Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dr. West discusses the Nervous Affections of Women



As if he hasn't said enough by chapter one, Dr. West insists on discussing the Nervous Affections of Women throughout Maidenhood and Motherhood. There is plenty of opportunity for any woman to go over the deep end at any moment of her life. Puberty is the very earliest that a maiden might fall into the chasm of hysteria. Hysteria signifies womb, and, since only women suffer from hysteria it is determined that the development of the womb brings the maiden into the reach of this malady. And, good news, my hysterical readers - hysteria ceases after mature womanhood. I wish someone would have told me that sooner I could have avoided about 10 years of hysteria.
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You two! You evil men! You were late for tea and now see what you have done!:
The good Doctor has a perfectly legitimate explanation for the hysterical young maiden: "It is the result of her literary education; that her mental faculties are expanded beyond human powers of endurance by being placed alongside of her brothers in class and stimulated by their ambitious nature to emulation of them. The result is collapse and wreck. It has been demonstrated beyond the possibility of a doubt that though the mental faculties of woman are of a finer texture than those of men, they are composed of more "shreds" which make the mental chords equally strong and susceptible of even greater strains. ...She looks forward to hours or days of pain and anguish. In addition, overstimulating novels, matinee' entertainments, associating with hired Irish girls, and French bonnes are in part responsible for this malady in our young maidens."
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The Yellow Wallpaper:
General exhaustion, often accompanied by a nervous cough, palpitations, and a sense of suffocation can be treated with 3 drachms Citrate of Iron, 30 grains Quinine Sulphate, 3 drachms of Tincture of Nux Vomica and 3 ounces of water - 3 tsp. per day and she'll be in the pink in no time. Unless of course there is a relapse. Or she becomes engaged.
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Long engagements may lead to a debilitated condition of the system, exhaustion of nerve power and may lead to serious derangement. 3 months to a year is recommended for the nervous, excitable and passionate American Maidens.
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The planning of the wedding may put the maiden in danger of nervous excitement and exhaustion as will the marriage ceremony itself when she feels that all eyes are on her and every movement is watched.
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All this hair is just going to cause hairsteria:
The wedding banquet can lead to problems if eaten too late or the food is too rich for the bride who's circulation of the blood and digestive organs are in a fragile state due to the the strain of the aforementioned puberty, engagement and wedding planning. We've already talked about the dangers of the honeymoon, so we'll fore go that nightmarish duty and move on to the honeymoon tour. This may also affect her health. Many cases of permanent unhappiness and permanent ill health dating from the wedding journey come under the notice of all physicians. It's no wonder the wedding tour is not condemned all together!
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Here is an extreme case in point of my very own observation: Victor and 15 year old Maria Penasco were married on 12/10/1910. Victor was wealthy beyond belief and he and his little bride were very much in love. They took a 2 year tour of Europe financed by a constant flow of money from Victor's mom and Maria aka Pepita acquired among many other things, jewelry valued at about $400,000.00. Which is about $20.43 American by today's standards.
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They were in Paris in April of 1912, and they decided to finish off the honeymoon with a cruise. They took a first class cabin, C65, and sailed away with their maid Fermina in tow. The ship? Oh, it was the Titanic. Needless to say, with her maid and herself stowed safely aboard Life boat 8, Pepina was troubled with such hysteria that the Countess of Rothes handed over her steering duties at the tiller to her cousin so she could sit with Pepita and attempt to give her comfort. Pepita was in mourning for Victor for 6 years. At the end of this time she remarried, gave birth to 3 children and lived until April 3 1972. Each of those post Titanic highlights in her life gave new opportunity for hysteria and nervous conditions.
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A tranquil place to rest:
Another case in point regarding hysteria: Due to the summer's heat and being required by her father to eat 2 day old unrefrigerated mutton stew for breakfast resulted in the sad tale of the overwrought and overtaxed Lizzie Borden. Perhaps Dad should have shelled out the 2 cents or so it would have cost for 2 soft boiled eggs. Surely it would have prevented Lizzie Borden from axing her father and stepmother the question: Eggs? Couldn't I just have eggs?
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Lemme ax you a question, Pa:
Can I quit for now? I'm starting to feel like my overtaxed brain is shredding and I fear hysteria. We'll work on Motherhood later this week. There are so many reasons that a mother might become a dithering idiot (if she survives the wedding night) that I am concerned you will miss dinner if you continue to read.
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Oh - one post script: The good doctor observed that the women of the working class were not prone to rampant hysteria as are the leisure class for whom he wrote this book. Can I just say one thing to the young women who had nothing better to do than to listen to their hearts beat and count their respiration's per minute? Get a job or a hobby that includes distracting noise.
Alright - one more post script: Spanish law required a body be produced in order for an estate to be granted to the heirs. As happened with many of the souls lost with the Titanic, Victor's body was never recovered. A concerned brother of Pepita spoke with those involved with the recovery of the dead. Money exchanged hands, and voila! The remains of one of the unidentified male passengers became Victor. Pepita, the widow, received her inheritance.

