The Health Reformer


November 1, 1871

Words to Christian Mothers


On the Subject of Life, Health, and Happiness—No. 3

Health is a great blessing, and can be secured only in obedience to natural law. Good health is necessary for the enjoyment of life. A calm, clear brain, and steady nerve, are dependent upon a well-balanced circulation of the blood. In order to have good blood, we must breathe well. HR November 1, 1871, par. 1

Mothers are accountable, in a great degree, for the health and lives of their children, and should become intelligent in regard to laws upon which life and health depend. Their work does not end here. They should carefully educate their children upon this subject, that they may, by obedience to nature's laws, avoid disease, and secure health and happiness. It is not necessary that all mothers should teach their children all the details of physiology and anatomy. But they should avail themselves of all the means within their reach to give their children instruction relative to the simple principles of hygiene. HR November 1, 1871, par. 2

It is well that physiology is introduced into the common schools as a branch of education. All children should study it. It should be regarded as the basis of all educational effort. And then parents should see to it that practical hygiene be added. This will make their knowledge of physiology of practical benefit. Parents should teach their children by example that health is to be regarded as the chiefest earthly blessing. They cannot do this while the love of money and of display is made of greater consequence than the health of their children. HR November 1, 1871, par. 3

Mental and moral power is dependent upon the physical health. Children should be taught that all pleasures and indulgences are to be sacrificed which will interfere with health. If the children are taught self-denial and self-control, they will be far happier than if allowed to indulge their desires for pleasures and extravagance in dress. HR November 1, 1871, par. 4

The great burden of life with very many is, What shall I eat? What shall I drink? And wherewithal shall I be clothed? Many mothers indulge in pride, and in many things which are hurtful to the health of the body, in order to be in fashion. What deplorable lessons are they giving their children in this respect. They do not, by precept and example, educate their children to practice self-denial as a sacred duty, in order to possess health, serene tempers, goodness, and true beauty. Good health, sound minds, and pure hearts, are not made of the first importance in households. HR November 1, 1871, par. 5

Many parents do not educate their children for usefulness and duty. They are indulged and petted, until self-denial to them becomes almost an impossibility. They are not taught that to make a success of Christian life, the development of sound minds in sound bodies is of the greatest importance. The dear children should be taught to flee every taint of sin. In order to do this, they must separate from the hurtful fashions of the world. HR November 1, 1871, par. 6

It is a sad fact that many, even professed Christians, make their pleasures, their amusements, the gratification of pride in dress, the gratification of appetite, almost everything; while the cross of Jesus Christ, and purity of heart and life, are left out of the question. God has claims upon them, but they do not, by their life, show that they have a sense of their duty to him. They acknowledge the claims of the world in their obedience to fashion. They devote time, service, and money, to its friendship, and, in so doing, prove themselves to be not the true friends of God. He demands of his people the first place in their hearts. He requires their best and holiest affections. The Christian religion invites, urges, and claims self-denial, and the bearing of the cross for Christ's sake. And the soul's interest should come first. HR November 1, 1871, par. 7

The world may clamor for our time and affections, fashion may invite our patronage; but the words of the apostle should be enough to lead Christian mothers from the indulgence of pride in dress and demoralizing amusements. “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” “Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God.” HR November 1, 1871, par. 8

Christian mothers should take their position on the platform of truth and righteousness; and when urged to unite with the world in patronizing fashions which are health-destroying and demoralizing, they should answer, We are doing a great work, and cannot be diverted from it. We are settling the question of our everlasting destiny. We are seeking to develop in our children, sound and worthy and beautiful characters, that they may bless the world with their influence, and have immortal beauty and glory in the world to come that will never fade. If children had such an example from their parents, it would have a saving influence upon their lives. HR November 1, 1871, par. 9

But it is a lamentable fact, that many professed Christian women, who are mothers, take the lead in patronizing the fashions, and those who make no pretensions to Christianity follow in the footsteps of professed Christians. Some who are in humble circumstances in life, in their efforts to keep pace with fashion, that they may retain their position in fashionable society, endure privation, and work far beyond their strength, that they may dress equal to the example given them by their more wealthy Christian sisters. Unless they can dress somewhat to compare with their more wealthy sisters, they have no desire to attend church, where there is such a display of costly adorning. The contrast is humiliating, say they, and they can only think of their humble dress. HR November 1, 1871, par. 10

