A Treatise on Domestic Economy - For the Use of Young Ladies at Home and at School
by Catherine Esther Beecher
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In addition to this, much less time should be given to school, and much more to domestic employments, especially in the wealthier classes. A little girl may begin, at five or six years of age, to assist her mother; and, if properly trained, by the time she is ten, she can render essential aid. From this time, until she is fourteen or fifteen, it should be the principal object of her education to secure a strong and healthy constitution, and a thorough practical knowledge of all kinds of domestic employments. During this period, though some attention ought to be paid to intellectual culture, it ought to be made altogether secondary in importance; and such a measure of study and intellectual excitement, as is now demanded in our best female seminaries, ought never to be allowed, until a young lady has passed the most critical period of her youth, and has a vigorous and healthful constitution fully established. The plan might be adopted, of having schools for young girls kept only in the afternoon; that their mornings might be occupied in domestic exercise, without interfering with school employments. Where a proper supply of domestic exercise cannot be afforded, the cultivation of flowers and fruits might be resorted to, as a delightful and unfailing promotive of pleasure and health.

And it is to that class of mothers, who have the best means of securing hired service, and who are the most tempted to allow their daughters to grow up with inactive habits, that their Country and the world must look for a reformation, in this respect. Whatever ladies in the wealthier classes decide shall be fashionable, will be followed by all the rest; but, while they persist in the aristocratic habits, now so common, and bring up their daughters to feel as if labor was degrading and unbecoming, the evils pointed out will never find a remedy. It is, therefore, the peculiar duty of ladies, who have wealth, to set a proper example, in this particular, and make it their first aim to secure a strong and healthful constitution for their daughters, by active domestic employments. All the sweeping, dusting, care of furniture and beds, the clear starching, and the nice cooking, should be done by the daughters of a family, and not by hired servants. It may cost the mother more care, and she may find it needful to hire a person for the express purpose of instructing and superintending her daughters, in these employments; but it should be regarded as indispensable to be secured, either by the mother's agency, or by a substitute.

It is in this point of view, that the dearth of good domestics in this Country may, in its results, prove a substantial blessing. If all housekeepers, who have the means, could secure good servants, there would be little hope that so important a revolution, in the domestic customs of the wealthy classes, could be effected. And so great is the natural indolence of mankind, that the amount of exercise, needful for health, will never be secured by those who are led to it through no necessity, but merely from rational considerations. Yet the pressure of domestic troubles, from the want of good domestics, has already determined many a mother, in the wealthy classes, to train her daughters to aid her in domestic service; and thus necessity is compelling mothers to do what abstract principles of expediency could never secure.

A second method of promoting the same object, is, to raise the science and practice of Domestic Economy to its appropriate place, as a regular study in female seminaries. The succeeding chapter will present the reasons for this, more at large. But it is to the mothers of our Country, that the community must look for this change. It cannot be expected, that teachers, who have their attention chiefly absorbed by the intellectual and moral interests of their pupils, should properly realize the importance of this department of education. But if mothers generally become convinced of this, their judgement and wishes will meet the respectful consideration they deserve, and the object will be accomplished.

The third method of securing a remedy for the evils pointed out, is, the endowment of female institutions, under the care of suitable trustees, who shall secure a proper course of education. The importance of this measure cannot be realized by those, who have not turned their attention to this subject; and for such, the following considerations are presented.

The endowment of colleges, and of law, medical, and divinity, schools, for the other sex, is designed to secure a thorough and proper education, for those who have the most important duties of society to perform. The men who are to expound the laws, the men who have the care of the public health, and the men who are to communicate religious instruction, should have well-disciplined and well-informed minds; and it is mainly for this object that collegiate and professional institutions are established. Liberal and wealthy individuals contribute funds, and the legislatures of the States also lend assistance, so that every State in this Nation has from one to twenty such endowed institutions, supplied with buildings, apparatus, a library, and a faculty of learned men to carry forward a superior course of instruction. And the use of all these advantages is secured, in many cases, at an expense, no greater than is required to send a boy to a common school and pay his board there. No private school could offer these advantages, without charging such a sum, as would forbid all but the rich from securing its benefits. By furnishing such superior advantages, on low terms, multitudes are properly educated, who would otherwise remain in ignorance; and thus the professions are supplied, by men properly qualified for them.

Were there no such institutions, and no regular and appropriate course of study demanded for admission to the bar, the pulpit, and to medical practice, the education of most professional men would be desultory, imperfect, and deficient. Parents and children would regulate the course of study according to their own crude notions; and, instead of having institutions which agree in carrying on a similar course of study, each school would have its own peculiar system, and compete and conflict with every other. Meantime, the public would have no means of deciding which was best, nor any opportunity for learning when a professional man was properly qualified for his duties. But as it is, the diploma of a college, and the license of an appointed body of judges, must both be secured, before a young man feels that he has entered the most promising path to success in his profession.

Our Country, then, is most abundantly supplied with endowed institutions, which secure a liberal education, on such low terms as make them accessible to all classes, and in which the interests of education are watched over, sustained, and made permanent, by an appropriate board of trustees.

But are not the most responsible of all duties committed to the charge of woman? Is it not her profession to take care of mind, body, and soul? and that, too, at the most critical of all periods of existence? And is it not as much a matter of public concern, that she should be properly qualified for her duties, as that ministers, lawyers, and physicians, should be prepared for theirs? And is it not as important, to endow institutions which shall make a superior education accessible to all classes,—for females, as for the other sex? And is it not equally important, that institutions for females be under the supervision of intelligent and responsible trustees, whose duty it shall be to secure a uniform and appropriate education for one sex as much as for the other? It would seem as if every mind must accord an affirmative reply, as soon as the matter is fairly considered.

As the education of females is now conducted, any man or woman who pleases, can establish a female seminary, and secure recommendations which will attract pupils. But whose business is it to see that these young females are not huddled into crowded rooms? or that they do not sleep in ill-ventilated chambers? or that they have healthful food? or that they have the requisite amount of fresh air and exercise? or that they pursue an appropriate and systematic course of study? or that their manners, principles, and morals, are properly regulated? Parents either have not the means, or else are not qualified to judge; or, if they are furnished with means and capacity, they are often restricted to a choice of the best school within reach, even when it is known to be exceedingly objectionable.

If the writer were to disclose all that can truly be told of boarding-school life, and its influence on health, manners, disposition, intellect, and morals, the disclosure would both astonish and shock every rational mind. And yet she believes that such institutions are far better managed in this Country, than in any other; and that the number of those, which are subject to imputations in these respects, is much less than could reasonably be expected. But it is most surely the case, that much remains to be done, in order to supply such institutions as are needed for the proper education of American women.

In attempting a sketch of the kind of institutions which are demanded, it is very fortunate that there is no necessity for presenting a theory, which may, or may not, be approved by experience. It is the greatest honor of one of our newest Western States, that it can boast of such an Institution, endowed, too, wholly by the munificence of a single individual. A slight sketch of this Institution, which the writer has examined in all its details, will give an idea of what can be done, by showing what has actually been accomplished.

This Institution[C] is under the supervision of a Board of Trustees, who hold the property in trust for the object to which it is devoted, and who have the power to fill their own vacancies. It is furnished with a noble and tasteful building, of stone, so liberal in dimensions and arrangement, that it can accommodate ninety pupils and teachers, giving one room to every two pupils, and all being so arranged, as to admit of thorough ventilation. This building is surrounded by extensive grounds, enclosed with handsome fences, where remains of the primeval forest still offer refreshing shade for juvenile sports.

To secure adequate exercise for the pupils, two methods are adopted. By the first, each young lady is required to spend a certain portion of time in domestic employments, either in sweeping, dusting, setting and clearing tables, washing and ironing, or other household concerns.

