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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 12/December 1877/Literary Notices

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 12‎ | December 1877

LITERARY NOTICES.

The Question of Rest for Women during Menstruation. By Mary Putnam-Jacobi, M.D. The Boylston Prize Essay of Harvard University for 1816. Pp. 232. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1877. Price, $3.50.

It is fortunate for that group of physiological and social conditions involved in what is termed the "Woman Question" that it has been investigated in one of its most important aspects by an author not only specially prepared by education and training to do it justice, but one, so to speak, "to the manner born." The motive of Dr. Putnam-Jacobi's book seems to be to close the discussion opened by Dr. Clarke in his "Sex in Education," rather than to make a direct answer to his argument That it does not close this discussion, and furnish an authoritative canon to measure the value of the "question of rest for women," is the fault partly of the material gathered, and partly of the method of handling the facts. There is no difficulty in the way of doctors, male or female, collecting facts relating to women sick; but, when facts are needed concerning women well, the innate delicacy of the sex is in arms against the statistician. This is evident when we state that, of 1,000 circulars calling for information regarding the sexual history of women in different occupations, but 268 were answered.

The second section of the book deals with the facts obtained in reply to this circular. These facts relate to the condition of health of childhood, and of parents or sisters; the age of going to and leaving school; the number of hours of study, of exercise; the nature of the study or occupation; pain during menstruation; the need and length of rest during the continuance of that function, and the time when rest first became necessary. The strength is measured by exercise, and several other conditions naturally suggested by the questions are given. These facts are tabulated under groups distinguished by either the total absence of pain or its presence at various periods. The author makes ingenious but legitimate use of her figures, hampered by the small number of individuals subjected to analysis. The number is sufficient, however, to foreshadow what is probably the amount of disability entailed upon women by the need of rest. Too much stress appears to be laid upon the mere presence of pain and the incapacity to work resulting from it, as if this were the only source of disability. Women are sometimes obliged to take rest from the nervous depression and mental disturbance which attend the exercise of the ovarian function; but it is possible that it is the better way, when the interpretation of the causes of incapacity is left to the average individual, that some well-understood term like "pain" be adopted. The section on statistics being long and complicated, we must overlook the steps of the process, and confine ourselves to the results.

Out of the number of women interrogated (286 cases), 94, or 35 per cent., declare themselves always free from discomfort (pain?) during menstruation; by adding to this number 46, who only suffered slightly, or occasionally during that period, this proportion is raised to 59 per cent.; on the other hand, 128 women, or 41 per cent., suffered seriously from pain; in them menstruation was, therefore, a morbid process. "In all such cases," remarks the author, "rest during the existence of such pain is as desirable as during the occurrence of any other." Of the 162 painful cases, including all degrees of pain, 53 per cent, had been so from the beginning; and in 47 per cent, the habit had been acquired. The relation of the age at which schooling began and the time spent in school to this catamenial pain is not very evident, as this condition is very nearly alike in all the groups. Of the painful group 18 per cent, received very little education, while in the normal group none are so specified. Of the first only eight per cent, pursued advanced studies beyond the age of twenty-two against 16 per cent, in the latter. Dr. Putnam-Jacobi is led to the conclusion from her figures, which are unfortunately too limited to afford even a guess at the real truth, that the highest education given to women is the most favorable to menstrual health; the least favorable being the ornamental education. In the matter of physical education, it was found that those who never suffered pain exercised more than the other class; but all classes were found to exercise too little during childhood and girlhood. The tables show that the family history exerts a greater influence over the menstrual life than occupation. The figures prove that two-thirds of those who suffered periodical pain inherited some special or general constitutional defect. Physical vigor, as measured by the capacity for exercise, was shown among those free from pain in the ability to walk an average of five miles; the average for those who habitually suffered pain was three and a quarter miles; and for the cases of slight or acquired pain four miles. "Capacity for exercise was nearly always in inverse proportion to the habit of pain." The tables show that persons without occupation suffered from painful menstruation in much larger proportion than those who were occupied. One would infer from this that the author, in a measure, traced this result to the want of occupation; while we should reverse the conditions of cause and effect, and explain the lack of occupation by the incapacity resulting from the periodical pain. The conclusion is also reached from the fact that marriage is opposed to the existence of habitual periodical pain. And, lastly, "as regards rest—the most important question for our purpose—we have seen that the above data do not suffice to inform us of its influence;" and thus, so far as the main theme of the book is concerned, the author leaves the "question of rest for women" in just the condition in which she found it.