19 comments:

Lavinia said...

Ha! Your post brought back such happy memories of childhood when we neighborhood ruffian children used to skip rope and chant:

"Lizzie Borden had an axe,
Gave her father forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done, She gave her mother forty-one!”

Good times!

Ah, nervous collapse....like every other woman, I know it well. Have you ever watched "Women on the verge of a nervous Breakdown" ?

It is a Spanish movie with subtitles and it is hysterical! The very definition of female hysteria! Plus, a young and handsome Antonio Banderas stars in it.

Men should be required by law to watch this movie. It will show them what nervous overwrought condition is brought upon the fair sex by man's manipulations and doings. Ha, I feel that only by the most strenuous efforts of womankind will this comment *not* degenerate into man bashing, that favourite female sport!

I'm off for a spot of 'tea'...

MuseSwings said...

Antonio! He could be the cause of a hysterical condition! The movie sounds quite interesting - I shall have to look for it. And man bashing - I haven't joined in on a session of that in way too long. Think I'll have a spot of tea too and work on that one.

nanatrish said...

You write a wonderful post here, Miss Swings. I hope you are preparing for the big ball at Willow's. Please tell me I'll see you there. Are you bringing Antonio?

MuseSwings said...

Trish! I'm bringing Sean Connery. I'll be there! Who will you have in tow?

Sandy said...

Your posts are always so informative and fun to read. Wow, I'm behind here, gotta catch up later. I now put you on my blogroll so I can keep up...

Debby said...

Hysterical!

MuseSwings said...

Sandy and Debby - If I can save just one delecate female from the jaws of nervous hysteria I have completed my mission!

drivingmisswillow said...

You mentioned The Yellow Wallpaper which is a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman as you know. I think it can be found online. It's an interesting story especially the creep, creep, creeping at the end. Question to ponder, has the protagonist solved her problem and escaped? Good post, as always MuseSwings.

Blicky Kitty said...

Wow I had never put two and two together before I read this post but it seems at though the tighter the strictures put on women the more powerful the rebellion that human dignity necessitates.

Luckily I am *sh*%* not personally prone to outbursts *penis* that being a mom of a toddler can sometimes *g*$dam*it* bring on.

Seriously, I should show this to Mr. Blicky because the only other example I could come up with to prove I'm not the only mom experiencing the temporary lapse in sanity was when Marge Simpson lost clumps of blue hair and had to go to Rancho Relaxo.

I cannot attend tea if Mr. Banderas is present because of the possibility of hysterical swoon.

steviewren said...

Antonio is my date for the dance and if even one of youse mugs makes a pass at him I git hysterical on youse!

steviewren said...

Don't even ax him for a dance!

MuseSwings said...

Driving Miss Willow! The story is a series of dramatic ironies. Jane's -which may or may not be the name of the narrator - only means of escape was into the isolation (of insanity) she was trying to escape from. That creep creep creeping was creepy, wasn't it?

Blicky mentions powerful rebellion from strictures. Jane's husband John put on her in a position where she had no control whatsoever. Supposedly she was being cured of depression. The isolation "cure" only served to cause her to rebell against the strictures.

Blicky - Bandaras will be there - but Willow Manor has many rooms - hopefully none with yellow wallpaper - so you may not have to be put in the position of swooning. Unless, of course you would like to. Willow has a fainting couch, a lovely collection of fans and plenty of smelling salts.

MuseSwings said...

Stevie - I PROMISE not to ax him for no dance. I know you will ax me to meet you outside if I do. I will only look at him out of the side of my eyes if he walks you over to the PUNCH table or somethin'. Okay? Okay.

sophia said...

Did that really happened? Hahhaha...I can only remember fragments of the titanic story.

Barbara Martin said...

I came via Willow.

I find your blog so interesting I will need to return for future reading.

In the past, I would think some of the hysteria women suffered under was due to the corset. Very difficult to breath when one's waist and chest is cinched up tight.

MuseSwings said...

Sophia, yes the story about Pepita and Victor is true! Thank you for stopping by!

Hello Barbara! Thank you for visiting and for your kind compliment. I'm quite sure the corset caused ill health among the wearers and certainly exasperated any symptoms they may have had.

MuseSwings said...

it also exacerbated them :)

Aunt Jo said...

I get hysterical if I can't have chocolate.

MuseSwings said...

Doesn't take much to set me off either, Jo, and thes book has given me so many more possibilities!