Let not the aristocratic mother and daughter express their dislike of such an arrangement, till they can learn how well it succeeds. Let them walk, as the writer has done, through the large airy halls, kept clean and in order by their fair occupants, to the washing and ironing-rooms. There they will see a long hall, conveniently fitted up with some thirty neatly-painted tubs, with a clean floor, and water conducted so as to save both labor and slopping. Let them see some thirty or forty merry girls, superintended by a motherly lady, chatting and singing, washing and starching, while every convenience is at hand, and every thing around is clean and comfortable. Two hours, thus employed, enable each young lady to wash the articles she used during the previous week, which is all that is demanded, while thus they are all practically initiated into the arts and mysteries of the wash-tub. The Superintendent remarked to the writer, that, after a few weeks of probation, most of her young washers succeeded quite as well as those whom she could hire, and who made it their business. Adjacent to the washing-room, is the ironing establishment; where another class are arranged, on the ironing-day, around long, extended tables, with heating-furnaces, clothes-frames, and all needful appliances.

By a systematic arrangement of school and domestic duties, a moderate portion of time, usually not exceeding two hours a day, from each of the pupils, accomplished all the domestic labor of a family of ninety, except the cooking, which was done by two hired domestics. This part of domestic labor it was deemed inexpedient to incorporate as a portion of the business of the pupils, inasmuch as it could not be accommodated to the arrangements of the school, and was in other respects objectionable.

Is it asked, how can young ladies paint, play the piano, and study, when their hands and dresses must be unfitted by such drudgery? The woman who asks this question, has yet to learn that a pure and delicate skin is better secured by healthful exercise, than by any other method; and that a young lady, who will spend two hours a day at the wash-tub, or with a broom, is far more likely to have rosy cheeks, a finely-moulded form, and a delicate skin, than one who lolls all day in her parlor or chamber, or only leaves it, girt in tight dresses, to make fashionable calls. It is true, that long-protracted daily labor hardens the hand, and unfits it for delicate employments; but the amount of labor needful for health produces no such effect. As to dress, and appearance, if neat and convenient accommodations are furnished, there is no occasion for the exposures which demand shabby dresses. A dark calico, genteelly made, with an oiled-silk apron, and wide cuffs of the same material, secures both good looks and good service. This plan of domestic employments for the pupils in this Institution, not only secures regular healthful exercise, but also aids to reduce the expenses of education, so that, with the help of the endowments, it is brought within the reach of many, who otherwise could never gain such advantages.

In addition to this, a system of Calisthenic[D] exercises is introduced, which secures all the advantages which dancing is supposed to effect, and which is free from the dangerous tendencies of that fascinating and fashionable amusement. This system is so combined with music, and constantly varying evolutions, as to serve as an amusement, and also as a mode of curing distortions, particularly all tendencies to curvature of the spine; while, at the same time, it tends to promote grace of movement, and easy manners.

Another advantage of this Institution, is, an elevated and invigorating course of mental discipline. Many persons seem to suppose, that the chief object of an intellectual education is the acquisition of knowledge. But it will be found, that this is only a secondary object. The formation of habits of investigation, of correct reasoning, of persevering attention, of regular system, of accurate analysis, and of vigorous mental action, is the primary object to be sought in preparing American women for their arduous duties; duties which will demand not only quickness of perception, but steadiness of purpose, regularity of system, and perseverance in action.

It is for such purposes, that the discipline of the Mathematics is so important an element in female education; and it is in this aspect, that the mere acquisition of facts, and the attainment of accomplishments, should be made of altogether secondary account.

In the Institution here described, a systematic course of study is adopted, as in our colleges; designed to occupy three years. The following slight outline of the course, will exhibit the liberal plan adopted in this respect.

In Mathematics, the whole of Arithmetic contained in the larger works used in schools, the whole of Euclid, and such portions from Day's Mathematics as are requisite to enable the pupils to demonstrate the various problems in Olmsted's larger work on Natural Philosophy. In Language, besides English Grammar, a short course in Latin is required, sufficient to secure an understanding of the philosophy of the language, and that kind of mental discipline which the exercise of translating affords. In Philosophy, Chemistry, Astronomy, Botany, Geology and Mineralogy, Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, Political Economy, and the Evidences of Christianity, the same textbooks are used as are required at our best colleges. In Geography, the most thorough course is adopted; and in History, a more complete knowledge is secured, by means of charts and textbooks, than most of our colleges offer. To these branches, are added Griscom's Physiology,[E] Bigelow's Technology, and Jahn's Archaeology, together with a course of instruction in polite literature, for which Chambers's English Literature is employed as the text-book, each recitation being attended with selections and criticisms, from teacher or pupils, on the various authors brought into notice. Vocal Music, on the plan of the Boston Academy, is a part of the daily instructions. Linear drawing, and pencilling, are designed also to be a part of the course. Instrumental Music is taught, but not as a part of the regular course of study.

To secure the proper instruction in all these branches, the division of labor, adopted in colleges, is pursued. Each teacher has distinct branches as her department, for which she is responsible, and in which she is independent. One teacher performs the duties of a governess, in maintaining rules, and attending to the habits and manners of the pupils. By this method, the teachers have sufficient time, both to prepare themselves, and to impart instruction and illustration in the class-room. In this Institution it is made a direct object of effort to cure defects of character and habits. At the frequent meetings of the Principal and teachers, the peculiarities of each pupil are made the subjects of inquiry; and methods are devised for remedying defects through the personal influence of the several teachers. This, when thus made a direct object of combined effort, often secures results most gratifying and encouraging.

One peculiarity of this Institution demands consideration. By the method adopted here, the exclusive business of educating their own sex is, as it ever ought to be, confined to females. The Principal of the Institution, indeed, is a gentleman; but, while he takes the position of a father of the family, and responsible head of the whole concern, the entire charge of instruction, and most of the responsibilities in regard to health, morals, and manners, rest upon the female teachers, in their several departments. The Principal is the chaplain and religious teacher; and is a member of the board of instructors, so far as to have a right to advise, and an equal vote, in every question pertaining to the concerns of the School; and thus he acts as a sort of regulator and mainspring in all the various departments. But no one person in the Institution is loaded with the excessive responsibilities, which rest upon one, where a large institution of this kind has a Principal, who employs and directs all the subordinate assistants. The writer has never before seen the principle of the division of labor and responsibility so perfectly carried out in any female institution; and she believes that experience will prove that this is the true model for combining, in appropriate proportions, the agency of both sexes in carrying forward such an institution. There are cases where females are well qualified, and feel willing to take the place occupied by the Principal; but such cases are rare.

One thing more should be noticed, to the credit of the rising State where this Institution is located. A female association has been formed, embracing a large portion of the ladies of standing and wealth, the design of which, is, to educate, gratuitously, at this, and other similar, institutions, such females as are anxious to obtain a good education, and are destitute of the means. If this enterprise is continued, with the same energy and perseverance as has been manifested during the last few years, that State will take the lead of her sister States in well-educated women; and if the views in the preceding pages are correct, this will give her precedence in every intellectual and moral advantage.

Many, who are not aware of the great economy secured by a proper division of labor, will not understand how so extensive a course can be properly completed in three years. But in this Institution, none are received under fourteen; and a certain amount of previous acquisition is required, in order to admission, as is done in our colleges. This secures a diminution of classes, so that but few studies are pursued at one time; while the number of well-qualified teachers is so adequate, that full time is afforded for all needful instruction and illustration. Where teachers have so many classes, that they merely have time to find out what the pupils learn from books, without any aid from their teachers, the acquisitions of the pupils are vague and imperfect, and soon pass away; so that an immense amount of expense, time, and labor, is spent in acquiring or recalling what is lost about as fast as it is gained.

