Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oregon v. Women

On first looking into The Oregon Medical and Surgical Reporter index (vol. 1, 1869-70) I was initially struck by the listing for "Effect of the sewing machine on health" but then more forcibly by "Oregon versus Women"--surely, I thought, this must be the reasoned explanation for why the medical men of Willamette University were contemplating the exclusion of women from classes, a move which was effected in June of 1871 (see our earlier post on Mary Sawtelle for a bit more on that.)

Well, the brief editorial isn't about that at all. But it is too good not to share, so here it is, in part:
How often we hear the expression in regard to our climate that 'it is very hard on women.' This we believe to be an unjust aspersion, arising from ignorance of the true cause of female weakness in a climate which is noted for its salubrity. The fault lies not so much in the climate as in the failure to appreciate, and rightly appropriate the wealth of vitality and healing which has been poured out on these Western shores in such bounteous measure. The fact seems to be lost sight of, if ever known, that ours is one of those peculiar climates which require for its full enjoyment, so far as bodily vigor is concerned, a personal appreciation of its stores of life, where only they can be found in the open air....

Unfortunately for suffering womanhood in our days, fashion, custom, or propriety--as you please--that hideous monster, which, like the car of the Juggernaut, goes crushing on over quivering nerves and aching hearts, has extracised [sic] that one, who in defiance of its fiat persists in seeking full bounding life 'in the long fields of light,' and points the finger of scorn at the cheek embrowned by the sun's frequent caresses in its pursuit. Confinement to the house, too much indoor labor can but work mischief to the one practising it too assiduously in a climate as mild as ours....

It is a remarkable fact, and one well authenticated too, that ladies in Oregon 'bear their age' better than in any other State of the Union--California perhaps excepted--notwithstanding their neglect of these gifts so priceless and so free....
As if we needed more inducement to play out of doors. Go to it, ladies! (and gentlemen!)

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