The third section, occupying fifty pages, is a review of the various theories of menstruation, and shows considerable research.

The next section is devoted to what the author calls experimental research upon six persons in the form of daily tabulated statements of pulse, temperature, dynamics, and the excretion of urea, before, after, and during ovulation. The general results to be gathered from the tables are, that excretion of urea is increased previous to the hæmorrhage over the usual amount, although there were many exceptions to this rule, individual peculiarities generally governing the results. The number of cases observed, however, was too small to afford conclusions. The same objection may be made against the dynamometer and temperature tests. Physiological experiments of this nature always require a sufficient number of subjects to reduce individual peculiarities and accidental conditions to a minimum in the mean results. The state of the circulation is given a very careful study by means of the sphygmograph before, during, and after menstruation, from which observations the author concludes that there is an increase in the tension of the arteries seven to nine days preceding menstruation, to be lowered, as a rule, a few hours after the beginning of the hæmorrhage, reaching its minimum after its cessation. This increase in intermenstrual arterial tension, being similar to that observed in pregnancy, leads the author to this remarkable conclusion—"that in all these respects the intermenstrual, and especially the premenstrual, period represents a pregnancy in miniature." From the facts gathered in this experimental chapter, "it should follow," the author says, "that reproduction in the human female is not intermittent, but incessant; not periodical, but rhythmic; not dependent on the volitions of animal life, but as involuntary and inevitable as are all the phenomena of nutritive life." From what we know of the author, we believe the phraseology of the above will be materially altered in the next edition. Aside from the unscientific use of words, and the strained meaning put upon the word rhythmic, the author confounds reproduction with the conditions essential to reproduction. It conflicts also with reasoning to which this is designed to be the natural conclusion. For instance, on page 98, speaking of the Graafian vesicles, she says that, "as the process of their development is gradual, the periods of rupture are necessarily intermittent;" and, as if to preclude all idea of rhythmic action, she says, further, it "is one of the most irregular of physiological phenomena."

We shall end our notice by a few remarks on the conclusions with which the author closes the book.

Menstrual pain, instead of being the result of want of rest, depends upon—1. "Imperfect power of resistance in the nerve centres." This presupposes an inherent tendency to pain in all women during this act, its expression depending on the power of repression, although this alternative is evaded by the author. 2. Organic defects; and, lastly, acquired pain, which may depend upon conditions common to both sexes in the genesis of disease; upon causes mainly due to parturition, and thus peculiar to women; or "from two causes, very much more frequently operative in women than men, namely, ill-arranged work and celibacy." Whether this work is "ill-arranged" with reference to time or not, the author does not inform us. The conclusion is natural that this ill-arrangement is due to the need of intervals of rest, since work and rest are natural antitheses. The evil effects of celibacy are insisted upon in several places. The author even rises to the heights of impassioned prose, when she says that "many others never obtain the opportunity to bear a single child, for which, nevertheless, every fibre of their physical and moral being is yearning." While we cannot express ourselves so poetically, we concur in the idea; but it is not a little singular that, since the motive of the book is to demonstrate woman's capacity for continuous work during certain periods, the derangements due to matrimony receive no attention. The fifth and last conclusion is that "there is nothing in the nature of menstruation to imply the necessity, or even the desirability, of rest for women whose nutrition is really normal." Yet, upon the previous page, in speaking of the presence of pain in 46 per cent, of women, it is traced among other things to "work that is either absolutely excessive, or excessive relative to woman's constitution, by being prolonged too much during a single session, or else which is insufficiently relieved by recreation." It is impossible to read this last section of the book without coming to the conclusion that the author in many instances is reasoning against her convictions.

