and bowels, and a numerous train of ills dependent upon 
these conditions. 

FlG. 3. Side profile of a healthy, well-developed man. 
The same subject whose front profile is shown in Plate III. 

FlG. 4. The solid outline represents the side profile of a 
man of forty-five years, who had suffered many years from 
nervous dyspepsia and a variety of nervous symptoms, which 
the treatment of a number of most excellent Eastern spe- 
cialists had failed to relieve. A few weeks' physical training, 
in connection with other treatment, gave him the figure 
shown in the dotted outline, and restored him to such ex- 
cellent health that he was able to return to his business 
enjoying better health than for many years. The prin- 
cipal causes of the deformity exhibited by this patient 
were wearing a belt when a young man, and neglect of 
physical exercise, his business habits having been seden- 
tary from youth. 

PLATE VIII. 

FIGURE i. Side-view outline of a woman of twenty-four 
years, who was suffering from nervous dyspepsia and pro- 
lapsus of uterus and ovaries. 

FlG. 2. This outline represents the same young woman 
after a few months' physical training. She was restored to 




►n 







9 


i ^^^^^p ^m 


HPP^UH 




w 








SI 








n 




I AV< • . 1 * 1 




>-i 








o 

2 






I 


f>* 






. . ■ . 


o 




' 




►*> 








p 




IADSES 




&• 




BBHp 




n 








p 




^^^B ^EEs^v* 




















3* 








B 








p 








c 










/ 





Fig. i. Effects of corset and tight 
lacing - . 

PLATE 



Fig. 2. The same person after 
training. 



VIII. 






ON AMERICAN WOMEN. 

excellent health, and has since been able to engage regularly 
in the profession of nursing. 

PLATE IX. 

FIGURE i. Side profile of a German peasant woman, 
twenty-nine years of age. Until twenty years of age, she 
was accustomed to carry heavy weights upon her head, often 
as much as ninety pounds, two or three miles without 
stopping to rest. She never had trained in gymnastics. 
It is a perfectly natural figure, and doubtless represents 
very nearly the ideal female form. 

FlG. 2. Side profile of a woman of the same age, who, 
through neglect of muscular exercise, and by corset wear- 
ing and the wearing of tight bands and heavy skirts, had 
acquired the weak and deformed figure shown. 

PLATE X. 

FIGURE i. A corset-choked woman (copied from a fashion 
plate). 

FlG. 2. A healthfully dressed woman. 

FlG. 3. This and the succeeding figure are intended to 
show the real origin of busts and bustles. The woman 
whose figure has been destroyed by corset-wearing, requires 
an artificial bust in front and a bustle behind to restore the 
natural curves of the figure. 

FlG. 4. A woman with a natural figure who has no use 
for either bustles or artificial busts. 





Fig. i. A German peasant woman. 



Fig. 2. Effects of corset and tight bands, 
on an American woman of same age. 



PLATE IX. 





Fig. i. A German peasant woman. 



Fig. 2. Fffects of corset and tight bands, 
on an American woman of same age. 



PLATE IX. 



o 
o 




> 





I 

( 



♦^r * \ 1C 



i .i*. 



: fit£fc 



-i^A^'- •' 



> * t*l 



» t » 



-v> 



BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY 



3 1197 



00637 2962 



DATE DUE 



■ ■ 



MAY 4 Wb 




DEC 2 8 19S3MR1 7 ! 






m 1 5 j 



OCT 2 7 






MAR 2 7 



— MOV 1 5 t&y 



DEC J 



»r g? 



MAY 



SEP 



SERJ 






SEP 25: «ft 



* *# 



APR 2 % 1 996 



OCT ? n 



^ 



lA 



tSBB 



T389 



flOfr7o 



19» 



— 



— 



AP R o / \ m 



^ i 






NOV \ t) 1989 

DEMCO 38~97 '^^^ 



— — —