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What a Young Girl Ought to Know, by Mary Wood-Allen, Part Seven

 

 

Twilight Talk XI. State of mind affects the body. Mother talked to a gentleman who has made a study of this phenomenon. By having the subject blow into a glass tube, he can discover what the person’s mental status is. Yeeah. So, think only beautiful thoughts! Particularly since, as a young person, you are molding how your face will look when you are old. If you’re thinking bad thoughts, just press them down and keep smiling until you actually feel it. This is to teach you to slowly deaden yourself within, so that as an adult, you will already be numb and cold and not feel anything.

 

 

Twilight Talk XII. On encouraging people-watching. Body language. Evil has its genesis in bad posture. Standing on one leg will cause your FACE to become misshapen. Sit straightly at all times, lest your womb become contorted and you have smushed organs.

 

 

Twilight Talk XIII. Being able to work for a living is preferable to being a lazy rich sloth. That’s why there aren’t any lazy poor people, right? That’s why little girls must learn all the household chores and do them well, for that is the essence of woman. Oh, you want to learn to use tools as well? That’s okay, to a point; but you must also learn all the other things that you may not want to do, because you ARE going to be a homemaker, and “there is no more beautiful or noble work than this.”

 

 

As Mr. Ruskin, whoever the hell he is, says, true women remain in the home. Home is the essence of woman, no matter where she goes. How delightfully dull.

 

 

Play time is fine as well, but pick your amusements correctly. Dancing on into the night is dissipation. So is drinking all night in the saloons; why, a young boy who thought he was having a good time doing such a thing died after two weeks with the D.T.s. No matter what wholesome amusement you decide upon, always remember to indulge in it while wearing a proper dress.

 

 

Twilight Talk XIV. Okay, here’s a chapter I can get behind: on books and reading. The company of a good book can be the best company there is. But how can you tell if a book is good for one to read? Well, if it’s making you “think less nobly of yourself” you should cease reading it immediately, as it’s not good for you to read. It doesn’t matter if others are reading it; fight the peer pressure and be yourself! Robbers and thieves and pirates are not worth troubling over; any book that contains them is crowding your mind with bad mental pictures, and it is better to just abstain from them.

 

 

Twilight Talk XV. Mothers need education, too. If you don’t take the opportunity to go to school, you should be ashamed of yourself, and your children should be ashamed of you, too. Learn all you can for the betterment of your children. This extends to animals, too; Mother knows a cat that can open doors.

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What a Young Girl Ought to Know, by Mary Wood-Allen, Part Six

Twilight Talk X. The body is a temple, and it’s made by God, and it’s sacred, and all that rot. Think highly of thyself, but not too much, for that is the way of arrogance. Your body is the most beautiful of clothes. Funny, that, because walking around nude all the time is not an option for most people. We’re made up of cells, and occasionally, the cells die and are expelled through various orifices in the body. Therefore, bathing is important. You must bathe every part of you, but don’t you DARE linger too long below the waist.

 

 

If girls don’t attend to their bodily waste removal every day, according to the good doctor, worms will begin to gather and then wander out of one orifice and into the other, causing great agitation. And then, horror of horrors, you might want to scratch yourself, and so accidentally acquire the habit of “solitary vice.”

 

 

Tea and coffee are bad for you. Only drink water, fruit juices and cow pus. To further drive home the point that coffee is bad for you, one only needs to look at little cousin Willie, who at the tender age of ten was having extreme caffeine withdrawal.

 

 

In short, you don’t require such things, and wise is the little girl who does not let herself form habits to which she will become a slave. BECAUSE SHE ALREADY IS. A HA HA HA!

 

 

And because Dr. Wood-Allen was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, several paragraphs ensue about the dangers of alcohol. Beware the patent medicines, for they also contain alcohol, and may make you a drunkard.

 

 

Ladies are at fault for many men going to their graves due to abuse of alcohol, for they could not resist a pretty girl offering them the poison. Also, women are to blame for men smoking, particularly those that do it themselves, because they find it fun. One could argue that the men are weaker-willed and have no self-control, but nah, let’s just blame women; it’s easier! I’m ashamed of you, doctor.

 

 

The key to getting men to stop this foolishnesses is to disapprove of it, and magically, they will stop. Yeah, we tried that a decade and a half later with Prohibition. It worked incredibly well, and that’s why no one drinks today.