The author does not seek to evade the fact that 46 per cent, of women suffer a greater or less degree of pain during this time, and yet it has not the slightest bearing upon woman's efficiency to work while thus suffering to say, as the author does, that this pain is not directly dependent upon the need of rest. If we recognize in pain the ideal curse of humanity, we may form a notion of what a woman must undergo who, under the lash of necessity or duty, carries her burden of pain to her daily tasks. It matters not whether the pain is evaded, or mitigated or not by rest, it is a panacea instinctively sought. It accords also with the universal experience of medical men that pelvic pain, or hyperæmia, is quieted by rest, and this is as true of menstrual pain as of any other condition. Such a fact as this cannot be reasoned away by arguments drawn from speculative physiology.

But we must recognize in this book a new departure in the literature of the question. It is something new, as well as a grand stride in the right direction, for the advocates of woman's immunity from anything like physical restraints to labor to investigate facts and to couch this investigation in scientific language. The faults of the book are mainly those of hasty preparation, both in the collection of data and the arguments based upon them. We are satisfied that, with a wider range of facts and greater deliberation in handling them, many of the hasty generalizations which we have pointed out would not have occurred. The book shows hard and honest work, and demonstrates the great capacity of Dr. Putnam-Jacobi for scientific investigation.

Fifteen-Cent Dinners for Working-men's Families. By Juliet Corson. Pp. 40.

This little tract is designed to show the working-man's wife how she may provide for her household a sufficiency of good, wholesome food at a cost easily within the means of the poorly-paid day-laborer. An edition of 50,000 copies has been published by the author for gratuitous distribution, and it would be an act of humanity to aid in circulating the book among the class who have need of the information it contains. The poorer class of people are, in proportion to their means, far more wasteful than the rich, and the information here conveyed cannot fail to be highly profitable to them.

Report on the Telegraphic Determination of Differences of Longitude in the West Indies and Central America. By Lieutenant-Commander F. M. Green, U. S. Navy. Washington: Government Printing-Office, 1877.

Navigators, geographers, and others, are constantly demanding improved values of the geographical coördinates of places on the earth's surface, as the demands of their pursuits become more and more exacting. When the longitude of a slow-sailing vessel was obtained by observations of lunar distances a large uncertainty in the resulting datum was inevitable, and was expected and allowed for. Modern practice in steamers, where every additional hour's run means the expenditure of valuable fuel, etc., and where an uncertainty as to the ship's position is subsequently paid for by the owner in the expenses of the voyage, demands something more than the approximate longitudes of prominent seaports, which before were sufficient.

This want has been long felt, and the establishment of secondary meridians has been attempted in many places and by various nations. In 1866 a committee of the French Bureau des Longitudes was directed to prepare a plan for fixing a certain number of fundamental secondary meridians, separated by convenient distances, all round the world; and, in March, 1867, their report having been submitted to the Minister of Marine, its immediate execution was directed. A commission of eminent French naval officers was organized to superintend the preparation for this work and its performance, and five or six parties of skillful observers were, after several months of preliminary study and practice, dispatched with their instruments to various parts of the world to make observations of moon-culmintaions to determine the difference of longitude between their respective stations and the meridian of Paris. At that time, the present wide extension of submarine cables could not be foreseen. This commission fixed several points in the West Indies, and from these longitudes were counted by French and other navigators. Other points in this region were established by other nations; and frequent discrepancies arose, for which there was no remedy, except an entirely new and independent determination by the accurate method of telegraphic longitudes.

In view of the importance of the commerce of the United States with the West Indies, the Hydrographer of the U.S. Navy determined to undertake this task, and accordingly a plan for its completion was prepared and the execution of this plan was confided to Lieutenant-Commander Green. This plan was very comprehensive, and included the determination of the latitude of each of the following stations, together with its longitude from the U. S. Naval observatory of Washington, which was already telegraphically connected with Greenwich.

The stations selected were: 1. Key West; 2. Havana; 3. Santiago de Cuba; 4. Kingston (Jamaica); 5. Aspinwall; 6. Panama; 7. San Juan (Porto Rico); 8. St. Thomas; 9. St. Croix; 10. St. Johns (Antigua); 11. St. Pierre (Martinique); 12. Bridgetown (Barbados); 13. Port Spain (Trinidad).

