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Would You Have Survived Puberty As A Girl In The 19th Century?

Menstruation, hysteria, masturbation — 19th-century adolescence had it all.

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In 1878 The Physical Life of Woman: Advice to the Maiden, Wife, and Mother by Dr. George H. Napheys was published. The book was basically a how-to guide for girls and women for everything from puberty to getting married and having children. In this manual, the doctor outlined best practices for raising a virtuous young woman through several important stages of her life.Take this quiz and see if you can guess what puberty was like in the 19th century!
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In 1878 The Physical Life of Woman: Advice to the Maiden, Wife, and Mother by Dr. George H. Napheys was published. The book was basically a how-to guide for girls and women for everything from puberty to getting married and having children. In this manual, the doctor outlined best practices for raising a virtuous young woman through several important stages of her life.

Take this quiz and see if you can guess what puberty was like in the 19th century!

  1. A young woman's experience of puberty predicts what?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Whether she will marry
    Correct
    Incorrect
    The happiness or the hopeless misery of her whole life
    Correct
    Incorrect
    How many children she shall bear
    Correct
    Incorrect
    The extent to which her physical constitution shall be rendered delicate or hearty
    Correct
    Incorrect
    All of the above
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The happiness or the hopeless misery of her whole life

    Napheys explains that the greatest years of puberty "seal for ever the happiness or the hopeless misery of her whole life. They decide whether she is to become a healthy, helpful, cheerful wife and mother, or a languid, complaining invalid, to whom marriage is a curse, children an affliction, and life itself a burden." But no pressure.

  2. Which of the following hastens puberty?
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    Incorrect
    Highly seasoned food
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Idleness of body
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    Incorrect
    Talk of beaux, love, or marriage
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Keeping late hours
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    Incorrect
    Sensational novels
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    Incorrect
    Alcohol
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    Incorrect
    Irregular habits of sleep
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    Incorrect
    All of the above
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    All of the above

    Writes Napheys: "Idleness of body, highly-seasoned food, stimulating beverages, such as beer, wine, liqueurs, and, in a less degree, coffee and tea, irregular habits of sleep,—these are the physical causes of premature development." And that's not all! Furthermore: "Late hours, children's parties, sensational novels, 'flashy' papers, love stories, the drama, the ball-room, talk of beaux, love, and marriage—that atmosphere of riper years which is so often and so injudiciously thrown around childhood—all hasten the event which transforms the girl into the woman." In conclusion: Do almost nothing, for doing something could bring about an early puberty.

  3. What mental and behavioral changes come with puberty for young women?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Poor memory, listlessness, inertia
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    Incorrect
    Increased irritability and frequent angry outbursts
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Wanton disregard for anyone but themselves and prospective beaux
    Correct
    Incorrect
    All of the above
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Poor memory, listlessness, inertia

    In addition to the physical changes puberty brings, young women also experience the following mental and behavioral changes during puberty: increased interest in seeking solitude, crying, loss of interest in her studies, poor memory, disinclination to mental labor, listlessness, and inertia. OK, some of this actually sounds kinda accurate.

  4. Why should young women cultivate "a placid mind" and ground their emotions in "the firm leash of reason"?
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    Incorrect
    Strong emotions may cause the maiden to succumb to hysteria
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Fluctuating emotions causes an imbalance of the humors, which leads to ill health
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Strong emotions lead to heavier periods
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    Incorrect
    Fluctuating emotions can cause intestinal distress, which will drive away beaux
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Strong emotions lead to heavier periods

    "It is well known, too, that excitement of the emotions, whether of anger, joy, grief, hatred, or love increases the discharge." IT IS WELL KNOWN. Period.

  5. Hysteria is common in higher circles of society where girls' emotions are ______ and their constitutions ______.
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    Incorrect
    Volatile, highly vulnerable
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    Incorrect
    Over-educated, delicate
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    Incorrect
    Over-indulged, nervous
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Unstable, fragile
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Over-educated, delicate

    Napheys explains that hysteria is a disease of the nerves that's more common in young women of the upper classes, whose emotions are over-educated and their constitutions delicate. [sideeye emoji]

  6. What is the author's euphemism for masturbation?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Her private shame
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Self-abuse
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Secret bad habits
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Inverted passions
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Secret bad habits

    Without naming it explicitly, the author warns that masturbation (aka "secret bad habits") has "disastrous consequences on soul and body" for young women. ?

