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Health, or, How to Live

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    A NATURAL and symmetrical woman has ever been regarded as the most beautiful object on earth.HHTL 282.2

    Artists and poets have given their most exalted inspirations to the portrayal of her matchless charms. But, strange and morbid fancies, dignified with the title of fashions, have been busy in destroying what God made perfect.HHTL 282.3

    The most destructive of these fashions is found in a peculiarity of her dress. I refer to the practice of compressing the middle of the body. This strange. fashion has come into vogue only quite recently in the history of the world, and even now prevails in only a few of what are known as the more civilized peoples, but is producing an amount of disease and suffering, which no finite mind can measure.HHTL 282.4

    When one undertakes to fathom the reasons, or mystery of this fashion, he is lost. Why intelligent beings should, without regard to convenience or comfort, strive to change the shape and proportions of the most beautiful of all the Creator’s works, we cannot understand.HHTL 283.1

    By this practice the lungs and heart are forced up toward the throat; the stomach, liver, and other organs, jammed down far into the abdomen; labored respiration and numberless abdominal maladies are the consequence. But the votaries of fashion declare, notwithstanding these shocking deformities and sufferings, that they regard a female form in the hourglass shape as really beautiful. A few years ago this monstrous perversion of taste was well nigh universal. With sincere gratitude, we observe it is now gradually disappearing.HHTL 283.2

    This contraction of the middle of the body, by changing the position of the lungs, heart, liver, stomach, and every other organ within the body, not only seriously interferes with their functional integrity, but almost invariably produces a distortion of the spine. It is impossible to reduce the size of the waist by pressure, to any considerable extent, and not draw the shoulders forward and downward, producing, of course, a change in the form of the spine. I believe, that among the thousands of wasp-waists that have fallen under my observation, I have not seen ten who did not habitually carry the spine and head in an unnatural attitude. Besides this, the influence upon the organs in the lower part of the abdomen, furnishes the medical profession nearly half its business.HHTL 283.3

    The corset is a cruel invention. It ought at once and forever to be abandoned. Even if it be worn loose, (what lady does not wear hers loose?) its stiffness entirely prevents that undulating motion about the middle of the body, which should accompany respiration.HHTL 283.4

    But if it be worn as loosely as it must be to allow entire freedom to the lungs, it would give an unseemly appearance to the dress. In fact the very structure of a corset renders a close fit indispensable. Every conscientious physician has painful struggles with this fashion.HHTL 284.1

    A fashionable lady has just called upon me with reference to her lungs. I examined her dress. There was the corset, not as close as I have seen, but close enough to make her cure difficult or impossible. I said at once, “I can do nothing for you while you wear such a dress.” “Why doctor do you call that tight? Why, that fairly hangs on me.” “Yes, madam, I hear that every hour. Have you a husband?” “Yes.” “And is he a healthy man?” “Indeed, he is as healthy a man as you would care to see.” “Do you think, madam, he could wear such a dress as you have on, and continue his business?” “O, no! but then he is not used to it.” “Do you think you know a horse, ox, or any other animal, that could wear such a dress about the vital organs, and continue to labor in comfort?” “Well, doctor that is a funny question. I am sure I can’t say, but I suppose no animal could wear such a dress.” “You are quite right; neither the strongest man nor the strongest ox could endure such pressure about the vital organs, and not fail. Ladies delicately born and bred, without labor, give way completely, under the cruel pressure.” “What shall I do?” “Take off the corset; make the skirt-bands and dress as loose as your husband finds it necessary to wear his dress, and then it will be possible with exercise and other curative agencies to restore you.”HHTL 284.2

    Women do not comprehend “tight” as applied to their dress; they understand it in connection with other forms of pressure, and as applied to the drunkard, but when in connection with their own dress, they are oblivious.HHTL 284.3