Parents are little aware of the immense waste incurred by the present mode of conducting female education. In the wealthy classes, young girls are sent to school, as a matter of course, year after year, confined, for six hours a day, to the schoolhouse, and required to add some time out of school to learning their lessons. Thus, during the most critical period of life, they are for a long time immured in a room, filled with an atmosphere vitiated by many breaths, and are constantly kept under some sort of responsibility in regard to mental effort. Their studies are pursued at random, often changed with changing schools, while book after book (heavily taxing the parent's purse) is conned awhile, and then supplanted by others. Teachers have usually so many pupils, and such a variety of branches to teach, that little time can be afforded to each pupil; while scholars, at this thoughtless period of life, feeling sure of going to school as long as they please, manifest little interest in their pursuits.

The writer believes that the actual amount of education, permanently secured by most young ladies from the age of ten to fourteen, could all be acquired in one year, at the Institution described, by a young lady at the age of fifteen or sixteen.

Instead of such a course as the common one, if mothers would keep their daughters as their domestic assistants, until they are fourteen, requiring them to study one lesson, and go out, once a day, to recite it to a teacher, it would abundantly prepare them, after their constitutions are firmly established, to enter such an institution, where, in three years, they could secure more, than almost any young lady in the Country now gains by giving the whole of her youth to school pursuits.

In the early years of female life, reading, writing, needlework, drawing, and music, should alternate with domestic duties; and one hour a day, devoted to some study, in addition to the above pursuits, would be all that is needful to prepare them for a thorough education after growth is attained, and the constitution established. This is the time when young women would feel the value of an education, and pursue their studies with that maturity of mind, and vividness of interest, which would double the perpetuity and value of all their acquisitions.

The great difficulty, which opposes such a plan, is, the want of institutions that would enable a young lady to complete, in three years, the liberal course of study, here described. But if American mothers become convinced of the importance of such advantages for their daughters, and will use their influence appropriately and efficiently, they will certainly be furnished. There are other men of liberality and wealth, besides the individual referred to, who can be made to feel that a fortune, expended in securing an appropriate education to American women, is as wisely bestowed, as in founding colleges for the other sex, who are already so abundantly supplied. We ought to have institutions, similar to the one described, in every part of this Nation; and funds should be provided, for educating young women destitute of means: and if American women think and feel, that, by such a method, their own trials will be lightened, and their daughters will secure a healthful constitution and a thorough domestic and intellectual education, the appropriate expression of their wishes will secure the necessary funds. The tide of charity, which has been so long flowing from the female hand to provide a liberal education for young men, will flow back with abundant remuneration.

The last method suggested for lessening the evils peculiar to American women, is, a decided effort to oppose the aristocratic feeling, that labor is degrading; and to bring about the impression, that it is refined and lady-like to engage in domestic pursuits. In past ages, and in aristocratic countries, leisure and indolence and frivolous pursuits have been deemed lady-like and refined, because those classes, which were most refined, countenanced such an opinion. But whenever ladies of refinement, as a general custom, patronise domestic pursuits, then these employments will be deemed lady-like. It may be urged, however, that it is impossible for a woman who cooks, washes, and sweeps, to appear in the dress, or acquire the habits and manners, of a lady; that the drudgery of the kitchen is dirty work, and that no one can appear delicate and refined, while engaged in it. Now all this depends on circumstances. If a woman has a house, destitute of neat and convenient facilities; if she has no habits of order and system; if she is remiss and careless in person and dress;—then all this may be true. But, if a woman will make some sacrifices of costly ornaments in her parlor, in order to make her kitchen neat and tasteful; if she will sacrifice expensive dishes, in order to secure such conveniences for labor as protect from exposures; if she will take pains to have the dresses, in which she works, made of suitable materials, and in good taste; if she will rise early, and systematize and oversee the work of her family, so as to have it done thoroughly, neatly, and in the early part of the day; she will find no necessity for any such apprehensions. It is because such work has generally been done by vulgar people, and in a vulgar way, that we have such associations; and when ladies manage such things, as ladies should, then such associations will be removed. There are pursuits, deemed very refined and genteel, which involve quite as much exposure as kitchen employments. For example, to draw a large landscape, in colored crayons, would be deemed very lady-like; but the writer can testify, from sad experience, that no cooking, washing, sweeping, or any other domestic duty, ever left such deplorable traces on hands, face, and dress, as this same lady-like pursuit. Such things depend entirely on custom and associations; and every American woman, who values the institutions of her Country, and wishes to lend her influence in extending and perpetuating such blessings, may feel that she is doing this, whenever, by her example and influence, she destroys the aristocratic association, which would render domestic labor degrading.


[C] The writer omits the name of this Institution, lest an inference should be drawn which would be unjust to other institutions. There are others equally worthy of notice, and the writer selects this only because her attention was especially directed to it as being in a new State, and endowed wholly by an individual.

[D] From two Greek words,—[Greek: kalos], kalos, beauty, and [Greek: sthenos], sthenos, strength, being the union of both. The writer is now preparing for the press, an improved system, of her own invention, which, in some of its parts, has been successfully introduced into several female seminaries, with advantage. This plan combines singing with a great variety of amusing and graceful evolutions, designed to promote both health and easy manners.

[E] This work, which has gone through numerous editions, and been received by the public with great favour, forms No. lxxxv. of the "Family Library," and No. lvii. of the "School District Library," issued by the publishers of this volume. It is abundantly illustrated by engravings, and has been extensively introduced as a school text-book.



The greatest impediment to making Domestic Economy a branch of study, is, the fact, that neither parents nor teachers realize the importance, or the practicability of constituting it a regular part of school education.

It is with reference to this, that the first aim of the writer will be, to point out some of the reasons for introducing Domestic Economy as a branch of female education, to be studied at school.

The first reason, is, that there is no period, in a young lady's life, when she will not find such knowledge useful to herself and to others. The state of domestic service, in this Country, is so precarious, that there is scarcely a family, in the free States, of whom it can be affirmed, that neither sickness, discontent, nor love of change, will deprive them of all their domestics, so that every female member of the family will be required to lend some aid, in providing food and the conveniences of living; and the better she is qualified to render it, the happier she will be, and the more she will contribute to the enjoyment of others.

A second reason, is, that every young lady, at the close of her schooldays, and even before they are closed, is liable to be placed in a situation, in which she will need to do, herself, or to teach others to do, all the various processes and duties detailed in this work. That this may be more fully realized, the writer will detail some instances, which have come under her own observation.

The eldest daughter of a family returned from school, on a visit, at sixteen years of age. Before her vacation had closed, her mother was laid in the grave; and such were her father's circumstances, that she was obliged to assume the cares and duties of her lost parent. The care of an infant, the management of young children, the superintendence of domestics, the charge of family expenses, the responsibility of entertaining company, and the many other cares of the family state, all at once came upon this young and inexperienced schoolgirl.

Again; a young lady went to reside with a married sister, in a distant State. While on this visit, the elder sister died, and there was no one but this young lady to fill the vacant place, and assume all the cares of the nursery, parlor, and kitchen.

Again; a pupil of the writer, at the end of her schooldays, married, and removed to the West. She was an entire novice in all domestic matters; an utter stranger in the place to which she removed. In a year, she became a mother, and her health failed; while, for most of the time, she had no domestics, at all, or only Irish or Germans, who scarcely knew even the names, or the uses, of many cooking utensils. She was treated with politeness by her neighbors, and wished to return their civilities; but how could this young and delicate creature, who had spent all her life at school, or in visiting and amusement, take care of her infant, attend to her cooking, washing, ironing, and baking, the concerns of her parlor, chambers, kitchen, and cellar, and yet visit and receive company? If there is any thing that would make a kindly heart ache, with sorrow and sympathy, it would be to see so young, so amiable, so helpless a martyr to the mistaken system of female education now prevalent. "I have the kindest of husbands," said the young wife, after her narrative of sufferings, "and I never regretted my marriage; but, since this babe was born, I have never had a single waking hour of freedom from anxiety and care. O! how little young girls know what is before them, when they enter married life!" Let the mother or teacher, whose eye may rest on these lines, ask herself, if there is no cause for fear that the young objects of her care may be thrown into similar emergencies, where they may need a kind of preparation, which as yet has been withheld.