Station 1 was already connected with Washington through the labors of the Coast Survey. It is to be noted that stations 2 and 3 furnish a basis for an accurate survey of Cuba, that 5 and 6 furnish starting points for the whole sea-coast of Mexico and Central America, and that 6, in connection with the longitude of Santiago de Chile (already determined in position by two American astronomers, Gilliss and Gould), will furnish a basis for the survey of the west coast of South America. The north coast of South America is fixed by the stations 5 and 13 (already the Hydrographic Office has published the results of chronometer expeditions, between these points, made under its direction by Commander Ryan, U. S. N., in 1877). On station 8 many longitudes, previously determined, depend; and the other stations amply suffice to fix the Windward and Virgin Islands. Thus the comprehensive plan of the expedition, together with that of the expedition sent out by the Hydrographic Office in 1877, under the same distinguished officer, will practically suffice to fix nearly the whole eastern and northern sea-coast of South America, and will furnish bases for the establishment of the coast-line of Mexico and much of the West coast of the Southern Continent. The expedition of 1877 contemplates the junction of station 13 with Lisbon, Madeira, Cape Verd, Para, Rio, Montevideo, and Buenos Ayres.

The work necessary to the final fixing of the positions of these thirteen stations was done in 1874-'76, and is described in detail in the report before us.

Full descriptions of the instruments (with plates), the methods of observation and reduction, etc., are given in this volume, to which we refer for particulars which would be out of place here. Suffice it to say that the results are of the same grade of excellence as those attained in similar work of the highest class all over the world. A special point of excellence is the absolute uniformity of programme at each of the stations in each of the expeditions, and this contributed in no small degree to the excellence of the results. This expedition reflects great credit upon the navy and upon all concerned in its planning and execution, and is especially noteworthy as being the first expedition of the kind undertaken by naval officers of any country in foreign ports. It is to be hoped that this important service to navigation and geography will be followed by other similar work hardly less needed.

Influence or Civilization on Duration on Life. By Charlton I. Lewis. A Discourse at the Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association, October, 1876. Cambridge: Riverside Press.

The doctrine of the survival of the fittest is now widely recognized as the key to all progress toward the perpetuation and perfection of the species, at least so far as the lower orders are concerned, and up to a certain point in the development of humanity.

But with the foundation of societies an opposite doctrine has been introduced. Instead of the pitiless destruction of the weak and the infirm, which marks the operations of the law of natural selection, they are fostered, cared for, and allowed to propagate their kind. "Society preserves for the progenitors of the future alike the weak, the strong, the diseased, and the healthy. If, then, this blind law of natural selection is the one key to progress, man must degenerate." One school of statistical writers maintains that this result does actually appear.

But Mr. Lewis shows conclusively that, while "civilization does largely sacrifice one principle of progress—the law of evolution by survivorship—it introduces another still more potent principle"—longevity. The outcome of careful breeding for a few generations, with a view to improvement in this direction, would produce a people who would live to a patriarchal age. The idea of such stirpiculture as this is repulsive to our present habits of thought. It is probable that the idea will never be realized, but there is a tendency toward something of that kind.

Mr. Lewis truly says that the subject leads us to the door of a world of restless thought and speculation.

The paper is extremely interesting and suggestive.

Elementary Lessons in Physical Geography. By Archibald Geikie, LL. D., F. R. S. London and New York: Macmillan & Co., 1877. Pp. 375. Price, $1.75.

One of the best of the "Science Primer Series" was that of Dr. Geikie on "Physical Geography," which in the present volume is expanded into the form of a text-book for rather more advanced scholars.

The author is undoubted authority on this subject, and may be fully trusted, and his material is well arranged for the purposes of teaching. The illustrations are taken close at hand, and not only show the way in which effects, with which we are familiar, have been produced, but teach the collateral lesson that Nature's processes are uniform; that the most stupendous results of far-away lands or past time have been wrought by the same methods that are in operation here and now. This is a lesson that scientific men were slow to learn, and it has not hitherto been sufficiently taught in our text-books. It is something gained when a boy, watching the little streams of a summer shower making their way through a sand-bank, knows that he is looking on the same forces at work that make and waste a continent.

The book is freely illustrated with good woodcuts, and with maps showing the distribution of atmospheric pressure, temperature, volcanoes and earthquakes, ocean-currents, etc.

Geological and Geographical Survey of Colorado and Adjacent Territory (1875). Pp. 834. Washington: Government Printing-Office.