    I shall not argue the proposition, that a reduction of the capacity of the most vital part of the body tends to reduce the vitality, and thus lays the foundation for consumption. Of all maladies, pulmonary consumption is most clearly the result of low vitality. Whatever breaks down the tone, may, in this climate, lead to consumption. No habit in which woman indulge, tends more directly and irresistibly to cripple the vital forces, than compressing with a hard, inflexible corset, those organs which eliminate the vital forces.HHTL 284.4


    “In England, women have pretty generally learned to see the danger, if not always the hideousness, of these wasp-waists, once so highly prized.HHTL 285.2

    Herbst experimented upon some Russian soldiers who laced with a belt. He found they could inspire one hundred and ninety cubic inches without the belt, and but one hundred and thirty when laced.HHTL 285.3

    Dr. Mussey remarks that, “Whatever contrivance is so applied to the chest as to shut out from the lungs a part of the air they are capable of receiving, causes degeneration of the blood, increases the liability to disease, and becomes the ground-work of premature decay and death.”HHTL 285.4

    Dr. Griscom declares that it is “a source of consolation to those interested in the progress of civilization to know that ‘hour-glass waists’ are fast giving way to true taste, and will shortly, instead of captivating the eye, be looked upon with pity and disgust.”HHTL 285.5

    Dr. Rush says, “Many facts might be mentioned to show the influence of tight stays, ligatures, garters, waistbands, and collars, in producing diseases, especially of the lungs, or interfering with their cure.”HHTL 285.6

    Another physician of eminence says, “Females dress errs in the tightness with which it is made to fit the body, producing disease of the organs of the chest and abdomen, and preventing free and graceful movements, and that oxygenation of the blood so necessary to health, good looks, and long life.HHTL 285.7

    Dr. Hunt makes the following remark: — “Every body that thinks, knows the lungs do not need squeezing, and that it is not sensible for man or woman to wear tight clothing.”HHTL 285.8

    Dr. Clarke says, “Since the free expansion of the chest, or in other words, the unimpeded action of the respiratory organs, is essential to health, the employment of tight stays and those forms of dress which interfere with these natural actions must be injurious, and cannot, therefore, be too strongly censured.”HHTL 286.1

    The celebrated Dr. James Johnson says, “The growth of the whole body and the freedom of all its functions, so much depend upon perfect digestion, that every impediment to that digestion, such as compression of the middle of the body, must inevitably derange the whole constitution. Although the evils of tight lacing are as patent as the sun at noon-day, I have not known its commission to be acknowledged by any fair dame. It is considered essential to a fine figure, yet I never could discover any marks of stays in the statues of the Medicean Venus, or the Apollo. And I venture to aver that the Cyprian goddess was not in the habit of drawing her zone as tight as the modern fair ones, else the sculptor would have recorded the cincture in marble. The comfort and motions of the foot are not more abridged and cramped by the Chinese shoe, than are digestion and respiration by the stay.” Thus wrote the physician to the father of the present queen of England.HHTL 286.2

    A former professor of the theory and practice of medicine in the university of Vermont says, “Undue confinement of the chest must at all periods of life be prejudicial, hence the practice of tight lacing, we almost always find classed among the causes of phthisis, as well as of numerous other ills.” And he adds, “It is surely an erroneous notion that women need the support of stays.”HHTL 286.3

    Dr. Ticknor expresses himself on this subject as follows:— “We might, with the same propriety that we now deform our bodies, follow the practices of savage and heathen nations — we might slit our lips, prevent the growth of our feet, pluck out our hair, or flatten our heads; which could all be done with infinitely less detriment to health than results from our own cruel custom of tight lacing.”HHTL 286.4

    BARE ARMS AND LEGS. The practice of exposing their arms and legs bare, or nearly so, is very injurious to the lungs. The blood not being able to make its way into the extremities, accumulates in the chest. Let me give you an illustration. One morning, long since, I was asked to visit a young lady residing in this city, who was suffering from a malady in the chest. After an examination of her lungs, the father said: “Now, sir, if you are not in haste, I wish you could remain a moment, and answer a few questions. We have had five children — three daughters and two sons. Two daughters are dead of consumption; the third and last one, you inform me, has tendency to the same disease, while my sons are perfect illustrations of health and manly vigor. Born of the same parents, fed at the same table, enjoying the same comforts in every way, what is the reason for this difference?”HHTL 287.1

