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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/240

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234
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE HEALTH OF AMERICAN GIRLS
By NELLIE COMINS WHITAKER,

SALEM, MASS.

IN a paper, 'Alumna's Children' published in this magazine in May, 1904, the wish was expressed that some one might determine how far 'the way in which our girls go to school' governs their health in later life. This article is an attempt to consider that question. To any one familiar with all that has been written on the health of American women the subject must seem exhausted in one sense at least. As one reads the different monographs giving the cause of woman's physical weakness, each writer dwelling upon some one condition which is of itself entirely sufficient in his opinion to overthrow her health, one can but think of the man who committed five murders and was condemned to be put to death five times. Yet perhaps there is a word more to be said. A large proportion of the papers have discussed college students or adult women and almost every serious consideration of the health of the schoolgirl has been by a physician and necessarily from his point of view. A girl is more fully and more normally known to her mother and her teacher than to her doctor; they observe all the influences of her life as he can seldom do. For some reasons a wise mother would seem to be the one best fitted to speak on this matter; she should know more intimately than any one else the nature of her daughter. But the mother is limited to the conditions that have operated in her own family. The daughter's teacher learns the personality of the individual girl with a thoroughness second only to that of the mother and she knows just as intimately scores of other girls who have grown up under vastly different conditions, so that she is able to draw general conclusions as the mother of one or two can not do. I have not come upon any full discussion of the health of our girls from the teacher's point of view; it is this that I shall try to present.

The delicacy of our American women, noted abroad and admitted at home, is coming to be a tremendously vital question. The condition apparently is peculiar to no class and it appears in the second generation of other nationalities immigrating here. Lack of fecundity is only one of its indications. Does it not seem to you that most of the women whom you know confess that they are 'not very strong'? Nervous exhaustion and what the newspaper advertisements call 'womanly weaknesses' are the most common ailments, but there seems to be in women far more often than in men a lack of general vitality, an inability to resist disease.