The temptation is so strong before some to come up to the standard of fashion that they are sometimes led into dishonesty and theft to gain their desired object. Others sell their virtue, that they may have the means to decorate themselves for display. They see this is the great aim of life with many who profess to be righteous. Professed Christians, whose example thus proves a stumbling-block to their weak sisters, will have a fearful account to meet in the day of final reckoning. They have, by their example, opened a door of temptation to the inexperienced, who are charmed with the respect paid to those dressed in fashionable style, and they became so infatuated that they at last sold honor and virtue, woman's greatest adornments, and sacrificed health and happiness for artificial decorations for display. I clip the following pointed remarks from the Marshall Statesman, under the caption of Fashionable Ruin: HR November 1, 1871, par. 11

“At a fashionable party in Fifth Avenue, New York, a few evenings since, a beautiful young woman turned sharply upon an elderly dowager who was prosing about the magdalens, and the hopelessness of doing anything for these ‘lost women,’ with the assertion: ‘I know a class more hopelessly lost than they. We fashionables, who murder time and squander money, and lead women to become magdalens that they may dress like us, why does no body send missionaries to us?’ The intensity of the utterance was eloquent of better possibilities. No doubt there are more ways than one of being lost. The syrens are not all of one class, or confined to one locality.” HR November 1, 1871, par. 12

The apostle presents the inward adorning, in contrast with the outward, and tells us what the great God values. The outward is corruptible. But the meek and quiet spirit, the development of a beautifully symmetrical character, will never decay. It is an adornment which is not perishable. In the sight of the Creator of everything that is valuable, lovely, and beautiful, it is declared to be of great price. “Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel. But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner, in the old time, the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands.” 1 Peter 3:3-5. HR November 1, 1871, par. 13

It is of the greatest importance that we, as Christian mothers, show, by precept and example, that we are cultivating that which the Monarch of the universe estimates of great value. In doing this, what an influence for good can we have upon our children; and how important we can make our lessons of instruction, that purity and holiness should be the great aim and object of their lives. The following should be read with attention: HR November 1, 1871, par. 14


“Female loveliness never appears to so good advantage as when set off with simplicity of dress. No artist ever decks his angels with towering feathers and gaudy jewelry; and our dear human angels, if they will make good their title to that name, should carefully avoid ornaments, which properly belong to Indian squaws and African princesses. These tinselries may serve to give effect on the stage, on the ball-floor, but in daily life there is no substitute for the charm of simplicity. A vulgar taste is not to be disguised by gold or diamonds. The absence of a true taste and refinement of delicacy cannot be compensated for by the possession of the most princely fortune. Mind measures gold, but gold cannot measure mind. HR November 1, 1871, par. 15

“Through dress the mind may be read, as through the delicate tissues of the lettered page. A modest woman will dress modestly; a really refined and intellectual woman will bear the marks of careful selection and faultless taste.” HR November 1, 1871, par. 16

A great amount of time and money is squandered upon needless adornments. Many inventions have been sought out in extra puffings, tucks, and trimmings, which have a direct tendency to lessen vitality and shorten life. Almost every conceivable style of dress may be seen in crowded cities, and upon the great thoroughfares of travel. There are customs and styles in dress current now, that a few years ago would have been looked upon by Christians as monstrosities. HR November 1, 1871, par. 17

The corsets which are again being generally worn to compress the waist is one of the most serious features in woman's dress. Health and life are being sacrificed to carry out a fashion that is devoid of real beauty and comfort. The compression of the waist weakens the muscles of the respiratory organs. It hinders the process of digestion. The heart, liver, lungs, spleen, and stomach, are crowded into a small compass, not allowing room for the healthful action of these organs. HR November 1, 1871, par. 18

The following item is clipped from the Herald of Health: HR November 1, 1871, par. 19

“A female servant died suddenly a short time since in the east. The doctor could not account for the death, and made a post-mortem examination, which showed that the stomach had been reduced to the size of a child's, and the heart pushed out of its proper place through tight-lacing.” HR November 1, 1871, par. 20