Another reason for introducing such a subject, as a distinct branch of school education, is, that, as a general fact, young ladies will not be taught these things in any other way. In reply to the thousand-times-repeated remark, that girls must be taught their domestic duties by their mothers, at home, it may be inquired, in the first place, What proportion of mothers are qualified to teach a proper and complete system of Domestic Economy? When this is answered, it may be asked, What proportion of those who are qualified, have that sense of the importance of such instructions, and that energy and perseverance which would enable them actually to teach their daughters, in all the branches of Domestic Economy presented in this work?

It may then be asked, How many mothers actually do give their daughters instruction in the various branches of Domestic Economy? Is it not the case, that, owing to ill health, deficiency of domestics, and multiplied cares and perplexities, a large portion of the most intelligent mothers, and those, too, who most realize the importance of this instruction, actually cannot find the time, and have not the energy, necessary to properly perform the duty? They are taxed to the full amount of both their mental and physical energies, and cannot attempt any thing more. Almost every woman knows, that it is easier to do the work, herself, than it is to teach an awkward and careless novice; and the great majority of women, in this Country, are obliged to do almost every thing in the shortest and easiest way. This is one reason why the daughters of very energetic and accomplished housekeepers are often the most deficient in these respects; while the daughters of ignorant or inefficient mothers, driven to the exercise of their own energies, often become the most systematic and expert.

It may be objected, that such things cannot be taught by books. This position may fairly be questioned. Do not young ladies learn, from books, how to make hydrogen and oxygen? Do they not have pictures of furnaces, alembics, and the various utensils employed in cooking the chemical agents? Do they not study the various processes of mechanics, and learn to understand and to do many as difficult operations, as any that belong to housekeeping? All these things are explained, studied, and recited in classes, when every one knows that little practical use can ever be made of this knowledge. Why, then, should not that science and art, which a woman is to practise during her whole life, be studied and recited?

It may be urged, that, even if it is studied, it will soon be forgotten. And so will much of every thing studied at school. But why should that knowledge, most needful for daily comfort, most liable to be in demand, be the only study omitted, because it may be forgotten?

It may also be objected, that young ladies can get such books, and attend to them out of school. And so they can get books on Chemistry and Philosophy, and study them out of school; but will they do it? And why ought we not to make sure of the most necessary knowledge, and let the less needful be omitted? If young ladies study such a work as this, in school, they will remember a great part of it; and, when they forget, in any emergency, they will know where to resort for instruction. But if such books are not put into schools, probably not one in twenty will see or hear of them, especially in those retired places where they are most needed. And is it at all probable, that a branch, which is so lightly esteemed as to be deemed unworthy a place in the list of female studies, will be sought for and learned by young girls, who so seldom look into works of solid instruction after they leave school? So deeply is the writer impressed with the importance of this, as a branch of female education, at school, that she would deem it far safer and wiser to omit any other, rather than this.

Another reason, for introducing such a branch of study into female schools, is, the influence it would exert, in leading young ladies more correctly to estimate the importance and dignity of domestic knowledge. It is now often the case, that young ladies rather pride themselves on their ignorance of such subjects; and seem to imagine that it is vulgar and ungenteel to know how to work. This is one of the relics of an aristocratic state of society, which is fast passing away. Here, the tendency of every thing is to the equalisation of labor, so that all classes are feeling, more and more, that indolence is disreputable. And there are many mothers, among the best educated and most wealthy classes, who are bringing up their daughters, not only to know how to do, but actually to do, all kinds of domestic work. The writer knows young ladies, who are daughters of men of wealth and standing, and who are among the most accomplished in their sphere, who have for months been sent to work with a mantuamaker, to acquire a practical knowledge of her occupation, and who have at home learned to perform all kinds of domestic labor.

And let the young women of this Nation find, that Domestic Economy is placed, in schools, on equal or superior ground to Chemistry, Philosophy, and Mathematics, and they will blush to be found ignorant of its first principles, as much as they will to hesitate respecting the laws of gravity, or the composition of the atmosphere. But, as matters are now conducted, many young ladies know how to make oxygen and hydrogen, and to discuss questions of Philosophy or Political Economy, far better than they know how to make a bed and sweep a room properly; and they can "construct a diagram" in Geometry, with far more skill than they can make the simplest article of female dress.

It may be urged, that the plan suggested by the writer, in the previous pages, would make such a book as this needless; for young ladies would learn all these things at home, before they go to school. But it must be remembered, that the plan suggested cannot fully be carried into effect, till such endowed institutions, as the one described, are universally furnished. This probably will not be done, till at least one generation of young women are educated. It is only on the supposition that a young lady can, at fourteen or fifteen years of age, enter such an institution, and continue there three years, that it would be easy to induce her to remain, during all the previous period, at home, in the practice of Domestic Economy, and the limited course of study pointed out. In the present imperfect, desultory, varying, mode of female education, where studies are begun, changed, partially learned, and forgotten, it requires nearly all the years of a woman's youth, to acquire the intellectual education now demanded. While this state of things continues, the only remedy is, to introduce Domestic Economy as a study at school.

It is hoped that these considerations will have weight, not only with parents and teachers, but with young ladies themselves, and that all will unite their influence to introduce this, as a popular and universal branch of education, into every female school.



There is no point, where a woman is more liable to suffer from a want of knowledge and experience, than in reference to the health of a family committed to her care. Many a young lady, who never had any charge of the sick; who never took any care of an infant; who never obtained information on these subjects from books, or from the experience of others; in short, with little or no preparation; has found herself the principal attendant in dangerous sickness, the chief nurse of a feeble infant, and the responsible guardian of the health of a whole family.

The care, the fear, the perplexity, of a woman, suddenly called to these unwonted duties, none can realize, till they themselves feel it, or till they see some young and anxious novice first attempting to meet such responsibilities. To a woman of age and experience, these duties often involve a measure of trial and difficulty, at times deemed almost insupportable; how hard, then, must they press on the heart of the young and inexperienced!

There is no really efficacious mode of preparing a woman to take a rational care of the health of a family, except by communicating that knowledge, in regard to the construction of the body, and the laws of health, which is the basis of the medical profession. Not that a woman should undertake the minute and extensive investigation requisite for a physician; but she should gain a general knowledge of first principles, as a guide to her judgement in emergencies when she can rely on no other aid. Therefore, before attempting to give any specific directions on the subject of this chapter, a short sketch of the construction of the human frame will be given, with a notice of some of the general principles, on which specific rules in regard to health are based. This description will be arranged under the general heads of BONES, MUSCLES, NERVES, BLOOD-VESSELS, ORGANS OF DIGESTION AND RESPIRATION, and THE SKIN.


The bones are the most solid parts of the body. They are designed to protect and sustain it, and also to secure voluntary motion. They are about two hundred and fifty in number, (there being sometimes a few more or less,) and are fastened together by cartilage, or gristle, a substance like the bones, but softer, and more elastic.

In order to convey a more clear and correct idea of the form, relative position, and connection, of the bones constituting the human framework, the engraving on page 70, (Fig. 1,) is given.

By the preceding engraving, it will be seen, that the cranium, or skull, consists of several distinct pieces, which are united by sutures, (or seams,) as represented by the zigzag lines; a, being the frontal bone; b, the parietal bone; c, the temporal bone; and d, the place of the occipital bone, which forms the back part of the head, and therefore is not seen in the engraving. The nasal bones, or bones of the nose, are shown at e; f, is the cheek bone; g, the upper, and h, the lower, jaw bones; i, i, the spinal column, or back bone, consisting of numerous small bones, called vertebrae; j, j, the seven true ribs, which are fastened to the spine, behind, and by the cartilages, k, k, to the sternum, or breast bone, l, in front; m, m, are the first three false ribs, which are so called, because they are not united directly to the breast bone, but by cartilages to the seventh true rib; n, n, are the lower two false, which are also called floating, ribs, because they are not connected with the breast bone, nor the other ribs, in front; o, o, p, q, are the bones of the pelvis, which is the foundation on which the spine rests; r, r, are the collar bones; s, s, the shoulder blades; t, t, the bones of the upper arm; u, u, the elbow joints, where the bones of the upper arm and fore arm are united in such a way that they can move like a hinge; v w, v w, are the bones of the fore arm; x, x, those of the wrists; y, y, those of the fingers; z, z, are the round heads of the thigh bones, where they are inserted into the sockets of the bones of the pelvis, giving motion in every direction, and forming the hip joint; a b, a b, are the thigh bones; c, c, the knee joints; d e, d e, the leg bones; f, f, the ankle joints; g, g, the bones of the foot.

