After reading one little segment (a “one-night stand”) within Richard Shenkman and Kurt Reiger’s One-Night Stands with American History: Odd, Amusing, and Little-Known Incidents. I have just one thing to say:

I was born in the correct century.

Maybe not as far as chivalry and honor among men go, but definitely as far as prevailing attitudes regarding education of females.

Let me share one section of Shenkman and Reiger’s entertaining book. (See the two sources cited, below.)


     In the late 1900’s (yes, that’s exactly as it appears on page 170 of the book, but surely the correct reference is “in the late 1800’s“) many physicians regarded increased female education as a primary factor in a general decline of female health. A woman’s brain was simply not capable of assimilating a great deal of academic instruction. Education past high school, many specialists warned, was both physically and mentally destructive to the female. A study published in the Medical Record in 1892 illustrated the problem. Of 187 high school girls diagnosed, 137 constantly complained of headaches–clear evidence, concluded the report, of female inability to deal with the complexities of a rigorous academic program.

     The rising number of neurotic girls, young women afflicted with emotional or psychic disorders, was directly linked to increased female education, many doctors believed. The affliction was often characterized by fatigue, depression, feelings of inadequacy, and other physical and mental ailments. Young women, commented one physician, “whose mental powers are overtaxed before their brains are sufficiently developed,” were the most likely individuals to break down in nervous exhaustion.

     Even though a high percentage of specialists believed the female brain was simply not made to perform intellectually, a woman’s natural constitution did make her much less susceptible to many physical abnormalities that commonly afflicted men. Senility, loss of sight or hearing, and a host of other ailments were primarily associated with men. Doctors warned, however, that female efforts to imitate the male would destroy a woman’s inherited immunity to certain maladies. Already, doctors reported, male afflictions such as paralysis, insanity, alcoholism, and crime, which were caused by overwork or prolonged worry, were on a frightful upswing among the gentler sex.

     One-Night Stands with American History: Odd, Amusing, and Little-Known Incidents, by Richard Shenkman and Kurt Reiger, 2003, page 170, which cites the SOURCE:  John S. Haller Jr., and Robin M. Haller, The Physician and Sexuality in Victorian America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1974), p. 37

In closing might I recommend this book as a fun way to explore history, seek enlightenment, and (gasp) promote ongoing learning in the female. Might every member of the weaker, gentler sex find intellectual freedom in exploring history (among all subjects).

Victorian Lady Lawyers–on Sweet Americana Sweethearts FIRSTS in Female Education, 19th Century American West Education in the Old West Victorian Attitudes about Female Education, and Conflict in the Historical Romances we Love! Old Fashioned Notions about Marriageable Women Real Heroes and Heroines: Teachers BOOK REVIEW: Fair Play by Deanne Gist (heroine is a physician)

Copyright © 2015 Kristin Holt, LCSave