Able-Bodied Womanhood: Personal Health and Social Change in by Martha H. Verbrugge

By Martha H. Verbrugge

As city lifestyles and women's roles replaced within the nineteenth century, so did attitudes in the direction of actual future health and womanhood. therefore learn of healthiness reform in Boston among 1830 and 1900, Martha H. Verbrugge examines 3 associations that popularized body structure and workout between middle-class girls: the women' Physiological Institute, Wellesley collage, and the Boston common institution of Gymnastics. opposed to the backdrop of a countrywide debate approximately girl tasks and overall healthiness, this e-book follows middle-class girls as they realized approximately healthiness and explored the connection among health and femininity. Combining clinical and social background, Verbrugge appears on the usual ladies who participated in wellbeing and fitness reform and analyzes the conflicting messages--both feminist and conservative--projected through the idea that of "able-bodied womanhood."

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41 Health reformers urged people to disregard momentary hardships and to anticipate the more lasting rewards of health. They also warned against the false hope that occasional mistakes were acceptable. Physiological reformers insisted that the pursuit of health demanded absolute diligence and tolerated no lapses. As Dr. Edward Jarvis proclaimed in 1848, "We can relax in no required exertion, omit no necessary supply, and indulge in no wrong appetite or propensity. "42 Self-interest became a moral, not simply rational course.

The distinction between natural and normative often vanished in antebellum advice literature. Popular physiologists explained what behavior was suitable according to age, sex, and class by merging scientific principles and social conventions. The question of what appropriate hygiene meant for girls and women seemed especially important. As other historians have shown, a new standard of true womanhood was articulated in America during the middle decades of the nineteenth century. 60 Such qualities complemented the independence and authority ascribed to men.

This was the most troubling possibility. Whatever answer they settled upon, popular physiologists and other commentators agreed that women's mistaken habits aggravated an already delicate system. By system, they meant American society as well as the female body. Though sympathetic to women's private pain, health reformers and doctors also feared the social implications of ailing womanhood. In their eyes, it jeopardized the strength of families and the stability of the nation. "81 In practical terms, invalidism left women unable to bear and raise vigorous children, in whose hands the future of the country lay.

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