Monday, September 29, 2008

Dr. West Discusses Spinsterhood

I neglected to give the full title of Dr. West's book yesterday in my discussion about "you're going to put WHAT in WHAT?" The proper title is Maidenhood and Motherhood or Ten Phases of Woman's Life. The phases covered in this gem of a book published in 1887, include:

The Infant, The Child, Puberty, The Maiden, The Wife (if she survives the honeymoon); Maternity, Confinement (we'll get back to this); The Mother, Mature Womanhood and Celibacy (we'll definitely get back to this one)

Let me just say this about the chapter on Confinement. Those of you who have had a child in the last 30 years would be completely unfamiliar with this term. Insurance companies rule in all cases of hospitalization, treatment and recovery. You're lucky they don't hunt you down and toss you out of the hospital within 10 minutes of giving birth - along with any baby that just happens to be within reach at the time. (Just take it and get out. We'll deal with the rest later.) You're confined to the car on your ride home - that's you confinement. Take it or leave it.
In the days of yore - all the way through the 1940's the woman was treated as though giving birth were an illness. Women of means, that is. The woman of little or no means did their thing, plunked the kid in a laundry basket and went back to work.
My mother was given a ride home in an ambulance after the birth of her first child in 1944. This was a normal birth with no complications whatsoever. She was in the hospital for almost 2 weeks.
According to the good doctor West on the subject of confinement:
It is highly recommended that "She must not get out of bed for at least nine days" and "the recumbent position for the mother should be most rigidly held and an upright position should be strictly enjoined for several days. Her shoulders must not leave the bed."
I could so that now if I want to.

The mother of means actually had several people to attend to her every need. And bring the baby to her when it was hungry. And make the husband a sandwich now and again while he mulled over the whole mystery of the baby thing. (How do you suppose that all happened? And why did she have a girl? I told her I wanted a boy, and Heck, I don't suppose she's going to want to... know....for a while)

Let's move on to Dr. West's ideas on Spinsterhood. Turn to page 547, Celibacy, Advantages and Disadvantages. He appears to be assuming celibacy here for some reason. I can't really think of any good ones. Can you?

The chapter begins with "It is not good for man to be alone." So you know where he's going with this. He is kind enough to discuss both sides of the issue. The advantages include: Escaping the drudgery of a house hold, the liberty to come and go as she will, and escaping the pains and dangers peculiar to maternity and the ravages such trials make upon the system. Plus if she wants she can be a teacher of a stenographer.

Now the disadvantages are many. Consider these few from his list if you will:

1 She cannot remain young - where married woman never grow old in mind.

2 The acid disposition and censorious spirit is attributed to the spinster of 40 or more.

3 She takes the risk of becoming sour, exacting, and disagreeable.

4 She misses out of the profundity of happiness which comes to the wife and mother.

5 misses out of the serene calmness and holy joy of the wife and mother.

Don't you just like totally agree with everything he said? Me neither. Especially the calmness and holy joy of the wife and mother. There may be a few days of that here and there, but raving maniac comes to mind on some of the other days. And then there's laundry day and I need 42 cupcakes for my class tomorrow, Mom, day.

Oh, sorry - I may be getting ahead of myself. The good Doctor has pages and pages of discussions about the kinds of hysteria that women are prone to. And there are many. I can agree with that. I may get hysterical a little later today if I feel like it. Like if my pasta doesn't come out au dente at dinner time or if we are going to be watching Monday night football tonight.

So. This important information is in a book, on a printed page and I felt obliged to share it with you. You may now go on with your serene day laden with the joy of the delightful tasks of homemaking, motherhood and tracking down Dr. West so we can hang him from a tree at dawn. I'll bring the tar and feathers and a sheet cake.

We'll discuss Puerperal Insanity and Insanity of Lactation along with the 34 other insanities and the trestment thereof that can be easily achieved during Maidenhood and Motherhood at a later time.


Sparky ♥ ∞ said...

I love ancient history. I LMAO fer shure. I'll bring the cupcakes and milk if you'll bring the sheet cake. ♥ ∞

steviewren said...

I wonder how widely read this book was. Was it written for the layman or was it a textbook written for the edification of the doctor in training? I wonder how many women's lives were marred by reading it.

It is really funny, but probably not so much if you were one of the unlucky woman with real female issues who came under the care of a doctor who subscribed to this claptrap. Look how many years it's taken for doctors to believe that woman's complaints are organic in nature and not "all in their heads."

