Monday, 26 January 2009

The Girl's Own Paper

Last year I found a lovely book called "Great-Grandmama's Weekly", by Wendy Forrester. Never was £1.99 better spent! It has extracts from this magazine from between 1880 and 1901 and is an absolute hoot to read in places, and in others, really shows how women have moved on.

Here are some extracts:
How Can I Look My Best? Happy is the girl, I say, who can take and enjoy a bath in pure cold, soft water every day of her life . . . Avoid coloured and over-scented soaps. Another mistake is the use of too rough a towel . . . a moderate degree of friction is all very well, but, dear me, you do not need to rub your pretty skin off.

To ensure perfect cleanliness, the hair should be washed once a fortnight. Do not use soap; the yolks of two new-laid eggs must be used instead. The water should be rainwater filtered - lukewarm to wash with, cold to rinse out. Afterwards, dry well and brush.

Why Am I So Pale?

Bad meat and fish are expensive, and three times the amount of good blood can be made from pea-meal, oatmeal, good bread, lentils, and mealy potatoes, with a littler butter and plenty of milk, for half the money . . . In conclusion, let me remind my readers of one lamentable fact: it is this - thousands of girls suffer from paleness of countenance through tight lacing . . .

It is not clear what a reader signing herself M.R. Norwood boasted of to merit the scolding she received in 1886, but it sounds rather like tight -lacing. She is told: We pity you! To what a miserable, unwholesome state of deformity you have reduced yourself! We do not open our columns to readers who boast of having so far degraded themselves . . . (Some girls wished to reduce 20" waists to 16"!!)

Lady Clarissa has our thanks for her receipe for certain troubles connected with the wearing of tight, hard, or ill-fitting shoes; but of which (we find it requisite to tell our girls) no one ever speaks in "polite society". It is very vulgar to speak of them excepting in the privacy of a bedroom, and to a very intimate associate. However, we willingly give the recipe . . . 1887. (I found this little short of amazing, when you think what is written or shown on tv in this day and age.)

Then there was the following recipe for a tooth-powder which I for one, would not care to use:
Charcoal is unsightly but very effective, and it can be made more so by rubbing up with an ounce of it as much quinine as will lie on a sixpenny piece; a few drops of otto of roses may be added. Ugh!

How to Look Well in the Morning:

Perfumed cod-liver oil may be rubbed well in around the eyes before lying down. This may not seem a very fascinating way of treating coming wrinkles, but it is often an effective one, for in this way the tissues under the skin are nourished to some extent, and kept full. Face massage may also be used.

I look foreward to your comments on living thus!


Anonymous said...

OH dear.. everyone should rub fishy smelling oil on their face.. LOL please post more from that book.. it's just too funny. My mom use to tell me things about when she was a young girl but nothing as weird as that stuff.

Tea with Willow said...

What a fantastic find! It really makes you thing about how times have changed, doesn't it?!! I must go and warn my daughter of the dangers of "tight lacing", in case it catches on and allher friends start doing it!!! Thanks for posting such an interesting, amusing piece!!

Willow xx

Morning's Minion said...

When I was growing up I was often at the home of neighbors who were surrogate grandparents for me and my sisters. An attic bedroom held an overflow of books which had belonged to generations past. One of them was a manual of health and hygiene from a similar era to the one you are quoting. I went through it in a mixture of fascination and horror [meeting with facts of life?] and recall the drawings of a tightly corsetted woman and the accompanying diagram of squished and distorted insides. Even in the 1980's driving my mother-in-law to buy a new "girdle" was a yearly event that I turned over to my daughter as soon as she had a driver's license.

nancy said...

Great quotes. I agree in part with her hair-care advice. I think once a week is often enough for shampoo. (I'll skip the egg yolks) And warm for wash and cold for rinse is also a good idea.
I think it was the shampoo companies that convinced today's women that they should wash their hair every day! And if you read the instructions, you're supposed to do it twice! Verrrry bad for the hair. Then they can sell you a lot of (even more expensive) conditioner for the frizzy nest you've created with all that washing! All commercial shampoos contain SLS products, which are (by the way) also used to clean garage floors!
Woops. Got on my soapbox for a minute.