Where tight-lacing is practiced, the lower part of the chest has not room sufficient for action. The breathing, therefore, is confined to the upper portion of the lungs, where there is not sufficient room to carry on the work. But the lower part of the lungs should have the greatest freedom possible. The compression of the waist will not allow free action of the muscles. HR November 1, 1871, par. 21

Alcohol and tobacco pollute the blood of men, and thousands of lives are yearly sacrificed to these poisons. Confinement indoors, shut away from the glorious sunshine, and deprived of the invigorating air of heaven, improper eating, with wrong habits of dressing, corrupt the blood of women. The compression of the waist by tight-lacing prevents the waste matter from being thrown off through its natural channels. The most important of these is the lungs. In order for the lungs to do the work God designed, they must be left free, without the slightest compression. If the lungs are cramped they cannot develop; but their capacity will be diminished, making it impossible to take a sufficient inspiration of air. The abdominal muscles were designed to aid the lungs in their action. Where there is no compression of the lungs, the motion in full breathing will be observed to be mostly of the abdomen. When lacing prevents this, the breathing is restricted to the upper portion of the lungs. Women's dress should be arranged so loosely upon the person, about the waist, that she can breath without the least obstruction. Her arms should be left perfectly free, that she may raise them above her head with ease. HR November 1, 1871, par. 22

By lacing, the internal organs of women are crowded out of their positions. There is scarcely a woman that is thoroughly healthy. The majority of women have numerous ailments. Many are troubled with weaknesses of most distressing nature. These fashionably dressed women cannot transmit good constitutions to their children. Some women have naturally small waists. But rather than regard such forms as beautiful, they should be viewed as defective. These wasp waists may have been transmitted to them from their mothers, as the result of their indulgence in the sinful practice of tight-lacing, and in consequence of imperfect breathing. Poor children born of these miserable slaves of fashion have diminished vitality, and are predisposed to take on disease. The impurities retained in the system in consequence of imperfect breathing are transmitted to their offspring. HR November 1, 1871, par. 23

Very many children are born with their blood tainted with scrofula through the wrong habits of the mother in her eating and dressing. The very many miscarriages that now occur may generally be traced to fashionable dress. Lacing causes displacements, and this character of disease is increasing with each successive generation. Many suffer years without making their condition known. They remain in ignorance of the causes of their difficulties, and endure sufferings, which it is impossible for language to express. Not a few women have strength sufficient to carry them through the period of child-bearing. Either her own life or that of her offspring is frequently sacrificed. If both live, she has not been able to give her offspring physical vitality sufficient to withstand accidents and prevailing epidemics. Any trifling cause may put out the feeble flame of existence. And the Christian mother tries to be resigned to her bereavement, which she believes to be in God's special providence. But could she look back, and trace in her life the true cause, and be convinced that her living and dressing fashionably had put out the life of her child, she might be wise, and repent of her murderous work. HR November 1, 1871, par. 24

The following excellent remarks are from The Household: HR November 1, 1871, par. 25

“The ordinary dress that men wear diminishes their breathing capacity one-fourth; and what woman wears her clothing so loose as that? I call a dress too tight that you hit when you draw in the fullest possible breath. HR November 1, 1871, par. 26

“‘But my waist is naturally slender,’ says one woman. She means that she has inherited small lungs. Her ancestors, more or less of them, compressed their lungs in the same way that we do, and it has become in her case a congenital deformity. This leads us to one of the worst aspects in the whole matter—the transmitted results of indulgence in this deadly vice. And it shows itself in diminished vitality and in liability to take on disease of many kinds. A mother may even make her child scrofulous by her imperfect breathing during the period of gestation, and many a mother does so. Almost all the reading public, very possibly all whose eyes fall upon these lines, have been told again and again how the tightness of the clothing about the waist and abdomen (please remember my definition of tightness) displaces the yielding viscera within, pressing them upward upon the lungs and downward upon the pelvis, and produces directly or indirectly all the female complaints to which the generation is so largely subject. One medical writer declares that this influence upon the organs in the lower part of the abdomen is so great that it furnishes to the medical profession nearly half its business,’ notwithstanding the fact that many women and young girls from native delicacy keep their sufferings to themselves. The very list of these complaints is alarming, and there is no question but the public at large, and even women themselves, have very little idea how much they suffer in this way from the effects of tight dress. HR November 1, 1871, par. 27

