Move Over, Toxic Shock Syndrome

“At this critical period [puberty], the seeds of hereditary and constitutional diseases manifest themselves. They draw fresh malignancy from the new activity of the system. The first symptoms of tubercular consumption, of scrofula, of obstinate and disfiguring skin diseases, of hereditary insanity, of congenital epilepsy, of a hundred terrible maladies, from which have lurked in the child, biding the opportunity of attack, suddenly spring from their lairs, and hurry her to the grave or the madhouse. If we ask why so many fair girls of eighteen or twenty are followed by weeping friends to an early tomb, the answer is, chiefly from diseases which had their origin at the period of puberty.”

–The Physical Life of Woman

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Goodness! Those “It happened to me!” sections in YM and Seventeen never prepared me for an onset of madness or scrofula!

Beware! Bleeders at Large

“The womb is congested during the period, is larger and heavier than normal . . . For delicate and sensitive girls it is always best to stay away from school during the first and second days. Speaking again of the average and not the exception, it is best that dancing, bicycle riding, horseback riding, rowing, and other athletic exercises be given up altogether during the menses. Automobile riding and railroad and carriage travelling prove injurious in some instances, greatly increasing the flow of blood. But these are the exceptions at the other extreme.”

–Woman: Her Sex and Love Life

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Menstruating women should also not go swimming (sharks) or hiking (bears). They should also be kept in a separate hut from the rest of the tribe, lest her powers prove too great.

Thank goodness the Pinkerton detectives at Snopes looked into this matter!

The Indolent Don’t Have It So Easy After All

“In relation to the amount of the [menstrual] discharge, every woman is a law unto herself. Usually, it is four or five ounces in all. Habits of life are apt to modify it materially. Here, again, those exposed to prolonged cold and inured to severe labor escape more easily than their sisters petted in the lap of luxury. Delicate, feeble, nervous women — those, in other words, who can least afford the loss of blood — are precisely those who lose the most. Nature, who is no tender mother, but a stern step-mother, thus punishes them for disregarding her laws. Soft couches, indolent ease, highly spiced food, warm rooms, weak muscles — these are the infractions of her rules which she revenges with vigorous, ay, merciless severity.”

–The Physical Life of Woman

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You lazy, lazy women need to get off of your chaise lounges and quit bleeding so goddamn much.

Is It Hot in Here or Is It Just My Rampant Racism?

“The females of certain races, certain families, it is often noticed, mature earlier than their neighbors. Jewesses, for example, are always so precocious, earlier by one or two years. So are colored girls, and those of creole lineage. We can guess the reasons here. No doubt these children still retain in their blood the tropic fire which, at comparatively recent periods, their forefathers felt under the vertical rays of the torrid zone.”

–The Physical Life of Woman

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Do girls in hot climates get their periods earlier? I have no idea. But what drove Dr. Napheys to address this topic in such a blazingly offensive manner? As he said, “We can guess the reasons here.”

Puberty: You Better Not Screw It Up

“The foundation of old age, says a distinguished author, is laid in childhood; but the health of middle-life depends upon puberty. Never was there a truer maxim. The two years which change the girl to the woman often 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.”

–The Physical Life of Woman

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That’s weird — I always thought Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was more about boys and bras ‘n stuff.

Kids Are Stimulated by the Darndest Things

“Whatever stimulates the emotions leads to an unnaturally early sexual life. 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.”

–The Physical Life of Woman

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My goodness! Apparently children’s parties and “flashy papers” were a lot more interesting in the 1890s.


There are Communists in the Funhouse

Oh, the many terms by which we refer to menstruation!

“It is also called the catamenia or catamenial flow. Other terms are: the periods, courses, monthlies, turns, monthly changes, sickness, flowers, to be unwell, to be regular.”

–Woman: Her Sex and Love Life

Of course, while catemenia certainly does the job, there are plenty of other euphemisms to refer to this monthly event, including these international phrases, gleaned from The Gloss and Flow: the Cultural Story of Menstruation, by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim.

• The Netherlands: “The tomato soup is overcooked”
• Brazil: “I’m with Chico”
• China: “Little Sister has come”
• many parts of Latin America: “Jenny has a red dress on”
• Australia: “I’ve got the flags out”
• Denmark: “There are Communists in the funhouse”
• Ireland: “I’m wearing a jam rag”
• England: “I’m flying the Japanese flag”
• Japan: “Little Miss Strawberry”
• France: “The English have arrived”
• Germany: “The cranberry woman is coming”
• Puerto Rico: “Did the rooster already sing?”
• South Africa: “Granny’s stuck in traffic”

I also put out the question to followers of the @hersteria Twittergraph. Here are some favorite answers. So many aunts visiting and Soviets invading!

“Riding the tomato boat” and “Aunt Millie is visiting” – Tammy

“‘The eagle has landed, I repeat, the eagle has landed. Anyone have a landing pad?’ That’s what I heard in high school. Lutherans, eh?” – Jim

“Red Dollar Day Sale” and “a visit from Aunt Flo” – Wendy

“Ride the cotton pony”

“Crimson tide! I was salty when I realized that was the nickname for Alabama, I thought I made it up.” – @DazzlingRayn

“The painters are in” and “shark week” – DJ Intel

“fallen to the Russians” and variations of “my friend” – Rose Red

“Riding the crimson wave, god’s gaping gash, walking the red line, bloody hell Mary, river runneth red, Dexter Morgan’s crime scene” – boots electric

“BLABBT (Bleeding Like A Big Bleedy Thing)” – Amy C