The Ladies Sanitary Association

In the Victorian era, there was a group called the Ladies Sanitary Association that operated (I believe largely in Manchester, which was a total pit of despair when it came to sanitation–correct me if I'm wrong) with governmental sanitary commissions and district boards, attempting to make the world a cleaner place with some goddamned women's toilets in it.

Anyway, after following Lee Jackson (@VictorianLondon) on Twitter, I discovered some hilariously named pamphlets published by their association between 1857 and 1900. I have no idea what any of them are about, or how accurate their medical knowledge is, but I'm guessing that they contain so much unrelated, unsolicited moralizing that even Nancy Grace would be like, "I'm tapping out". Keep in mind that it was very much a part of medical rhetoric during the Victorian era to include moral judgment along with your science. There was a lot of work being done about one's physiology being directly tied up with one's moral fiber, and that sin manifested itself physically. Since this is a huge part of my dissertation, I'm going to stop right here before you all start crying and begging me to shut up.

Anyway, the titles from the Ladies Sanitary Association are:

"THE SUSTAINING POWER OF LIVING BLOOD"    [Clearly for the health of vampire readers]
"NEVER DESPAIR"
"BABY WILLIE"
"THE BLACK HOLE IN OUR BEDROOMS"     [I have one of those. It's called a TV.]
"EVERY-DAY WONDERS OF BODILY LIFE. With Numerous Engravings."
"WHOSE FAULT IS IT?"  [Canada's. It's always Canada's fault.]
"HOW DO PEOPLE HASTEN DEATH?"     [By drinking bleach?]
"A MODEL WIFE"  [Not all they're cracked up to be, trust me]
"WASPS HAVE STINGS; or Beware Tight Lacing."    [They're talking about the fashionable wasp-waist, not about actual insects.]
"WHAT CAN THE WINDOW GARDENS DO FOR OUR HEALTH?"
"ON DRESS, ITS FETTERS, FRIVOLITIES, AND FOLLIES"
"SANITARY RHYMES"  ["Men get all shirty/ When the toilet is dirty/ You'll still be unmarried at thirty/ . . . unless you clean your goddamned toilet." Guys, I'm not a poet.]
"GYMNASTIC EXERCISES WITHOUT APPARATUS"   [It's called 'walking'.]
"DOMESTIC ECONOMY FOR ELDER GIRLS"
"WOMAN'S SECRET: OR HOW TO MAKE THE HOME HAPPY"

Anyway, the thing that cracked me up about these is how closely they related to the pamphlets left by uber-Christian Drusilla Clack (my favorite of all Victorian characters) in Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone. He wrote Clack as a satire on the hypocritical, overly-forceful lady Evangelicals who were known for passing out pamphlets with ridiculous sounding titles. Clack, realizing that nobody wants hers, breaks into her relatives' house and leaves them hidden all over the place to surprise people and hopefully get them to read the material. It just comes off as creepy. "Getting into bed, time to go to sleep . . . what's this under my pillow? A religious tract? Ohhhhh god, Drusilla's been lurking in my bedroom. WHEN WAS DRUSILLA IN MY BEDROOM?" Among her tracts include the titles:

"A WORD WITH YOU ON YOUR CAP-RIBBONS"
"THE SERPENT AT HOME"
"SATAN IN THE HAIR BRUSH"
"SATAN BEHIND THE LOOKING GLASS"
"SATAN UNDER THE TEA TABLE"
"SATAN OUT OF THE WINDOW".

Clearly these are meant to be ridiculous, but as you can see, they're not that far off from the advice given out by the Ladies Sanitary Association, and that wasn't even a religious institution. When I saw Lee Jackson listing off all the titles on Twitter, I wrote:

"@VictorianLondon I see you've been talking to Drusilla Clack again."
He responded with: "I sense FRIVOLITY in your reply. REPENT."

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5 Responses to The Ladies Sanitary Association

  1. telophase says:

    Found this LJ through Metafilter, and it looks fascinating!

    I read The Moonstone over twenty years ago, and Clack was my favorite part of the book. I still remember her running after a carriage, tossing pamphlets in the window!

    Like

  2. Oh my god, I completely forgot about that scene! Hope you like the blog–it’s been my pet project during my PhD because I can’t be calm and critical over absolutely everything I find during my research. I need a place to swear and laugh and make no analytical attempts at all.

    Like

  3. leia131 says:

    “SATAN BEHIND THE LOOKING GLASS”

    Well, Lewis Carroll was into religion…

    Like

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