The bones are composed of two substances,—one animal, and the other mineral. The animal part is a very fine network, called the cellular membrane. In this, are deposited the harder mineral substances, which are composed principally of carbonate and phosphate of lime. In very early life, the bones consist chiefly of the animal part, and are then soft and pliant. As the child advances in age, the bones grow harder, by the gradual deposition of the phosphate of lime, which is supplied by the food, and carried to the bones by the blood. In old age, the hardest material preponderates; making the bones more brittle than in earlier life.

As we shall soon have occasion to refer, particularly, to the spinal, or vertebral column, and the derangement to which it is liable, we give, on page 72, representations of the different classes of vertebrae; viz. the cervical, (from the Latin, cervix, the neck,) the dorsal, (from dorsum, the back,) and lumbar, (from lumbus, the loins.)

Fig. 2, represents one of the cervical vertebrae. Seven of these, placed one above another, constitute that part of the spine which is in the neck.

Fig. 3, is one of the dorsal vertebrae, twelve of which, form the central part of the spine.

Fig. 4, represents one of the lumbar vertebrae, (five in number,) which are immediately above the sacrum. These vertebrae are so fastened, that the spine can bend, in any direction; and the muscles of the trunk are used in holding it erect, or in varying its movements.

By the drawings here presented, it will be seen, that the vertebrae of the neck, back, and loins, differ somewhat in size and shape, although they all possess the same constituent parts; thus, A, in each, represents the body of the vertebrae; B, the articulating processes, by which each is joined to its fellow, above and below it; C, the spinous process, or that part of the vertebrae, which forms the ridge to be felt, on pressure, the whole length of the centre of the back. The back bone receives its name, spine, or spinal column, from these spinous processes.

It is the universal law of the human frame, that exercise is indispensable to the health of the several parts. Thus, if a blood-vessel be tied up, so as not to be used, it shrinks, and becomes a useless string; if a muscle be condemned to inaction, it shrinks in size, and diminishes in power; and thus it is also with the bones. Inactivity produces softness, debility, and unfitness for the functions they are designed to perform. This is one of the causes of the curvature of the spine, that common and pernicious defect in the females of America. From inactivity, the bones of the spine become soft and yielding; and then, if the person is often placed, for a length of time, in positions that throw the weight of the body unequally on certain portions of the spine, they yield to this frequent compression, and a distortion ensues. The positions taken by young persons, when learning to write or draw, or to play on the guitar, harp, or piano, and the position of the body when sleeping on one side, on high pillows, all tend to produce this effect, by throwing the weight of the body unequally, and for a length of time, on particular parts of the spine.


The muscles are the chief organs of motion, and consist of collections of fine fibres or strings, united in casings of membrane or thin skin. They possess an elastic power, like India rubber, which enables them to extend and contract. The red meat in animals consists of muscles. Every muscle has connected with it nerves, veins, and arteries; and those designed to move the bones, are fastened to them by tendons at their extremities. The muscles are laid over each other, and are separated by means of membranes and layers of fat, which enable them to move easily, without interfering with each other.

The figure on page 74, represents the muscles of the arm, as they appear when the skin and fat are removed. The muscles a and b are attached, at their upper ends, to the bone of the arm, and by their lower ends to the upper part of the fore arm, near the elbow joint. When the fibres of these muscles contract, the middle part of them grows larger, and the arm is bent at the elbow. The muscle c, is, in like manner, fastened, by its upper end, to the shoulder blade and the upper part of the arm, and by its lower end to one of the bones of the fore arm, near the elbow. When the arm is bent, and we wish to straighten it, it is done by contracting this muscle. The muscles d, d, are fastened at one end near the elbow joint, and at the other near the ends of the fingers; and on the back of the hand are reduced in size, appearing like strong cords. These cords are called tendons. They are employed in straightening the fingers, when the hand is shut. These tendons are confined by the ligament or band, e, which binds them down, around the wrist, and thus enables them to act more efficiently, and secures beauty of form to the limb. The muscles at f, are those which enable us to turn the hand and arm outward. Every different motion of the arm has one muscle to produce it, and another to restore the limb to its natural position. Those muscles which bend the body are called flexors; those which straighten it, extensors. When the arm is thrown up, one set of muscles is used; to pull it down, another set: when it is thrown forward, a still different set is used; when it is thrown back, another, different from the former; when the arm turns in its socket, still another set is used; and thus every different motion of the body is made by a different set of muscles. All these muscles are compactly and skilfully arranged, so as to work with perfect ease. Among them, run the arteries, veins, and nerves, which supply each muscle with blood and nervous power, as will be hereafter described. The size and strength of the muscles depend greatly on their frequent exercise. If left inactive, they grow thin and weak, instead of giving the plumpness to the figure, designed by Nature. The delicate and feeble appearance of many American women, is chiefly owing to the little use they make of their muscles. Many a pale, puny, shad-shaped girl, would have become a plump, rosy, well-formed person, if half the exercise, afforded to her brothers in the open air, had been secured to her, during childhood and youth.


The nerves are the organs of sensation. They enable us to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell; and also combine with the bones and muscles in producing motion.

The first engraving, on p. 77, (Fig. 6,) is a vertical section of the skull, and of the spinal column, or back bone, which supports the head, and through which runs the spinal cord, whence most of the nerves originate. It is a side view, and represents the head and spine, as they would appear, if they were cut through the middle, from front to back. Fig. 7, exhibits them as they would appear, if viewed from behind. In Fig. 6, a, represents the cerebrum, or great brain; b, the cerebellum, or little brain, which is situated directly under the great brain, at the back and lower part of the head; c, d, e, is the spinal marrow, which is connected with the brain at c, and runs through the whole length of the spinal column. This column consists, as has already been stated, of a large number of small bones, f, f, called vertebrae, laid one above another, and fastened together by cartilage, or gristle, g, between them.

Between each two vertebrae, or spinal bones, there issues from the spine, on each side, a pair of nerves. The lower broad part of the spine, (see p, Fig. 1, p. 70, and Fig. 7, p. 77,) is called the sacrum; in this, are eight holes, through which the lower pairs of nerves pass off.

The nerves of the head and lungs run directly from the brain; those of all other parts of the body proceed from the spine, passing out in the manner already mentioned.

The nerves which thus proceed from the spine, branch out, like the limbs and twigs of a tree, till they extend over the whole body; and, so minutely are they divided and arranged, that a point, destitute of a nerve, cannot be found on the skin.

Some idea of the ramifications of the nerves, may be obtained by reference to the following engraving, (Fig. 8.) In this, A, A, represents the cerebrum, or great brain; B, B, the cerebellum, or little brain; (see also a, b, in Fig. 6;) C, C, represents the union of the fibres of the cerebrum; D, D, the union of the two sides of the cerebellum; E, E, E, the spinal marrow, which passes through the centre of the spine, (as seen at c, d, e, in Fig. 6;) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, branches of the nerves going to different parts of the body. As the nerves are the organs of sensation, all pain is an affection of some portion of the nerves. The health of the nerves depends very greatly on the exercise of the muscles, with which they are so intimately connected. This shows the reason why the headache, tic douloureux, diseases of the spine, and other nervous affections, are so common among American women. Their inactive habits, engender a debility of the nervous system, and these diseases follow, as the consequence.