    I replied, “Birth and food are not the only conditions of health. In many particulars, your girls have been greatly wronged.HHTL 287.2

    While the boys have dressed their arms and legs with flannel sleeves and drawers, the girls have almost nothing about their limbs. To illustrate this point, let us examine the dress of your daughter’s extremities. You see that, although an invalid, and therefore needing warm dress, she has nothing on her arms but a single thickness of silk, and that in the shape of a flowing sleeve. This gauze undersleeve is not to be spoken of as dress. Her legs have nothing but a single thickness of cotton drawers, surrounded by these indefinite skirts. Now, sir, I venture that you and your sons have on the arms a substantial flannel shirt-sleeve, with a thick woolen coat-sleeve, the lining of which is thicker and warmer than the entire dress of your daughter’s arm. And you have on the legs warm woolen drawers, and thick, warm pants.HHTL 287.3

    “Your daughter has a pair of kid slippers, with silk stockings, while you and your sons have calfskin boots with woolen socks.”HHTL 287.4

    “Oh no!” exclaimed the daughter, pushing out a foot; “I wear these strong boots; mother is very particular about that.”HHTL 287.5

    I said to the father. — “Observe those boots; your daughter and her mother think them prodigious! Now, sir, could you or your sons keep your health and wear prunella gaiters?”HHTL 288.1

    “But what should she wear on her feet?”HHTL 288.2

    “She should dress them as warmly, to say the least, as you dress yours. Feel of her arms! Now feel of her legs! Do you think, with such a circulation as that, the lungs can rid themselves of congestion? The blood is crowded into the lungs, because it cannot make its way out into these naked, cold limbs; the tubercles are thus swollen and inflamed. Until these limbs are warm, the lungs cannot be relieved of their load.HHTL 288.3

    “While in the case of an invalid, much may be done by friction and exercise, the principal reliance must be upon clothing.”HHTL 288.4

    “What shall be done?” at length asked the mother.HHTL 288.5

    “The arms and legs must be covered with knit, closely-fitting, woolen garments. If one thickness will not keep them warm, she must have two. Her arms and legs must be kept warm. And as soon as a good circulation is established among them, you will observe a change in her respiration and pulse.”HHTL 288.6

    What is true of the young lady of whom I have spoken, is true of nearly all females in this country. Look at the fashionable lady as she promenades Washington street, in December. Her chest is covered with several thicknesses of cloth, including, perhaps, thick pads of hair; then a thick shawl, which with its various doublings, and the folding over in front, often gives from eight to twelve thicknesses of shawl; then over that, a set of immense padded furs; while the legs have a single thickness of cotton covering, and go paddling about in the midst of a skeleton balloon.HHTL 288.7

    I have asked my wife to prepare a chapter on dress, in which I observe a repetition of one or two points already made by myself; but as the subject is one requiring “line upon line, and precept upon precept,” I have concluded not to abbreviate her contribution.HHTL 288.8

    Mrs. Lewis has in contemplation a little work on the subject of female dress, to be published a few years hence, in which she proposes to treat the physiological aspects of the subject very fully.HHTL 288.9

    The subjoined is from her pen:—HHTL 289.1

    “A healthy dress allows the blood to circulate freely through every part of the body, and keeps every part nearly at the same temperature. The fashionable style of dress does not secure free circulation; hence cold hands and feet, and a general loss of vitality.HHTL 289.2

    The present style of dress compresses the lungs till they are scarcely more than one-half their natural size, and have less than half their natural action. Of course, they cannot absorb sufficient oxygen to keep the body warm. This, with the almost complete nudity of the arms and legs, produces a feeble and irregular circulation. These errors are so common that you may ask the fashionably dressed women of the country, if they have warm feet, and nine out of ten will reply, ‘Oh, they are never warm, except when by the fire.’ As a result of these cold extremities, the blood is driven to the head and chest, causing frequent headache, and palpitation of the heart.HHTL 289.3