 

 

Mother wants you to grow up to be free, “from everything that fetters and chains you.” Except for marriage and family, because that is required.

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What a Young Girl Ought to Know, by Mary Wood-Allen, Part Five

Twilight Talk VII. From all fathers to the Big Daddy upstairs, Mother references the Bible, stating that all fathers take pity on their children. Parental love is just a shadow of what God’s love is. Again, we go through the hierarchy of creatures, and find that the only beings on the planet who have a REAL knowledge of being parents are humans. Damn, this lady is smug. I hope she got reincarnated as some lower life form. Well, that was a short chapter. I guess because the climax, so to speak, of the book has already arrived. It leaves me to wonder what the rest of this book is. There are over a hundred pages left to go.

 

 

Twilight Talk VIII. Ah, selective breeding. Gentlemen, we have the technology. We can make a faster horse. Angora kittens for 25 dollars apiece; a veritable STEAL today! If we can do this for other, lower animals, why not humans?

 

 

How is this of importance to a little girl? Well, here comes a slight shade of feminism: make yourself the strongest, best and noblest woman you can be, and help to change the world. Of course, only in the spheres of cooking, cleaning, and childcare, but the seeds are slowly being planted. It’s a start.

 

 

The children of 1905 are making the world what it will be in a hundred years. Well, that would have been 2005. What a scary sight to behold.

 

 

While knitting, Mother sometimes wonders what the world would be like if each human being had been directly created by God, like Adam and Eve. No fathers or mothers, no birthdays. No weddings – because a marriage is not complete without children from your own womb, I suppose. No pictures of Jesus and his mother, which is curious; I guess because we would all be perfect and there would be no need of Jesus? At any rate, she finishes up with the fact that it would be a rather dreary world, full of adults, and I suppose adults are no fun, or cannot make their own fun, a characteristic lost upon entering the world of puberty.

 

 

Children should not be teased about being lovers and sweethearts, for that’s joking about something sacred and that’s just not done. Children have no knowledge about love, apparently, until they reach adulthood, and then you marry the first suitable boy that comes along, and then, next stop: babyville!

 

 

Otherwise, you’re defective and will be an old maid.

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What a Young Girl Ought to Know, by Mary Wood-Allen, Part Four

Twilight Talk VI. “Question where babies come from answered.” Right. Well, it wasn’t the stork. That’s just an urban legend. Well, according to Snopes (or rather, Family Guy) it’s not completely true. The stork doesn’t bring you the baby; he helps you MAKE the baby.

So, the mother has an ovary, right? And inside that ovary is an egg, that you could only see with a magnifying glass. (I think she is confusing this with a “microscope,” but that’s not altogether important). It gets fertilized (no mention yet how this happens), and then stays in the mother’s body where “it lies warm and safe from danger,” except if your father is fond of giving beatings, “and the mother knows it is there,” unless she got way too drunk, “and loves it before she has seen it,” unless she secretly does not want it or it was put there against her will. But none of these ideas had been “invented” yet.

 

And you are so very small. Can you imagine it? You might think you could have been lost, but God is looking out for you, little one. I guess no one ever miscarried in those days. Or if so, it was a demon seed, and not under God’s provenance.

 

The umbilical cord and how it helps to nourish the fetus is compared to an apple dumpling, somehow. I suppose all these food references are meant to be comforting, reassuring and familiar, for after all, that was women’s sphere, and they knew it intimately. I, however, find it a little creepy.

 

Of course, you would not come into being without your father, and his “germ of life.” He sneezed upon your mother’s stomach, and thus, the door to the tiny waiting room within was opened, and you proceeded to wait for nine months before you could be let out from your consultation. How rude, particularly since it was dark and had no magazines to speak of.

 

“We cannot understand all the mystery of life,” Dr. Wood-Allen reminds us, which I suppose is code for, “If you want to know how father’s germs get inside your mother, well, you’ll find out when you’re married. Always remember this: stare at the ceiling and count the water spots. It’s the perfect way to relax and float away from the unspeakable actions being done to your lower extremities.”

