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- The Four Epochs of Woman's Life - 5/28 -
correct one. The malpositions at the desk are the most frequent cause of lateral curvatures, round shoulders, and flat chests. And these deformities are more common in girls than they are in boys.
The common faults of the desk and seat leading to these malpositions are unsuitable shape of the back of the seat, too great a distance between the seat and the desk, and the incorrect slope of the desk.
The edge of the desk should slightly project over the edge of the chair. The top of the desk should incline downward about ten degrees toward the student, and be low enough to allow the forearm to rest on it without raising the shoulder. The seat should be sufficiently deep to support almost the entire thigh, and close enough to the floor to allow the soles of the feet to rest firmly on it. The back of the chair should be arched so as to support the hollow of the back, and should reach just above the lower part of the shoulder-blades, and so make it easy and comfortable for even a weakly child to sit upright.
If the seat is too high, the feet do not rest on the floor, and so the girl does not get the proper aid from the legs and feet to maintain an erect position. If the desk is too high, the elbow can rest on it only by curving the spine and raising the shoulder. The work is brought too close to the eyes and causes extra strain. If the desk is too low, the child stoops over it and becomes round-shouldered, and there is a tendency to become short-sighted.
The pupil should sit erect with the weight equally borne by both buttocks; the legs should be straight before the trunk, and the feet firmly resting on the floor. The book should be held about twelve inches from the eyes.
Spinal Curvatures.-- It should be distinctly borne in mind that lateral curvature of the spine is a distortion of growth. The deformity appears and is developed during the growing years. It is more common in girls than in boys, for two reasons: that at the age when lateral curvature is first seen, girls grow more rapidly than boys; and their muscular system is less well developed.
In most early cases the faulty attitudes are clearly the result of muscular weakness. The growth in size has not been accompanied by a corresponding development of the muscles. This condition is most frequently met with in rapidly growing girls, and it is one of the most common causes of lateral curvature. In these cases proper gymnastics are indicated, but they should be prescribed and carried out with much care.
It is upon the erectness, suppleness, and strength of the spinal column that most of the power and grace of the body depend.
Lack of ventilation is a fertile cause of headache, anemia (or an impoverished condition of the blood in iron and oxygen), and dyspepsia. All these are rare before but common after twelve years of age.
Exercise.-- In physical culture the object aimed at should be the symmetrical development of all the muscles of the body. Hence the necessity for bringing every individual muscle into play, at first for its development, and later for its maintenance.
The tendency of almost all forms of exercise is to develop some portion of the body at the expense of the rest. The most perfect form of exercise is therefore that one which will most nearly call into play all the muscles of the body.
Walking.-- Walking is the only form of exercise which may be said to be universal. In walking the muscles of the chest get little exercise, and those of the spine and abdomen even less. In walking the arms should swing easily at the sides, both from a physiological and an esthetic point of view. If the girl is weak or is unaccustomed to take any exercise, the guide for the amount of exercise taken at any one time must be this: At the first sense of fatigue, stop at once and rest, otherwise positive harm instead of good may be accomplished. The girl who depends on walking for her outdoor exercise should walk at least three miles every day, and walk at the rate of three miles an hour.
After acquiring as great a walking speed as is consistent with a graceful and easy carriage, the running exercise should be begun, gradually increasing the distance, but not the rate of speed.
In exercising, all tight clothing about the neck, chest, and waist must be removed. Pure air and full breathing are required during and after exercise. Full breathing not only promotes the change of air in the lungs, but also quickens the functions of the circulation and digestion. Eating must be avoided shortly before or shortly after any considerable exercise, as it impairs digestion.
Running.-- Running is the best exercise for developing the breathing capacity. While brisk walking is allowable, fast running is not. The rule for running is to begin slowly, run moderately for perhaps fifty feet, then increase the speed gradually; but in running for exercise, never speed to the utmost. A five-mile gait is quite sufficient. The run should be closed with the same moderation with which it was begun, and the girl should never stop short, as this sudden arrest of action gives a most undesirable shock to the heart.
