On our bookshelves, positioned between the bizarrely-titled Doctor, there’s something wrong with my guts and the tantalising Tendinitis: its etiology and treatment are four volumes of The Household Physician, originally written in 1874 by Dr J McGregor-Robertson but updated in 1907.
After blowing off the dust (well, it’s like skirting boards, no-one gets too close to see) I sat for ages poring over these books, written by a rather stern Scottish doctor who was very didactic in his approach to what was meant to be a family guide to “the preservation of health and the domestic treatment of illness“.
I have stumbled upon a year’s worth of possible blog posts as the advice is, naturally, way out-of-date, but not just medically. The position of women in society is hugely apparent, as is the class system.
I’m at a loss as to where to start to share some of these gems but start I must so here is one of my favourite sections concerns “the management of monthly illness”. Yes, it is indeed an illness, according to Dr McGregor. But how about this corker of a paragraph regarding what one can and can’t do at such times:
“Common sense would suggest that exposure to cold, to damp, to draughts, should be avoided. Thus during the period mere jumping out of a warm bed and placing the bare feet on a cold floor or wax-cloth has often been the cause of serious illness………….Much more rest than is customary ought to be indulged in, no work requiring any strain should be undertaken………It is excessive foolishness for a woman to expose herself to undue excitement, specially the excitement of a round of pleasure or gaiety. Social gatherings, dances, games implying physical exertion such as lawn-tennis, boating, riding or walking excursions – all these should be refrained from at such a time……Those who are in charge of houses ought not to forget that some days of apparent slovenly and half-hearted work may have a reason other than that of idleness and ought to lighten the burden of work to their servants accordingly…………..Bathing is to be avoided, and in particular cold bathing.
I had planned an afternoon of boating and lawn-tennis today but it would seem I must cancel and retire to my bed. I do hope the maid isn’t similarly indisposed: I’m buggered if she’s getting off lightly with the laundry.
Update – 17 March – I did write a post about hysterical women and the menopause in a later post. The link is below if you want to see what Dr McGregor Robertson thought about it.