Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 5.djvu/283

This page has been validated.




IN the construction of a piece of delicate mechanism there are two crises. Through some fault in its construction it may not permit movement in any part; and, each part being perfect, yet, through some defect in the arrangement, it may be capable of motion, but unable to fulfill the purpose for which it was designed. The first is an error of structure, the last an error of function.

If in the construction of the machine these sources of failure were avoided, it would perform its appointed office, until interrupted by an accident, or the natural wear of the parts entails both errors of structure and function.

At birth in the human animal sex is as distinct as at any after-period of life. Birth merely marks a stage of development, and not a change in design. Fœtal life to the perfection of the sexual design embraces simply a process of construction. This is the period in which the crises occur. By arrest of development, through imperfection in the structure of subsidiary parts, the perfection of function may never be reached. This would result from an error of structure. Structural perfection may be attained; but, through some defect in the mutual dependence of the parts, the perfection of sexual design may never be reached. This would result from functional error. The woman who has reached the stature and years which mark completion of structure, but in whom certain organs, vital to the attainment of sexual perfection, remain in an embryonic condition, or one who has reached anatomical perfection, but through defect of function may never gain that expression of sexual perfection called perfect ovulation, may be, in every other respect, physically a perfect woman, but has given a total defeat to the purpose for which she was designed. Both these errors are incidents in the genesis of woman. A fault of sexual function does not spring into existence the moment sexual life is to be crowned by ovulation. This imperfect function is a result, not a process. It antedates the commencement of ovarian life. It may be occult in the years of childhood, it may be antenatal, or even an error of ancestry. I believe it exists with the force of a law, that the conditions which result in ovarian irregularity are operative before and not during the establishment of that function. This office, like any other of the body, is exposed to the accidents of disease; but I think it may be proved that when irregularity of this function is the result of concurrent causes it is purely an accident—the exception which confirms the rule.

Young women become an object of parental or medical solicitude at a period when it will have but little influence on the perfection or