It can be seen, by a reference to the side view, represented on page 77, (Fig. 6,) that the spine is naturally curved back and forward. When, from want of exercise, its bones are softened, and the muscles weakened, the spine acquires an improper curve, and the person becomes what is called crooked, having the neck projected forward, and, in some cases, having the back convex, where it should be concave. Probably one half of the American women have the head thus projecting forward, instead of carrying it in the natural, erect position, which is both graceful and dignified.

The curvature of the spine, spoken of in this work as so common, and as the cause of so many diseases among American women, is what is denominated the lateral curvature, and is much more dangerous than the other distortion. The indications of this evil, are, the projection of one shoulder blade more than the other, and, in bad cases, one shoulder being higher, and the hip on the opposite side more projecting, than the other. In this case, the spine, when viewed from behind, instead of running in a straight line, (as in Fig. 7 and 9,) is curved somewhat, as may be seen in Figures 10 and 11.

This effect is occasioned by the softness of the bones, induced by want of exercise, together with tight dressing, which tends to weaken the muscles that are thus thrown out of use. Improper and long continued positions in drawing, writing, and sleeping, which throw the weight of the body on one part of the spine, induce the same evil. This distortion is usually accompanied with some consequent disease of the nervous system, or some disarrangement of the internal organs.

By comparing Figures 9 and 11, the difference between a natural and distorted spine will be readily perceived. In Fig. 10, the curved line shows the course of the spine, occasioned by distortion; the perpendicular line, in this and Fig. 11, indicates the true direction of the spine; the horizontal lines show that one shoulder and hip are forced from their proper level.


The blood is the fluid into which our food is changed, and which is employed to minister nourishment to the whole body. For this purpose, it is carried to every part of the body, by the arteries; and, after it has given out its nourishment, returns to the heart, through the veins.

The subjoined engraving, (Fig. 12,) which presents a rude outline of the vascular system, will more clearly illustrate this operation, as we shall presently show.

Before entering the heart, the blood receives a fresh supply of nourishment, by a duct which leads from the stomach. The arteries have their origin from the heart, in a great trunk, called the aorta, which is the parent of all the arteries, as the spinal marrow is the parent of the nerves which it sends out. When the arteries have branched out into myriads of minute vessels, the blood which is in them passes into as minute veins; and these run into each other, like the rills and branches of a river, until they are all united in two great veins, which run into the heart. One of these large receivers, called the vena cava superior, or upper vena cava, brings back the blood from the arms and head, the other, the vena cava inferior, or lower vena cava, brings back the blood from the body and lower limbs.

In the preceding figure, H, is the heart, which is divided into four compartments; two, called auricles, used for receiving the blood, and two, called ventricles, used for sending out the blood. A, is the aorta, or great artery, which sends its branches to every part of the body. In the upper part, at a, a, a, are the main branches of the aorta, which go to the head and arms. Below, at a, a, are the branches which go to the lower limbs. The branches which set off at X, X, are those by which the intestines are supplied by vessels from the aorta. Every muscle in the whole body, all the organs of the body, and the skin, are supplied by branches sent off from this great artery. When the blood is thus dispersed through any organ, in minute vessels, it is received, at their terminations, by numerous minute veins, which gradually unite, forming larger branches, till they all meet in either the upper or lower vena cava, which returns the blood to the heart. V I, is the vena cava inferior, which receives the blood from the veins of the lower parts of the body, as seen at v, v. The blood, sent into the lower limbs from the aorta, is received by minute veins, which finally unite at v, v, and thus it is emptied through the lower vena cava into the heart: o, o, represent the points of entrance of those tributaries of the vena cava, which receive that blood from the intestines, which is sent out by the aorta at X, X. In the upper part, V S, is the vena cava superior, which receives the blood from the head and arms; v, v, v, are the tributaries of the upper vena cava, which bring the blood back from the head and arms; d, d, represents the course of the thoracic duct, a delicate tube by which the chyle is carried into the blood, as mentioned on page 89; t, shows the place where this duct empties into a branch of the vena cava.

It thus appears, that wherever a branch of the aorta goes to carry blood, there will be found a tributary of the upper or lower vena cava, to bring it back.

The succeeding engravings, will enable the reader to form a more definite idea of this important function of the system,—the circulation of the blood. The heart, in man, and in all warm-blooded animals, is double, having two auricles and two ventricles. In animals with cold blood, (as fishes,) the heart is single, having but one auricle and one ventricle. Fig. 13, represents the double heart as it appears when the two sides are separated, and also the great blood-vessels; those on the left of the figure being on the right side of the body, and vice versa. The direction of the blood is represented by the arrows. A, represents the lower vena cava, returning the blood from the lower parts of the body, and L, the upper vena cava, returning the blood from the head and arms. B, is the right sinus, or auricle, into which the returned blood is poured. From this cavity of the heart, the blood is carried into the right ventricle, C; and from this ventricle, the pulmonary arteries, D, convey into the lungs the blood which is returned from the body. These five vessels, A, B, C, D, and L, belong to the right side of the heart, and contain the venous or dark-colored blood, which has been through the circulation, and is now unfit for the uses of the system, till it has passed through the lungs.

When the blood reaches the lungs, and is exposed to the action of the air which we breathe, it throws off its impurities, becomes bright in color, and is then called arterial blood. It then returns to the left side of the heart, (on the right of the engraving,) by the pulmonary veins E, E, (also seen at m, m, Fig. 15,) into the left auricle F, whence it is forced into the ventricle, G. From the left ventricle, proceeds the aorta, H, H, which is the great artery of the body, and conveys the blood to every part of the system. I, J, K, are branches of the aorta, going to the head and arms.

Fig. 14, represents the heart, with its two sides united as in nature; and will be understood from the description of Fig. 13.

On the opposite page, Fig. 15, represents the heart, with the great blood-vessels, on a still larger scale; a, being the left ventricle; b, the right ventricle; c, e, f, the aorta, or great artery, rising out of the left ventricle; g, h, i, the branches of the aorta, going to the head and arms; k, l, l, the pulmonary artery, and its branches; m, m, veins of the lungs, which bring the blood back from the lungs to the heart; n, right auricle; o, vena cava inferior; p, veins returning blood from the liver and bowels; q, the vena cava superior; r, the left auricle; s, the left coronary artery, which distributes the blood exclusively to the substance of the heart.


Digestion and respiration are the processes, by which the food is converted into blood for the nourishment of the body. The engraving on the next page (Fig. 16) shows the organs by which these operations are performed.

In the lower part of the engraving, is the stomach, marked S, which receives the food through the gullet, marked G. The latter, though in the engraving it is cut off at G, in reality continues upwards to the throat. The stomach is a bag composed of muscles, nerves, and blood-vessels, united by a material similar to that which forms the skin. As soon as food enters the stomach, its nerves are excited to perform their proper function of stimulating the muscles. A muscular (called the peristaltic) motion immediately commences, by which the stomach propels its contents around the whole of its circumference, once in every three minutes.

This movement of the muscles attracts the blood from other parts of the system; for the blood always hastens to administer its supplies to any organ which is called to work. The blood-vessels of the stomach are soon distended with blood, from which the gastric juice is secreted by minute vessels in the coat of the stomach. This mixes with the food, and reduces it to a soft pulpy mass, called chyme. It then passes through the lower end of the stomach, into the intestines, which are folded up in the abdomen, and the upper portion, only, of which, is shown in the engraving, at A, A. The organ marked L, L, is the liver, which, as the blood passes through its many vessels, secretes a substance called bile, which accumulates in the gall-bladder, marked B. After the food passes out of the stomach, it receives from the liver a portion of bile, and from the pancreas the pancreatic juice. The pancreas does not appear in this drawing, being concealed behind the stomach. These two liquids separate the substance which has passed from the stomach, into two different portions. One is a light liquid, very much like cream in appearance, and called chyle, of which the blood is formed; the other is a more solid substance, which contains the refuse and useless matter, with a smaller portion of nourishment; and this, after being further separated from the nourishing matter which it contains, is thrown out of the body. There are multitudes of small vessels, called lacteals, which, as these two mixed substances pass through the long and winding folds of the intestines in the abdomen, absorb the chyle, and convey it to the thoracic duct, which runs up close by the spine, and carries the chyle, thus received, into a branch of the vena cava superior, at t, whence it is mingled with the blood going into the heart. In this engraving, the lacteals and thoracic duct are not shown; but their position is indicated by the dotted lines, marked X, Y; X, being the lacteals, and Y, the thoracic duct.