  7. And just what are the disastrous consequences of masturbation?
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    Loss of memory, distressing nervousness
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    Incorrect
    Insolence, petulant moods
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    Incorrect
    Vertigo, nausea
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    Incorrect
    All of the above
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Loss of memory, distressing nervousness

    The author explains that masturbation can cause a variety of ill effects, including "bodily weakness, loss of memory, low spirits, distressing nervousness, a capricious appetite, dislike of company and of study, and finally, paralysis, imbecility, or insanity." But prob worth it tbh!

  8. What does the author say should be avoided when menstruating?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Taking long walks and hot baths
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Interacting with young men who are not family relations
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Reading novels that will excite erotic passions
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Cooking with or eating spicy foods
    Correct
    Incorrect
    All of the above
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Taking long walks and hot baths

    To maintain their health each month, Napheys says anyone who's menstruating should avoid all exertion, including long walks, dancing, and shopping. Anyone menstruating should take neither hot baths nor cold baths (though temperate baths are fine). Drinking cold water is also not advisable. Noted.

  9. What is the wisest time for a woman to marry?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    20–25
    Correct
    Incorrect
    25–30
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    Incorrect
    30–35
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    Incorrect
    Most any age is acceptable if both parties find the union agreeable
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    20-25

    "Science ... fixes a certain age at which it is wisest for woman to marry," says Napheys. And that's between the ages of 20 and 25, the age at which her body is ready to "perpetuate the species" and her mind is ready to choose a life companion. It is scientifically proven.

  10. During puberty, young women should eat ______, and avoid _______.
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    Incorrect
    Freshly squeezed fruit juices / red meat
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Fresh milk / tea and coffee
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    Incorrect
    Cod liver oil / hard cheeses
    Correct
    Incorrect
    A hearty breakfast / spicy foods
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Fresh milk / tea and coffee

    "Good fresh milk should be used daily, while tea and coffee should be withheld," says Napheys. Nutrition is important during puberty, when, without proper nourishment, a young woman can become feeble and open to the attacks of disease. Drink milk, avoid feebleness!

  11. What are some causes of painful cramps during menstruation?
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    Incorrect
    Overwork
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Excessive devotion to social duties and pleasures
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Cold, damp environs
    Correct
    Incorrect
    General tendency toward fevers and chills
    Correct
    Incorrect
    All of the above
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    All of the above

    The causes of painful periods are various, the author says. And they include everything from overexertion in work and socializing, to being exposed to the cold, to a constitution generally susceptible to fevers (ague).

  12. How should painful cramps be treated?
    Correct
    Incorrect
    With prayer and careful devotion to familial duties
    Correct
    Incorrect
    With twice-daily warm baths
    Correct
    Incorrect
    With a heated flaxseed poultice and a small amount of an opiate applied to the abdomen
    Correct
    Incorrect
    With a tincture that will induce sleep
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    With a heated flaxseed poultice and a small amount of an opiate applied to the abdomen

    According to Napheys: "A large, hot, linseed-meal poultice, over which a dessert-spoonful of laudanum has been sprinkled, or a large mustard-plaster, spread on the lower abdomen, will afford much relief." Doesn't sound too shabby actually.

  13. What is the author referring to here: "To him ... it is an episode; to her, it is the whole history of life"
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Marriage
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    Incorrect
    Romantic love
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    Incorrect
    Child-rearing
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Courtship
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Romantic love

    The author explains that to women, love is everything, and to men, it's merely one of many competing interests. "Love is one thing to a woman, another to a man. To him, said Madame de Staël, it is an episode; to her, it is the whole history of life. A thousand distractions divert man. Fame, riches, power, pleasure, all struggle in his bosom to displace the sentiment of love."

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