In beginning to take any form of exercise the intensity and duration of the movements practiced must be increased very gradually, or positive harm instead of good will be done. As soon as fatigue is appreciable, the exercise should be discontinued and at once be followed by complete rest. Rapid respiration, palpitation or dizziness, headache, the face becoming pale or pinched or flushing suddenly, a feeling of great heat or excessive perspiration, are all danger signals showing that the exercise has already been carried too far and should cease at once. Continued over-exertion carried to a point of exhaustion leads to an obstinate irritability of the heart as well as to organic lesions.
Mountain-climbing, rowing, and bicycling call into play almost all the muscles of the body. Of all the outdoor exercises for girls, swimming is one of the most perfect. It not only calls into vigorous action most of the muscles of the body, but spares many of those muscles that are so commonly overworked, the most of the work being performed by muscles that are so little used as to have become flabby and weak.
Swimming and sea-bathing must be avoided by girls who have weak hearts and in whom the reaction after a plunge into cold water is never established; also by girls with heart disease or kidney disease.
The principal outdoor games are croquet, archery, golf, tennis, cricket, foot-ball, and base-ball. Of these, croquet is the mildest, and is for that reason a good beginning exercise. Croquet, archery, golf, and tennis are all defective in that they cause a greater development of the right than of the left side of the body.
As the greater majority of these outdoor exercises can only be indulged in for seven months of the year, they should be supplemented by exercises in the gymnasium for the remaining five winter months.
There should be the greatest variety possible in the kinds of exercise taken, not only to develop the body symmetrically, so as to obtain strength, vigor, grace, celerity, and accuracy of movement, but also because there is no such potent cause of fatigue as monotonous repetition of the same act, whether physical or mental.
It has been repeatedly proven that physical deterioration can be overcome by exercise, and that by so doing the mental capacity is greatly increased.
ANATOMY OF THE GENERATIVE ORGANS.
The Vulva; the Hymen; Condition, of the Hymen as a Proof of Virginity; the Bladder; Vagina; Uterus; Respiratory Movements of the Uterus; Fallopian Tubes; Ovaries.
"He that respects himself is safe from others; He wears a coat of mail that none can pierce."
The Vulva.-- The female generative organs consist of three groups-- the external, the intermediate, and the internal. The vulva, or external generative organs, comprises all those organs which are external to the body.
The vulva is pierced by two openings, the smallest and most anterior of which is the external opening of the urethra, or excretory duct of the bladder. This opening is surrounded by a slight eminence and has a somewhat puckered aspect.
The larger opening is the vaginal orifice. In the virgin this is partially closed by the hymen. About one inch back of this is the anus, or the external orifice of the large bowel. This part of the bowel is known as the rectum.
The Hymen.-- The hymen consists of a thin duplicature of mucous membrane strengthened by fibrous tissue, and is stretched across the posterior part of the vaginal orifice, which it partly occludes. Rupture of the hymen usually, but not always, occurs during the first sexual intercourse. In rare cases it is found intact at the time of the birth of the first child. In women who have borne children the vaginal orifice is surrounded by small irregular elevations; these are the remains of the ruptured hymen, but are usually present only after labor has taken place, since the torn hymen is converted into eminences as the result of the pressure incident to child-bearing, and not to coitus.
The Condition of the Hymen as a Proof of Virginity.-- Formerly much stress was laid on the condition of the hymen as a proof of virginity. The hymen tightly closed, barely admitting the tip of a small index-finger, is positive evidence of virginity. But the hymen may lose its tone by a local catarrhal condition or by a general muscular relaxation; it may then become so relaxed that the only positive evidence rendered by the intact hymen is that the woman has not borne a child.
In a paper on the preservation of the hymen, Dr. Hannah M. Thompson writes: "Further, if the hymen was intended as a guarantee of moral character, and for moral protection, either of man or woman, would we not have some reason for reflecting on the wisdom and righteousness of a Creator who has failed to make equal provision, and to give a like guarantee of an uncorrupted manhood? As physicians, we know too well that where one woman enters the marriage relation tainted in body there are thousands of men reeking with disease; and there is no demonstrable test to distinguish these, no proof for the young woman of the virginity or virtue of the young man."
The Bladder.-- The female bladder is relatively broad and capacious,
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