    “A headache is so common among our fashionable women, that it is considered vulgar to be always and entirely free from it. Women, a few generations back, had no such fashion.HHTL 289.4

    “The present style of dress exposes the arms naked, or nearly so, at all seasons of the year.HHTL 289.5

    “A lady imagines when she starts out to walk, with the thermometer down to zero, that her arms are sufficiently protected if she only has on the fashionable flowing sleeves, with fur cuffs upon the wrists. When obliged to raise the hands, you see the naked arm. In this condition, the blood in the arms becomes nearly as cold as the skin, and this current of blood runs back to the chest to chill the vital organs.HHTL 289.6

    “Would our fathers, husbands and brothers be comfortable with their arms thus exposed, in such a temperature? And are delicate women, who live mostly in the house, better able to bear this exposure than strong men?HHTL 289.7

    “Over these arms should be worn one or two thicknesses of flannel; at least they should be clothed quite as warmly as the body. These extremities, so far from the chest, are more easily chilled than the body, and therefore require at least as much clothing to keep them of the same temperature.HHTL 290.1

    “It is often said that the arms can become accustomed to such exposure as well as the face. But we learn from anatomy, that the face is supplied with an extra circulation, to protect it against its inevitable exposure.HHTL 290.2

    “Many, who by excessive dress upon the chest, make their lungs very sensitive, do not scruple to remove the dress entirely from the upper half of the chest and the arms on a cold night, go to a ball room, and dance all night, and when morning comes, wonder how they took cold. When, finally they are placed in the grave by consumption, developed by such imprudence, we solemnly talk about God’s mysterious providence.HHTL 290.3

    “Not only is the dress of the neck and arms of a fashionable woman entirely wrong, but the legs and feet suffer from the same error.HHTL 290.4

    “As the cold fall weather comes on, every American woman imagines, in order to keep herself comfortable, she must increase the number of thickness of her skirts, while these skirts are worn, in great part, over her hoop. In this way she is completely dragged down by the heavy skirts, which do almost nothing to keep her legs warm.HHTL 290.5

    “The only way to keep the extremities warm, is to wear upon them two or three thicknesses of woolen knit garments, snugly fitting them. These woolen suits should be so supported as not to drag upon the body in the least, and should come down to the ankles under the stockings.HHTL 290.6

    “With thick woolen stockings and good boots made of strong leather or thick cloth, with triple soles, and all lined with cotton flannel, these extremities can be kept warm, and the woman be able to go out freely at all seasons of the year, in any weather without rubbers, which, I may add, should never be worn. Of course the cloth uppers cannot be worn in wet weather.HHTL 290.7

    “The thin prunella gaiter, with its paper sole, should not be worn either in the street, or in the house, after the changeable weather of autumn comes on. The usual habit of wearing, in cold weather, slippers in a carpeted parlor even, should never be practiced by those who are feeble, or even by those who are well and wish to keep so. The floor is the coldest part of the room, and the feet require thick, warm covering.HHTL 291.1

    “A healthy dress permits every organ in the body to perform its functions untrammeled. The fashionable style does not allow this free action of the vital parts, and hence the present feeble, crippled condition of the women of America. This evil, together with other physiological errors, is doing much to shorten the lives of our women, and compromise the health and life of the whole American race.HHTL 291.2

    “To avert these sad results, and to improve the health of our women, it is proposed that the following style of dress be adopted. Such a dress has been worn by the writer nearly twelve years, and she is happy to say, it has saved her from a consumptive’s grave, to which she was slowly but surely tending.HHTL 291.3

    “The waist should be several inches larger than the woman’s body; a little shorter than the present fashion, and full in front, that the chest may enjoy the freest action. The bands of the skirt should be much larger than the body; the buttons to be placed on the band of the inside skirt, just as they are on a gentleman’s pants for suspenders, and the same elastic suspenders worn, crossing behind. Make button-holes in the bands of the other skirts, to correspond with the buttons on the inside skirt, and button on; thus one pair of suspenders will carry three or more skirts. This style of dress is attended by no discomfort to the wearer, and allows full action to every organ of the body. Of course, corsets should NEVER be worn. And with the skirt supported as above described, there is no apology for wearing them. The dress I have described may be made so pretty that it will be much admired.HHTL 291.4