In the upper half of the engraving, H represents the heart; a, the commencement of the aorta; v c s, the termination of the vena cava superior. On each side of the heart, are the lungs; l l, being the left lobe, and r l, the right lobe. They are composed of a network of air-vessels, blood-vessels, and nerves. W, represents the trachea, or windpipe, through which, the air we breathe is conducted to the lungs. It branches out into myriads of minute vessels, which are thus filled with air every time we breathe. From the heart, run the pulmonary arteries, marked p a. These enter the lungs and spread out along-side of the branches of the air-vessels, so that every air-vessel has a small artery running side by side with it. When the two vena cavas empty the blood into the heart, the latter contracts, and sends this blood, through these pulmonary arteries, into the lungs.

As the air and blood meander, side by side, through the lungs, the superabundant carbon and hydrogen of the blood combine with the oxygen of the air, forming carbonic acid gas, and water, which are thrown out of the lungs at every expiration. This is the process by which the chyle is converted into arterial blood, and the venous blood purified of its excess of carbon and hydrogen. When the blood is thus prepared, in the lungs, for its duties, it is received by the small pulmonary veins, which gradually unite, and bring the blood back to the heart, through the large pulmonary veins, marked p v, p v.

On receiving this purified blood from the lungs, the heart contracts, and sends it out again, through the aorta, to all parts of the body. It then makes another circuit through every part, ministering to the wants of all, and is afterwards again brought back by the veins to receive the fresh chyle from the stomach, and to be purified by the lungs.

The throbbing of the heart is caused by its alternate expansion and contraction, as it receives and expels the blood. With one throb, the blood is sent from the right ventricle into the lungs, and from the left ventricle into the aorta.

Every time we inspire air, the process of purifying the blood is going on; and every time we expire the air, we throw out the redundant carbon and hydrogen, taken from a portion of the blood. If the waist is compressed by tight clothing, a portion of the lungs be compressed, so that the air-vessels cannot be filled. This prevents the perfect purification and preparation of the blood, so that a part returns back to the heart unfitted for its duties. This is a slow, but sure, method, by which the constitution of many a young lady is so undermined that she becomes an early victim to disease and to the decay of beauty and strength. The want of pure air is another cause, of the debility of the female constitution. When air has been rendered impure, by the breath of several persons, or by close confinement, it does not purify the blood properly. Sleeping in close chambers, and sitting in crowded and unventilated schoolrooms, are frequent causes of debility in the constitution of young persons.


The skin is the covering of the body, and has very important functions to perform. It is more abundantly supplied with nerves and blood-vessels than any other part; and there is no spot of the skin where the point of the finest needle would not pierce a nerve and blood-vessel. Indeed, it may be considered as composed chiefly of an interlacing of minute nerves and blood-vessels, so that it is supposed there is more nervous matter in the skin, than in all the rest of the body united, and that the greater portion of the blood flows through the skin.

The whole animal system is in a state of continual change and renovation. Food is constantly taken into the stomach, only a portion of which is fitted for the supply of the blood. All the rest has to be thrown out of the system, by various organs designed for this purpose. These organs are,—the lungs, which throw off a portion of useless matter when the blood is purified; the kidneys, which secrete liquids that pass into the bladder, and are thrown out from the body by that organ; and the intestines, which carry off the useless and more solid parts of the food, after the lacteals have drawn off the chyle. In addition to these organs, the skin has a similar duty to perform; and as it has so much larger a supply of blood, it is the chief organ in relieving the body of the useless and noxious parts of the materials which are taken for food.

Various experiments show, that not less than a pound and four ounces of waste matter is thrown off by the skin every twenty-four hours. This is according to the lowest calculation. Most of those, who have made experiments to ascertain the quantity, represent it as much greater; and all agree, that the skin throws off more redundant matter from the body, than the whole of the other organs together. In the ordinary state of the skin, even when there is no apparent perspiration, it is constantly exhaling waste matter, in a form which is called insensible perspiration, because it cannot be perceived by the senses. A very cool mirror, brought suddenly near to the skin, will be covered, in that part, with a moisture, which is this effluvium thus made visible. When heat or exercise excites the skin, this perspiration is increased, so as to be apparent to the senses. This shows the reason why it is so important frequently to wash the entire surface of the body. If this be neglected, the pores of the skin are closed by the waste matter thrown from the body, and by small particles of the thin scarfskin, so that it cannot properly perform its duties. In this way, the other organs are made to work harder, in order to perform the labor the skin would otherwise accomplish, and thus the lungs and bowels are often essentially weakened.

Another office of the skin, is, to regulate the heat of the body. The action of the internal organs is constantly generating heat; and the faster the blood circulates, the greater is the heat evolved. The perspiration of the skin serves to reduce and regulate this heat. For, whenever any liquid changes to a vapor, it absorbs heat from whatever is nearest to it. The faster the blood flows, the more perspiration is evolved. This bedews the skin with a liquid, which the heat of the body turns to a vapor; and in this change, that heat is absorbed. When a fever takes place, this perspiration ceases, and the body is afflicted with heat. Insensible perspiration is most abundant during sleep, after eating, and when friction is applied to the skin. Perspiration is performed by the terminations of minute arteries in every part of the skin, which exude the perspiration from the blood.

The skin also performs another function. It is provided with a set of small vessels, called absorbents, which are exceedingly abundant and minute. When particular substances are brought in contact with the skin, these absorbents take up some portions and carry them into the blood. It is owing to this, that opium, applied on the skin, acts in a manner similar to its operation when taken into the stomach. The power of absorption is increased by friction; and this is the reason that liniments are employed, with much rubbing, to bruises and sprains. The substance applied is thus introduced into the injured part, through the absorbents. This shows another reason for frequent washing of the skin, and for the frequent changes of the garment next the skin. Otherwise portions of the noxious matter, thrown out by the skin, are reabsorbed into the blood, and are slow but sure causes of a decay of the strength of the system.

The skin is also provided with small follicles, or bags, which are filled with an oily substance. This, by gradually exuding over the skin, prevents water from penetrating and injuring its texture.

The skin is also the organ of touch. This office is performed through the instrumentality of the nerves of feeling, which are spread over all parts of the skin.

This general outline of the construction of the human frame is given, with reference to the practical application of this knowledge in the various cases where a woman will be called upon to exercise her own unaided judgement. The application will be further pointed out, in the chapters on Food, Dress, Cleanliness, Care of the Sick, and Care of Infants.



The person who decides what shall be the food and drink of a family, and the modes of preparation, is the one who decides, to a greater or less extent, what shall be the health of that family. It is the opinion of most medical men, that intemperance in eating is the most fruitful of all causes of disease and death. If this be so, the woman who wisely adapts the food and cooking of her family to the laws of health, removes the greatest risk which threatens the lives of those under her care.

To exhibit this subject clearly, it will be needful to refer, more minutely, to the organization and operation of the digestive organs.

It is found, by experiment, that the supply of gastric juice, furnished from the blood, by the arteries of the stomach, is proportioned, not to the amount of food put into the stomach, but to the wants of the body; so that it is possible to put much more into the stomach than can be digested. To guide and regulate in this matter, the sensation called hunger is provided. In a healthy state of the body, as soon as the blood has lost its nutritive supplies, the craving of hunger is felt, and then, if the food is suitable, and is taken in the proper manner, this sensation ceases, as soon as the stomach has received enough to supply the wants of the system. But our benevolent Creator, in this, as in our other duties, has connected enjoyment with the operation needful to sustain our bodies. In addition to the allaying of hunger, the gratification of the palate is secured, by the immense variety of food, some articles of which are far more agreeable than others.