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What a Young Girl Ought to Know, by Mary Wood-Allen, Part Three

Twilight Talk V. Orphan fish need your sympathy! (And your forks, to spear that delicate white meat, flavored, preferably, with a citrus sauce). Many fish eggs never hatch, because they get eaten by other animals before they have a chance at precarious life. Okay, now I’m crying (not). I’m actually craving a flying fish roe sushi roll, which I don’t usually prefer.

From fish roe and the cold blooded creatures, we now turn to birds, and here we have a little bit of romance to liven up this bland book. Mother speaks of watching a pair of Baltimore orioles (not the baseball team) the previous summer, building their nest little bits at a time, and the male bird singing to the female bird as she sat on her eggs. Oh, and sometimes proud Papa would sit on the eggs, while Mama took a much deserved break downtown, wondering at life before, when she was a free woman and not tied down.

Yet again, we learn that the eggs came from the mother’s ovary, and the father supplied a “product” in order to fertilize them. Presumably, alcohol. Lots of alcohol + weak-willed woman = bun in oven (in this case, a half dozen fuckin’ buns. Yowza).

Lest one think too long about that far-from-idyllic scene, Mom rhapsodizes about how birds teach us love and tenderness, and how nests are like little bird-homes and everything is nice. No one ever, ever gets beaten, and the nest never needs to be scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed like that damned floor that’s always dirty from your father’s hob-nailed boots.

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What a Young Girl Ought to Know, by Mary Wood-Allen, Part Two

 

Twilight Talk III. Now the actual meaty part: how PLANTS REPRODUCE. Shock-horror. We shall not talk of plant s-s-sex. There is even a botanical poem in here, with the ending words of “sleepy little seed-children,” which, for some reason unbeknownst to me, is kind of creepy.

 

 

Twilight Talk IV. From plants back to God and how he gave man a brain and hands to use as his tools. Then a small digression into a German tradition called a “wonder ball,” wherein gifts were hidden in a ball of yarn, that was then given to a friend; the recipient had to knit something with the yarn, and as the skein unraveled, the gifts within were discovered. That sounds kind of cute, actually, but I’m not quite sure what it has to do with sexual reproduction. [A cursory Google search only gives me the Nestle brand candy of the same name, as well as some sort of laundry aid].

 

 

“Nina’s mom” goes on to say that the earth itself is man’s great wonder ball, gifted to him by God, and filled with all manner of things that are useful or can be made useful. “He makes electricity carry him from place to place, run on his errands, cook his food . . .” I think that last has an incorrect pronoun, don’t you? Humph. And now we are moving from this onto animal life, one step up from plant life.

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What a Young Girl Ought to Know, by Mary Wood-Allen, Part One

First in the files is What a Young Girl Ought to Know by Mary Wood-Allen. Apparently, Ms. Wood-Allen was a doctor, which is quite a feat for a woman of her time. The publication date on this is 1905.

 

We begin with “Commendations from Eminent Men and Women,” consisting of a few pages of portraits with “reviews” of this title beneath them. Miss F.E. Willard, of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, a stern, forbidding looking woman, hopes that this book will “be widely read by the dear girls in their teens and the young women in their homes.” Mrs. Stevenson, also of the W.C.T.U. finds this book to be “as healthy as a breeze from a mountaintop.” The pages following these show several more women (and a few men) praising the book and hoping that it will help open the lines of communication about such matters between mothers and daughters.

 

The next page is blank, which usually signifies the beginning of the actual work, but in this case, we have MORE recommendations from people, sans pictures this time. It seems as if Dr. Wood-Allen felt she had to add everyone’s review in order to bolster her work, instead of relying upon its own merits. Of note in these next pages: a Professor Earl Barnes of London, likening the book to a “tonic” (without the gin) for young girls.

 

Two blank pages more, and here we have a picture of the doctor herself, Mary Wood-Allen. She seems like a grandmotherly type, with gray hair in a severe twist. Her choice of dress is unfortunate, with copious ruffles and an ill-placed, fussy scarf that looks like it would eat her.

Mary Wood-Allen

Apparently, this version is the “New Revised Edition,” as shown on the facing page,wherein Dr. Wood-Allen extols her previous works, including “Marvels of Our Bodily Dwelling.” It also notes that this book was published by the Vir Publishing Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which, from a cursory Google search, appears to have been the pusher of etiquette books and other related genres of the time.

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