    “Whalebones have no business in a woman’s dress.HHTL 291.5

    They spoil all that beauty of outline which Powers and other great artists have found in the natural woman. They interfere not less with that peculiar undulating action of the chest and abdomen which results from the normal action of the thoracic and abdominal viscera. And if the waist be short and loose, as advised above, there will be no need of whalebones to keep it down.HHTL 292.1

    “God knew what he was doing when he made the human body, and made it just right in every way; we cannot alter its shape without destroying its beautiful symmetry, and causing disease and premature death.”HHTL 292.2

    DRESS OF CHILDREN. — As bearing upon pulmonary consumption, there are certain errors in the dress of children which must be noticed. I believe I echo the voice of my profession when I declare that the seeds of consumption are planted in thousands, by mistakes in dress during infancy and childhood. To correct these, permit me a few practical suggestions:—HHTL 292.3

    The skirt-bands must be left very loose. If you would give a baby’s lungs and heart the best chance for development, the dress about the chest and waist should be so loose that if the child be held up by the shoulders, its entire dress, except as sustained by the shoulders, will fall to the floor. With such a dress, the blood is so much better oxygenated, that, other things being equal, the babe will part with the characteristic, dark red color of its skin much sooner than with close dress.HHTL 292.4

    The bones surrounding the small, feeble lungs, now for the first time beginning to move, are so soft and pliable, that under the slightest pressure,they will yield, and the capacity of the lungs be reduced. I have seen the nurse use the entire strength of her fingers in the first application of the skirt-bands. No thoughtful person, acquainted with the anatomy of the thorax in a new-born babe, can escape the conclusion that the vitality is seriously compromised by this pressure upon the principal organs of that vitality. In many instances I have seen the character of the little one’s respiration and pulse decidedly affected by enlarging the skirt-bands.HHTL 292.5

    Mothers, if you think it needs all this pressure to give your babes a form, as I have heard some of you say, you forget that the Creator of your child has all wisdom and skill, and that any changes in the baby’s form and proportions, must prove only mischievous. And perhaps you may not feel your pride hurt by the suggestion, that His taste is quite equal to yours. That a corset, or other machine, is needed to give a human being a form, as is so often suggested, is an imputation on the Creator, which no thoughtful and conscientious person can indulge.HHTL 293.1

    DRESS OF CHILDREN’S ARMS. — Prominent among the errors in the dress of children, is the custom of leaving their arms nude.HHTL 293.2

    I speak of the dress for the damp and cold seasons. It should be added that, during the cool summer evenings, too much care cannot be exercised in protecting the baby’s arms and shoulders. If the mother desires to exhibit her darling’s beautiful skin, let her cut out a bit of the dress near its heart, and when the neighbors come in, let her show the skin thus exposed to the company. This is so near the center of the body that it has no chance to get cold; but in the case of the arms and legs, we have parts far removed from the central organs, and such parts require special protection.HHTL 293.3

    Take the glass part of the thermometer out of the tin frame, and put the the bulb in your baby’s mouth. The mercury rises to 98 degrees. Now, on a cool evening, place the same bulb in its little hand (I am supposing it has naked arms); the mercury will sink to 60 degrees or less. Need I say, that all the blood which has to make its way through the diminutive and tortuous vessels of those cold arms, must become nearly as cold as the arms and hands themselves? And need I add that as the cold currents of blood come from both arms back into the vital organs, they play the mischief there?HHTL 293.4

    If you would preserve your child from croup, pneumonia, and a score of other grave affections, you should keep the arms warm. Thick, woolen sleeves, which fit at the little dimpled arms down to the hands, at least, constitute the true covering.HHTL 293.5

