Saturday, September 17, 2011

What A Woman Of Forty-Five Ought To Know

This charming little book was published in London in 1902. I have owned it for probably twenty years. I don't really know how long. I found it in a box of books in a barn at a country homestead. The owner was having a sale and I think I may have paid a dollar for it if that much. I bought it to add to my collection of reference books. It is a look into a different time and society written by Emma Drake, MD, who also wrote "What A Young Wife Ought To Know". Dr. Drake appears to be the Dr. Phil of her time. It is books like this that give you a glimpse into another time and how historical characters would have thought and felt about everyday life.

There are pages of commendations for the book written by many prominent people in 1902 including Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Women who were forty-five and older were considered "old" in 1902. Drake advises them on life during and after menopause when they are no longer able to produce and raise children, which has been the major role of their life. Some of it is very amusing compared to how we think and act now. Such as: "The Creator fitted you for child-bearing and when this period has run its allotted course, He reconstructs your physical nature for another line of work. In doing this you pass simply and easily, from the reproductive or child-bearing period into one of sexual inactivity."

Yet, the author encourages women to assume new activities and seek happiness during this period in their lives rather than giving up. And, there are truths that remain so today. Drake states: "Mothers are as a rule too unselfish...they too often unconsciously instill...the thought that mother can do everything best and is always read and willing and so comes the too frequent result, 'Let Mamma do it'."

Some funny instructions that could find it way into dialogue between characters:

On no account dye the hair for it cannot be concealed and you will deceive no one.
Rub table salt twice a week on the scalp for dandruff.
Drinking tea in immoderate amounts overstimulates the nervous system and produces constipation.
In Ireland, reports state that tea as prepared and drunk by the peasants is a strong contributing factor to insanity.

Finally, some wonderful rules about living from "a well-preserved old lady" that Dr. Drake included,which are applicable today:

Don't worry and don't hurry
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Don't overeat. Don't starve. Let your moderation be known to all men.
Court the fresh air night and day
Sleep and rest abundantly. Sleep is nature's benediction
Be cheerful. A light heart lives long
Think only healthful thoughts.
Seek peace and pursue it
Don't carry the whole world on your shoulders.

And, my favorite from 1902:
Never despair. Lost hope is a fatal disease.

Patricia Preston


Susanna Fraser said...

Fascinating find!

On no account dye the hair for it cannot be concealed and you will deceive no one.

My mother, born well after this book was published, believed and preached this one. She grayed early, and beautifully, going from salt-and-pepper in her 30's to silver and eventually to white.

So I never told her once I started dyeing my hair, and I don't THINK she ever figured it out, though she did comment once on how very dark my hair had gotten (for awhile there I was taking my natural dark brown to maybe half a shade south of black).

Patricia Preston said...

I have been coloring my hair forever it seems. I have the Irish coloring, dark hair and fair skin and eyes, so I started graying early.

This book is really entertaining.

The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy said...

I'm glad I found this blog and found this a warm entry - being on the wrong side of forty-five with bright hennaed hair! Best wishes and I will be following. Catherine

Patricia Preston said...

Thanks Catherine for stopping by and I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

Wendy Soliman said...

Never colour your hair. As if I'd do such a thing!

Interesting post, Patricia.

Claire Robyns said...

Oh my, I had a good ol' chuckle. I went grey in my twenties and have been dyeing ever since. Scandalous!

Cathy in AK said...

I love how those last sentiments are still true 100 years later.

I have no qualms about not dying my hair, despite the more salt than pepper action happening on my head (same Irish coloring, Pat ; ) but if tea causes insanity, what does coffee do to you???

Thanks for a fun post!