Wednesday 27 April 2022

What a Young Girl Ought to Know

What a Young Girl Ought to Know

By Mrs Mary Wood-Allen, MD, World Superintendent of the Purity Department woman’s Christian Temperance Union; author of The Man Wonderful in the House Beautiful, Marvels of Our Bodily Dwelling, etc. Dedicated to the thousands of girls whose honest inquiries concerning the origin of life and being deserve such a truthful, intelligent, and satisfactory answer as will save them from ignorance, enable them to avoid vice, and deliver them from solitary and social sins.

When the Young Girl comes home from a visit to an aunt she finds she has a new baby brother. And Mother begins to explain where he came from, starting with plants, and moving on to birds and eggs. Yes, you need a male and female, but the procedure is passed over in silence. The novelist Edith Wharton, on the eve of her marriage, begged her mother to tell her what she could expect. Her mother replied, “Oh, don’t be so silly, of course you know.” However, Mrs Wood-Allen is aiming this book at 10 to 12-year-olds and promises to go into more detail in later volumes.

The birds and bees take up the first part of the book, and then we move on to other subjects which don’t get discussed in polite society. The pores emit “waste matter”, and this is why we need to wash. If your pores get clogged up you’ll get ill. And “many children die of infantile paralysis because the father is a tobacco-user”. The author warns that many patent medicines contain alcohol: no wonder they were popular. She reminds her audience that smoking is inappropriate in church, and warns against tea: “After a time I ban to realise that I was becoming a slave to tea... I did not want to be a slave, and so I gave up tea in order to know that I was not under the control of anything that was not a necessity.” 

Wood-Allen recommends standing tall and sitting “actively”, not droopily. Parents and guardians of the time were worried about their children growing up “asymmetrical” – the pernicious habit of standing on one leg should be avoided. Girls should learn housework – carpentry is all very well, but remember that your future role is to be a “home-maker”. “There can be no more beautiful or noble work than this.” Wouldn’t carpentry be useful in the home? And she herself was a teacher, lecturer and doctor.

Tight clothes are disapproved of – they stop you playing games and exercising, and “you understand how important it is that you should breathe sufficiently in order to have your blood purified”. It’s worth learning to speak good English – so that your children won’t be ashamed of you. And the children of parents who’ve learned other languages find it easier to pick them up.

“Self-respect” has several meanings. The first is that you don’t gossip about your family to your friends. It also means keeping others at a proper distance. She doesn’t like to see female friends kissing each other – and as for being kissed by a boy! She prefers “healthful reading” about botany and zoology to “love stories”. And don’t think it would be better to be a boy and grow up to have a job and an interesting life – a young girl’s job is to train the next generation to be “good men and women”.

Wood-Allen points out that emotions can affect the body, and then describes a kind of “thought breathalyser” she has seen, where emotions show up as different colours. “If it is true... that evil thoughts create actual poisons in the blood, you will see how necessary it is for us to think only beautiful thoughts.” She goes on: “We may quite truly say that thoughts are really things... You can change your feelings by changing the expression of your face.” Writer Julia Strachey was cared for as a child by Alys Russell, ex-wife of Bertrand and a member of the “Higher Thought” movement. Alys used to tell Julia that if she wanted to be happy she should just smile all the time – instead of changing her circumstances. Julia reports that Alys herself wore a permanent, artificial, pained smile. Perhaps she was following Mrs Wood-Allen's advice: "If you feel angry towards anyone, just deny that feeling. ‘I am not angry. I love my friend. I love everybody.’” 

The author comes back to the “thoughts are things” idea, and quotes a Dr Gates who claims thoughts create substances in the blood that also surround us like a miasma and affect others. Thoughts Are Things is the title of a book by Prentice Mulford. Elmer Gates is quoted in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. If only it was that easy. (Mulford was instrumental in the founding... of the popular philosophy New Thought. Mulford's book Thoughts Are Things served as a guide to this new belief system and is still popular today. Wikipedia)

And finally: Man has learned how to improve animals also. He knows how to obtain just the qualities he wants. If he wants speed he selects parents who both have that quality and it is marvelous to read what has been accomplished in the development of speed in the horse… We have seen how much men can do in improving the plant and animal creation. Why cannot he apply the same idea to the improvement of the human race?

Overall, the book is a capsule of ideas that had been popular since the later 1800s. Mary Baker Eddy founded the first Church of Christ, Scientist in 1879. To her, illness was just "wrong thought". We worry no more about clogging our pores, but the idea that we can create the world by our minds alone is still with us. Unfortunately the human mind is not that powerful, and if we want to change the world we need to take action.

More here, and links to the rest.