    A distinguished physician of Paris declared just before his death, — “I believe that during the twenty-six years I have practiced my profession in this city, twenty thousand children have been borne to the cemeteries, a sacrifice to the absurd custom of naked arms.”HHTL 294.1

    When in Harvard, many years ago, I heard the eminent Dr. Warren say, “Boston sacrifices hundreds of babes every year by not clothing their arms.”HHTL 294.2

    HOW YOUNG LADIES CAN MAKE THEIR ARMS GROW. A young lady asked me what she could do for her very thin arms. She says she is ashamed of them. I felt of them through the thin lace covering, and found them freezing cold. I asked her what she supposed made muscles grow, “Exercise,” she replied. “Certainly, but exercise makes them grow only by giving them more blood. Six months of vigorous exercise will do less to give those cold, naked arms circulation, than would a single month, were they warmly clad.”HHTL 294.3

    The value of exercise depends upon the temperature of the muscles. A cold gymnasium is unprofitable. Its temperature should be between sixty and seventy, or the limbs should be warmly clothed. I know our servant girls and blacksmiths, by constant and vigorous exercise acquire large, fine arms in spite of their nakedness; and if our young ladies will labor as hard from morning till night as do these useful classes, they may have as fine arms; but, even then, it is doubtful if they would get rid of their congestions in the head, lungs, and stomach, without more dress upon the arms and legs.HHTL 294.4

    DEPENDENCE OF HEALTH UPON CIRCULATION. Perfect health depends upon perfect circulation. Every living thing that has the latter has the former. Put your hand under your dress upon your body. Now place it upon your arm. If you find the body over 90 degrees and your arm under 60 degrees you have lost the equilibrium. The head has too much blood, producing headache; or the chest too much, producing cough, rapid breathing, pain in the side, or palpitation of the heart; or the stomach too much, producing indigestion. Any, or all of these difficulties are temporarily relieved by immersion of the hands or feet in hot water, and permanently relieved by such dress and exercise of the extremities as will make the derivation permanent.HHTL 294.5

    DRESS OF MALES. I have little to say upon male dress beside what has been said under the heading — Best Material for Dress.” Men make comparatively few mistakes in this department.HHTL 295.1

    A few fops compress the chest with the waistcoat, but these foolish fellows are hardly worth considering. A few men wear their pantaloons without suspenders, which is always injurious; the pressure produces absorption of the muscles, tends to push the abdominal contents down into the lower part of the abdominal cavity, and checks the return of the blood through the surface veins.HHTL 295.2

    Many gentleman err in the dress of their feet; but this is discussed under the heading, — “Our shoes.”HHTL 295.3

    A great many wear hats, or caps, too close and warm; baldness is the consequence. We never see a man who has lost a hair below where the hat touches his head, not if he has been bald fifty years. If the hair is lost, and the top of the head shining, nothing can be done to restore the hair; but if the hair is falling out, the best restorative means is a frequent bath in cold water, with sharp fiction, and the use of a cool, ventilated hat.HHTL 295.4

    Wrapping the neck and upper part of the chest with furs, or a comforter, is a bad habit, often resulting in a cold, which attacks the parts thus unduly heated. And if colds are not caught in this way, the neck must suffer, more or less, by the alternation from heat to cold. I have traced more than one severe cold, which has roused into fatal action a tuberculous lung, to the use of furs. An immense number of them are worn.HHTL 295.5

    Cravats should be slight and loose, not heating the neck, not interfering with the action of the muscles, or the circulation of the blood.HHTL 295.6

    In regard to the coat and pants, I will simply say, that they should always be what the present fashion is, — loose, not interfering, in the least, with the arms or legs.HHTL 296.1

    I have written a great deal more on dress than I intended, but the subject is one of such vital importance, and so intimately connected with the health of the lungs, that I could not say less.HHTL 296.2

    Fully conscious of many defects in my discussion of the subject, I take the liberty, in conclusion, to express the hope, that even my poor words may arouse the earnest and serious attention of some portion of my fair countrywomen. — Weak Lungs, by Dio Lewis.HHTL 296.3

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