It would be impossible, within the narrow compass of a book-notice, to summarize the contents of this valuable report; indeed, the space at our disposal would be insufficient even to give a simple list of the many wonderful natural curiosities and interesting ancient ruins here for the first time described and pictured. Then, in addition to the reports of the geologists and togpographers, we have an elaborate monograph on the American bison, by J. A. Allen; and a voluminous report by Dr. A. S. Packard, Jr., on the Rocky Mountain locust and other insects injurious to the field and garden crops of the Western Territories.

Fur-bearing Animals. By Elliott Coues. Pp. 362. With numerous Figures and Plates. Washington: Government Printing-Office.

Dr. Coues has for some time been engaged in preparing a systematic history of the North American mammals, both living and extinct, and the present volume is offered as a specimen of the method of treatment to be adopted in that work. The group of animal forms described in this monograph, the family Mustelidæ, he divides into five sub-families, namely, Mustelinæ (wolverene, marten, weasel), Mephitinæ (skunk), Melinæ (badger), Lutrinæ (otter), Enhydrinæ (sea-otter). The material on which the author bases his systematic classification is sufficiently voluminous, namely, the collections made by Hayden's Survey, of which he is the naturalist, and those of the National Museum at Washington. The purely scientific and technical aspects of the subject-matter are, of course, discussed with all requisite detail, and there is no doubt that the work will be prized by naturalists as a substantial contribution to zoölogical science. But, at the same time, the interests of a larger circle, viz., the educated though unscientific public, have not been overlooked. Indeed, what may be called the "popular" aspects of the subject in hand, namely, the life-histories of the species, and their economic and other practical relations, are considered at length.

Narrative of the Expedition of the Polaris. Edited by Rear-Admiral C. H. Davis. Pp. 696. Washington: Government Printing-Office.

The story of the gallant Captain Charles Francis Hall is here told in simple, unaffected style; indeed, as it would appear, for the most part in the very words of Hall himself, and of his companions in danger and misfortune. The volume is of quarto size, on heavy calendered paper, elegantly printed, and adorned with a steel-plate portrait of Captain Hall, a vignette of the Polaris, some forty full-page wood engravings, numerous smaller engravings, and six maps. It is, indeed, a fitting monument to the genius and intrepidity of Captain Hall and the modest heroism of his officers and crew.

 

 
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Natural Law. By Edith Simcox. Boston: Osgood. Pp. 373

History of the Ottoman Turks. By Sir E. S. Creasy. New York: Holt & Co. Pp. 574. $2.50.

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Smithsonian Report for 1876. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 488.

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Report of Steamboat Inspection in Canada. Ottawa: Maclean, Rogers & Co. print. Pp. 346.

Anales del Museo Nacional de México, tom. I., entrega la México: Cárlos Ramiro print. Pp. 46. With Plate.

Catalogue of the Missouri State University. Jefferson City: Regan & Carter print. Pp. 160.

Preservation of Wood as adapted to Ship-building. By C. E. Munroe. Claremont, N. H.: Manufacturing Co. print. Pp. 16.

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Proceedings of the American Philological Association. Hartford: Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co. print. Pp. 52.

Latimer Collection of Antiquities. By O. T. Mason. From "Smithsonian Report for 1876."

Immortality of the Soul. By C. Skelton, M.D. Trenton, N. J.: Naar, Day & Naar print. Pp. 27.

Overturning the World. By Dr. G. M. Ramsey. New York: P. F. McBreen print. Pp. 27.

Iodates of Cobalt and Nickel. By F. W. Clarke. From American Journal of Science. Pp. 7.

Calendar of the University of Minnesota. Minneapolis: The University. Pp. 104.

International Conference on Education. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 92.

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Should Comparative Anatomy be included in a Medical Course? By Dr. B. G. Wilder. New York: Appletons. Pp. 35.

Four Great Eras in Modern Astronomy. By Jacob Ennis. Cambridge: Wilson & Son print. Pp. 21.

The Force that put all the Heavens in Motion. By Jacob Ennis. Pp. 23.

Standard Public Time. By Jacob Ennis. Cambridge: Printed for the Observatory. Pp. 12.

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