This arrangement of Providence, designed for our happiness, has become, either through ignorance, or want of self-control, the chief cause of the various diseases and sufferings, which afflict those classes who have the means of seeking a variety to gratify the palate. If mankind had only one article of food, and only water to drink, though they would have less enjoyment in eating, they would never be tempted to put any more into the stomach, than the calls of hunger required. But the customs of society, which present an incessant change, and a great variety of food, with those various condiments which stimulate appetite, lead almost every person very frequently to eat merely to gratify the palate, after the stomach has been abundantly supplied, so that hunger has ceased.

When too great a supply of food is put into the stomach, the gastric juice dissolves only that portion which the wants of the system demand. The remainder is ejected, in an unprepared state; the absorbents take portions of it into the system; and all the various functions of the body, which depend on the ministries of the blood, are thus gradually and imperceptibly injured. Very often, intemperance in eating produces immediate results, such as colic, headaches, pains of indigestion, and vertigo. But the more general result, is, a gradual undermining of all parts of the human frame; thus imperceptibly shortening life, by so weakening the constitution, that it is ready to yield, at every point, to any uncommon risk or exposure. Thousands and thousands are passing out of the world, from diseases occasioned by exposures, which a healthy constitution could meet without any danger. It is owing to these considerations, that it becomes the duty of every woman, who has the responsibility of providing food for a family, to avoid a variety of tempting dishes. It is a much safer rule, to have only one kind of healthy food, for each meal, than the abundant variety which is usually met at the tables of almost all classes in this Country. When there is to be any variety of dishes, they ought not to be successive, but so arranged, as to give the opportunity of selection. How often is it the case, that persons, by the appearance of a favorite article, are tempted to eat, merely to gratify the palate, when the stomach is already adequately supplied. All such intemperance wears on the constitution, and shortens life. It not unfrequently happens, that excess in eating produces a morbid appetite, which must constantly be denied.

But the organization of the digestive organs demands, not only that food be taken in proper quantities, but that it be taken at proper times.

It has before been shown, that, as soon as the food enters the stomach, the muscles are excited by the nerves, and the peristaltic motion commences. This is a powerful and constant exercise of the muscles of the stomach, which continues until the process of digestion is complete. During this time, the blood is withdrawn from other parts of the system, to supply the demands of the stomach, which is laboring hard with all its muscles. When this motion ceases, and the digested food has gradually passed out of the stomach, Nature requires that it should have a period of repose. And if another meal be eaten, immediately after one is digested, the stomach is set to work again, before it has had time to rest, and before a sufficient supply of gastric juice is provided.

The general rule, then, is, that three hours be given to the stomach for labor, and two for rest; and in obedience to this, five hours, at least, ought to elapse between every two regular meals. In cases where exercise produces a flow of perspiration, more food is needed to supply the loss; and strong laboring men may safely eat as often as they feel the want of food. So, young and healthy children, who gambol and exercise much, and whose bodies grow fast, may have a more frequent supply of food. But, as a general rule, meals should be five hours apart, and eating between meals avoided. There is nothing more unsafe, and wearing to the constitution, than a habit of eating at any time, merely to gratify the palate. When a tempting article is presented, every person should exercise sufficient self-denial, to wait till the proper time for eating arrives. Children, as well as grown persons, are often injured, by eating between their regular meals, thus weakening the stomach, by not affording it any time for rest.

In deciding as to quantity of food, there is one great difficulty to be met by a large portion of the community. It has been shown, that the exercise of every part of the body is indispensable to its health and perfection. The bones, the muscles, the nerves, the organs of digestion and respiration, and the skin, all demand exercise, in order properly to perform their functions. When the muscles of the body are called into action, all the blood-vessels entwined among them are frequently compressed. As the arteries are so contrived, that the blood cannot run back, this compression hastens it forward, through the veins, towards that organ. The heart is immediately put in quicker motion, to send it into the lungs; and they, also, are thus stimulated to more rapid action, which is the cause of that panting which active exercise always occasions. The blood thus courses with greater celerity through the body, and sooner loses its nourishing properties. Then the stomach issues its mandate of hunger, and a new supply of food must be furnished. Thus it appears, as a general rule, that the quantity of food, actually needed by the body, depends on the amount of muscular exercise taken. A laboring man, in the open fields, probably throws off from his skin ten times the amount of perspirable matter, which is evolved from the skin of a person of sedentary pursuits. In consequence of this, he demands a far greater amount of food and drink.

Those persons, who keep their bodies in a state of health, by sufficient exercise, can always be guided by the calls of hunger. They can eat when they feel hungry, and stop when hunger ceases; and then they will calculate exactly right. But the difficulty is, that a large part of the community, especially women, are so inactive in their habits, that they seldom feel the calls of hunger. They habitually eat, merely to gratify the palate. This produces such a state of the system, that they have lost the guide which Nature has provided. They are not called to eat, by hunger, nor admonished, by its cessation, when to stop. In consequence of this, such persons eat what pleases the palate, till they feel no more inclination for the article. It is probable, that three fourths of the women, in the wealthier circles, sit down to each meal without any feeling of hunger, and eat merely on account of the gratification thus afforded them. Such persons find their appetite to depend almost solely upon the kind of food on the table. This is not the case with those, who take the exercise which Nature demands. They approach their meals in such a state that almost any kind of food is acceptable.

The question then arises, how are persons, who have lost the guide which Nature has provided, to determine as to the proper amount of food they shall take?

The only rules they can adopt, are of a general nature; founded on the principles already developed. They should endeavor to proportion their food to the amount of the exercise they ordinarily take. If they take but little exercise, they should eat but little food in comparison with those who are much in the open air and take much exercise; and their food should be chiefly vegetable, and not animal. But how often is it seen, that a student, or a man who sits all day in an office, or a lady who spends the day in her parlor and chamber, will sit down to a loaded table, and, by continuing to partake of the tempting varieties, in the end load the stomach with a supply, which a stout farmer could scarcely digest.

But the health of a family depends, not merely on the quantity of food taken; but very much, also, on the quality. Some kinds of food are very pernicious in their nature, and some healthful articles are rendered very injurious by the mode of cooking. Persons who have a strong constitution, and take much exercise, may eat almost any thing, with apparent impunity; but young children, who are forming their constitutions, and persons who are delicate, and who take but little exercise, are very dependent for health, on a proper selection of food.

There are some general principles, which may aid in regulating the judgement on this subject.

It is found, that there are some kinds of food which afford nutriment to the blood, and do not produce any other effect on the system. There are other kinds, which are not only nourishing, but stimulating, so that they quicken the functions of the organs on which they operate. The condiments used in cookery, such as pepper, mustard, and spices, are of this nature. There are certain states of the system, when these stimulants are beneficial; but it is only in cases where there is some debility. Such cases can only be pointed out by medical men. But persons in perfect health, and especially young children, never receive any benefit from such kind of food; and just in proportion as condiments operate to quicken the labors of the internal organs, they tend to wear down their powers. A person who thus keeps the body working under an unnatural excitement, lives faster than Nature designed, and the sooner the constitution is worn out. A woman, therefore, should provide dishes for her family, which are free from these stimulating condiments, and as much as possible prevent their use. It is also found, by experience, that animal food is more stimulating than vegetable. This is the reason why, in cases of fevers, or inflammations, medical men forbid the use of meat and butter. Animal food supplies chyle much more abundantly than vegetable food does; and this chyle is more stimulating in its nature. Of course, a person who lives chiefly on animal food, is under a higher degree of stimulus than if his food was chiefly composed of vegetable substances. His blood will flow faster, and all the functions of his body will be quickened.

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