Corsets: Damaging Woman’s Intelligence (1880)

Corsets: Damaging Woman’s Intelligence (1880)

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“You must suffer to be beautiful.”

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence (1880). Photo of steampunk corset as a bodice, courtesy of Pinterest.

Steampunk corset as bodice, image: courtesy of Pinterest.

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Today, as corsets are worn as a fashion statement (generally as a blouse or bodice), and by those reviving Victorian fashion in the form of Steampunk, we tend to romanticize the corset. While some are snug-fitting, most of us have no clue what torture actually wearing one might produce.

I remember Mother combing my hair, wetting the ends, and rolling them in “pink, spongy rollers” and finding the process incredibly dull. At age 7 or 8, I wanted to go play. Mother’s response? “You must suffer to be beautiful.” She meant, of course, that some things women simply do for the benefit of appearing our best. I’m sure a lesson on patience resided in there somewhere.

Before we criticize Victorians for distorting their figures with whalebone corsets, let’s look at today’s torturous fashions.

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence (1880). Today's fashionable shoes. Tortuous to wear? Anyone would honestly answer that yes, these (at $312 retail) are at best, "two-hour shoes" because, really, is the female foot MEANT to arch like that? Apparently so, because shoes such as these are STYLISH, therefore women wear them. Image: Pinterest.

Today’s fashionable shoes. Tortuous to wear? Anyone would honestly answer that yes, these (at $312 retail) are at best, “two-hour shoes” because, really, is the female foot MEANT to arch like that? Apparently so, because shoes such as these are STYLISH, therefore women wear them. Image: courtesy of Pinterest.

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‘Nuf said.

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The following vintage newspaper article was published in Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas, on May 5, 1880. The article was syndicated from New York Times.

Dr. Richardson, of London, UK, was not the first nor the most outspoken against the dangers of the female corset.

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence (1880). "The corset deadens the mental capability of women." ~Dr. Richardson, London Physician, reported in Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas on May 5, 1880.

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence (1880). "Woman's Brain.--How it is Being Deadened and Destroyed by Fashion, with Dr. Richardson." Reported in Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas on May 5, 1880.

1) Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas on May 5, 1880. Part 1 of 5.

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence (1880) "The wooden corset 'chilled the ardor of the worldly-minded lover, who found no delight in the hard contact of wood..." Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas, May 5, 1880.

The wooden corset “chilled the ardor of the worldly-minded lover, who found no delight in the hard contact of wood.”…

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence (1880). "Woman's Brain.--How it is Being Deadened and Destroyed by Fashion, with Dr. Richardson." Reported in Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas on May 5, 1880. Part 2.

2) Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas on May 5, 1880. Part 2 of 5.

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence (1880). "The steel 'bones,' when first used, sometimes broke and pierced the women in vital parts of her person, but accidents of this kind have now become entirely obsolete." Kansas Farmer, 1880.

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence (1880). "Woman's Brain.--How it is Being Deadened and Destroyed by Fashion, with Dr. Richardson." Reported in Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas on May 5, 1880. Part 3.

3) Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas on May 5, 1880. Part 3 of 5.

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence (1880). "Modern Dress REformers, when they meet in convention rarely denounce the corset, and prefer to spend their engergies in attacking other articles of dress." Kansas Farmer, 1880.

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence (1880). "Woman's Brain.--How it is Being Deadened and Destroyed by Fashion, with Dr. Richardson." Reported in Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas on May 5, 1880. Part 4.

4) Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas on May 5, 1880. Part 4 of 5.

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence (1880). "Blood, when forbidden to circulate... must remain stagnant in the head and neck, thus producing congestion of the brain..." Kansas Farmer, 1880.

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence (1880). "Woman's Brain.--How it is Being Deadened and Destroyed by Fashion, with Dr. Richardson." Reported in Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas on May 5, 1880. Part 5.

5) Kansas Farmer of Topeka, Kansas on May 5, 1880. Part 5 of 5.

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence (1880). "It would be easy to show that no woman of brilliant intellect has worn corsets." Kansas Farmer, 1880.

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence (1880). "Where we find great mental power among women of whatever age we also find a total absence of corsets." Kansas Farmer, 1880.

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Updated March 2021
Copyright © 2017 Kristin Holt LC
Corsets: Damaging Woman’s Intelligence (1880)