I've got some tar and feathers out in my garage. I'll be right over with it.

MuseSwings said...

Ladies, it sounds like another party is in the making! The book was written for the women of the world. The Doctors were already working in tandem with these lovely ideas. So - 3 AM. I've got some really big oak trees on my lot and my neighbors are usually in bed by 10:30. Come on down!

Nana Trish is Living the Dream said...

You find the funniest stuff and you have such a gift with writing. Please read the previous comments. I don't want to assume something. Sorry I haven't been by to pick up the carriage, but I have been so busy. When I had my baby 37 years ago I was put in a plain white room with only a clock for labor. They took my baby away and I didn't see her for so long. Things are so much better now.

MuseSwings said...

Trish - same thing happened with both of my mine - the room with the clock and then both were wisked away for hours before I could even touch them - that was 37 and 38 years ago and I'm still ticked off about it. That's ok about the carriage - we've been using it for short trips to the grocery store.

Nana Trish is Living the Dream said...

I am going to wait to post until you let me know if you meant me on the previous post. Sorry to be a pest.

willow said...

This is hilarious. My, my how times have changed. And what ever happened to going away to recouperate from an illness for two or three months? People with money used to do that.

I'm looking forward to the 34 other insanities. Dr. West would have gone insane with our modern ways, don't you think?

Sweet Repose said...

Better yet, make him wear a bra and a sanitary belt, see if his humor improves...


steviewren said...

Sanitary belts....I'd almost forgotten those medieval torture devices! haha....being a woman is tough work!

MuseSwings said...

Willoe - the days of going off to recuperate from an illness or to take the waters are gone. I'll be talking about the insanities this week - they're too wierd. Sharon - what a plan. It would make him insane within a day or two!

Blicky Kitty said...

Alas having recently recovered from a bout of the vapours, I now learn that some members of our fairer sex do not share of the serene calmness and holy joy of the wife and mother.

Gentle ladies, I have attained this pinnacle of womanly joy in the fulfillment of all my duties. Just yesterday I took such pleasure in preparing for my husband some lovely scones sweetened tightly-reined rage and truculence. I always like to add just a hint of dyspeptic hostility and an ever so subtle touch bilious wrath.

MuseSwings said...

Blicky Kitty! You are a stitch. I need to check the grocery store for truculence - I'm nearly out. I am also so pleased that you have attained that pinnicle that we all so desire!
Thank you for visiting again - I hope you have worked out that uncomfortable corset problem from yesterday.

Lavinia said...

I would love to comment...except....I am really really busy, I mean FRANTICALLY busy, trying to find a doctor who will *insist* that my "shoulders must not leave the bed."

Other than that, I am having a grand old time working on my 'acid disposition'. What a refreshing turn of phrase that is! Instead of bitter, or "bittah" as my sister says, "acid disposition" sounds ever so more refined, more, dare I say, bracing!

If the medic should 'refuse' to insist on my shoulders not leaving the bed, I'll settle for any other anatomical part....heck, even my ankle.

And ---sigh!-----Remember the good old days when "one took to one's bed with a bottle of gin".!

Kalianne@BygoneBeauty said...

Unfortunately Dr. West was not alone in the proclamation of these heresies.

~Early 1900s male educators argued that women would injure their WOMBS if they studied Greek or mathematics.

~Doctors of old believed the womb could MOVE about in a woman's body, putting pressure on other organs and so causing serious illness (like the vapours perhaps), and even death...

~To the ancient Egyptians a woman who was unwell was said to be "WOMBY"... How was Womby-ness cured? One popular treatment was the old 'Putting what in what?' cure', especially effective if it resulted in pregnancy...

(I kid you not).

Kalianne :-o)

Marie Reed said...

I 'm sure that I have all 34 of your upcoming insanities!

Bibi said...

I too had a good laugh at this, but wouldn't you just love to travel back in a time machine and see how seriously women, even men, took this? There must have been some rebels somewhere!

soulbrush said...

had to read this twice..maidenhead and motherhood are both overrated to me...having been married three times (twice to the same man...insane or what?) i still think that marriage is an institution and who'd want to live in an institution??? obviously me!!! work that out if you dare!

Indian Lake Papa said...

Oh the bliss of being a dominant male!!


Shellmo said...

I think I'm in the midst of hysteria right now! Maybe always have been -ha,ha!