“Of course, in this form it does not end with the individual, unless she dies before marriage, or so utterly disables herself that she cannot bear children at all, which is not unfrequently the case. If not quite so bad as that, she is still often unable to complete her time, and the little one falls out of being from sheer lack of the vitality which the mother has not been able to give it. She cannot take nearly breath for one, much less for two. A large proportion of the alarming number of miscarriages in respectable society is directly due to tight dressing. I met a lady a few days since who would have been a beautiful and queenly woman but for this deformity (her waist was less than half the circumference of her shoulders), and I was not at all surprised to learn that a few months before she had come within a few minutes of death from this cause. HR November 1, 1871, par. 28

“In many cases where the child lives, it drags out a feeble existence, ready to be snatched away by any trifling accident, and the mother piously tries to be ‘resigned to the will of Providence.’ She never dreams that it was through any fault of hers. ‘I am perfectly healthy’ said such a childless mother to me once, and then she went on with a list of the untoward circumstances that took away one little innocent after another, without a suspicion of the truth that if she had been ‘perfectly healthy,’ she would have been able to give each child such vitality that it would have brushed aside these accidents as trifles lighter than air. I do not say that all such troubles arise from tight dressing, but I do say that so far as mothers are concerned, it is far the most prolific source of them. HR November 1, 1871, par. 29

“And this sort of thing will go on, I suppose, until our women acquaint themselves with practical physiology, so as to get some idea what it means to be ‘perfectly healthy.’ It will be absolutely necessary, too, in order to make them comprehend intelligently the mischief of tight dress, that they should know something about the individuality of the organs within, and the importance of keeping them in their right places.” HR November 1, 1871, par. 30

Says the Western Rural: “I saw a young lady, not long since, dressed for a party. Her waist was incased in corsets, laced so tightly that she was absolutely deformed, still it wasn't tight (of course not; it would be absurd to imagine it was); and for fear of looking stout, she wore one thin skirt only. On remarking it, she demanded to know if one hadn't a right to lace if she pleased? No, said I, emphatically, one has no right to entail misery upon her offspring, nor commit suicide, and then unjustly accuse the Lord of taking them out of the world. HR November 1, 1871, par. 31

“But what is the use of talking? Ignorance and folly go hand in hand, and stronger brains are wanted before we can hope for reform. The day after the party, the young lady mentioned was forced to wear her dress several inches looser than usual, was unable to take a full inspiration without experiencing a sharp pain in her side, and endured the torture throughout the day from pain in the chest; and I suppose the heroism which enabled her to endure it was sublime.” HR November 1, 1871, par. 32

While on a tour west, we spent some hours in Chicago, at the Massasoit House. Several young ladies waited upon the table, and all of them were deformed by tight lacing. My husband's hands could have spanned their waists. Their shoulders were broad, their hips were large. The artificial paddings over the chest, and the large appendages upon the back of the head, and upon the small of the back, made these girls appear anything but attractive. Their faces were pale, and they moved about languidly. There was nothing like sprightliness or gracefulness in their movements. Their vital organs were pressed in so small a compass that it was impossible for them to fill their lungs. They could not breathe naturally. They could only gasp. They could not walk naturally and gracefully. They wriggled in their walk, as though every step required an effort. Thought I, this is one of Dame Fashion's tortures. And these poor girls adopt her inventions, although in so doing they appeared like fools going to the correction of stocks. Read what Good Health says of HR November 1, 1871, par. 33


“Among the causes which prevent muscular exercise, the compression of the chest by corsets is the most remarkable. Where on the earth, or under the earth, or in the waters, or in the air, in things animate or inanimate, this fashion found its original model, unless it be in the venomous wasp, it would be hard to discover. Tradition insists that corsets were invented by a butcher of the thirteenth century, as a punishment for his wife. Finding nothing to stop her loquacity, he put a pair of stays on her to take away her breath, and so prevent her from going about and talking. This effectual punishment was inflicted by other cruel husbands, till at last there was scarcely a wife in all London who was not tied up in this manner. The punishment became so universal at last, that the ladies, in their defense, made a fashion of it, and so it has continued to the present time. The form given by corsets to the female chest is directly opposed to Grecian and Roman models of beauty.” HR November 1, 1871, par. 34