A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.5 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places...
These images come from the Library of Congress website--many of them wound up in my pinterest account. The link for both for each image are found below. Photographs like this--wide panoramas of big groups of people--are fascinating for the collection of moments that it captures, wall-to-wall serendipities. [See the Library of Congress panorama collection.]
Galveston Beauty Review, 1927 [detail]
Detail of below, featuring an unfortunate bath suit selection and a clump of men and boys. Perhaps it is more "wad" than "clump", like a murder of crows.
Bathing Girl Parade, Crystal Pier, California
Balboa Beach Bathing Beauty Parade, 1925 (detail from below)
Darrell Drake was full of advice, not much of which seems to have weathered the wearying bits of time very well. Most of what he has to offer has to do with being coy, reserved, and retiring, and so much so to the point of being insipid acquiescing in the superior qualities of the man, forever in the back seat, quiet and demure, patient and understanding and making the back-step always the job of the woman. Not much of a surprise. But what was very unexpected was the chapter called "Let Smoke Get in Your Eyes", a four-page baiting in which he warns women against the antagonism of correcting the manners and behavior of the man, so much so that she should be well willing to have smoke blown into her eyes rather than suggest that the smoker not do so--you don't see that every day.
[The decorative gilt-stamped title of the cover of the volumes of my run of the great journal, Nature, 1871]
In the 23 November 1871 issue of Nature appears "Science for Women", a sort of unsigned editorial. It is one in an interesting series of (for the most) part positive revelations about the education of women in the sciences, a step towards, well, not "equality", but a normalization, a rapprochement, extending the field of technical education away from the ruling/private school/university class of men towards women. This was happening at a time when there was not only a distinct division between men and women in education but also between the classes.
This anatomy of convenience first seems to be the opposite of what it was--the newly-established laundry room as a place in which great chunks of time were spent on repetitive and numbing labor.
Doing the laundry at home--where else was the laundry being done? By some middle class people the laundry was being taken care of elsewhere, and then also at home but by someone else--at least by semi-imaginary standards of the day in 1922. Perhaps to distinguish itself a little more clearly this pamphlet should have been called Doing Your Laundry at Home Yourself.
Good Housekeeping was presenting the Laundry Room, complete with all of the modern conveniences, including an electric washing machine, which (although there is no electric dryer in site) would have saved perhaps a waking week in the life of the average housekeeper by relegating hand-washing the laundry to an electrical convenience.
This piece of Suffragette music was published in the incredibly-named "Palace of Music"by W.W. Whitney in Toledo, Ohio in about 1869. For most intents and purposes the women's vote movement was still in its first generation, and still five decades away from a national vote for women. The music and words were those of Frank Howard (not of the Baltimore Orioles, as this Mr. Howard was born in 1823). Images courtesy of the vast colelctions at/connected to the Library of Congress, here.
[My thanks to Patti Digh for providing the idea for the Goedel part of this adventure into Playtex and Logic--she did so because (a) they fit together and (b) girdle/Goedel sounded almost identical to a woman who once lived in Munich!]
In the long history of Holding Things In, perhaps the newest of its
members was upon us only recently. In the long, deep past we have held
our breath, hidden our anger, stowed our emotions, and so on, but it was
only recently that we began to hold our bellies in. One of the masters of Holding Things In for this period turns out to be the sublime logician and re-inventor of modern mathematics (by putting one piece of the great Hilbert to sleep), Kurt Goedel, who towards the mistakenly-self-engineered end of his life, held on to everything, virtually--he organized and filed almost very piece of paper that he came into contact with at any level, became ever more reclusive, and at the end (due to his theories of people/institutions wanting to kill him) refused food and, of all things, water. Surrounded by the smartest people on the planet (including his friends Einstein and von Neumann) up there at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, Goedel withered away until he had almost no shadow. It is a bad irony that he could be so inconceivably unmovable and restrained while at the same time, and in the same life, offered such incredible newness to the maths--both ends of the mountain at the same time.
1951, the year in which these girdle advertisements appeared in Life magazine, was also the year that Goedel present us with the Goedel metric, and also in which he received (with Julian Schwinger) the first Albert Einstein award (and of course delivered his famous Gibbs lecture "Some basic theorems on the foundations of mathematics and their implications").
The popular introduction of the girdle I think that
this happened at about the same time for the sexes, only these
conveniences were much more often advertised for women than they were
for men. Slender and non-existent waistlines for women were more of a cultural identifier
than a slim-hipped man, and the ads for his cheaters appeared far less
frequently than those for women.
The first widespread appearance of the girdle for the sake of vanity must have occurred during the 19th century, or perhaps a little later is my best guess--but the first time the device began to appear for the common woman must've come around the time when there was time for leisure, or shopping, or of being seen in public in short intervals. And that I believe is a Victorian-age invention.
But the binder doesn't come into fabulous presence until the distribution of mass population illustrated magazines, or I should say the advertisements that made these magazines possible: production like LIFE (from which these 1951 images come) reached far more women than the popular older periodicals like Harper's Weekly or other polite mid-19th century journals for women. The advertisements were certainly more enticing, the possibilities more rewarding, and the girdle comfort levels far higher than their predecessors, and the availability of disposable income for women far greater--and so incidentals like the girdle became more greatly commodified, and moved into the "essentials" category.
The idea of these ads seem horribly revolutionary: on the one hand, the badly-named and hyphenated Playtex product "Pink-Ice" squeezed women into new tight but malleable molds, while at the same time promised some sort of ballet-like freedom because of it. Like the creeping ("two steps forward and one step back") communism of the time, Playtex promised the possibilities of enhanced freedom through restrictive clothing (in a "peace through strength" vision). In any event, and in spite all of what I just wrote, the pictures are kind of amazing.
[I'm well aware that this may be one of the worst things ever written about Kurt Goedel--the Renault Dauphine of Goedeliana. But it doesn't matter, because in all of his powers, Goedel could absolutely prove that g_d existed, and that I don't.]
I've scouted some interesting photographic images of women in sports from the fine New York Public Library Digital Collections (here). They're mostly from the 'twenties, though there are some earlier imges from the 1890's, as well as some later ones from the 1939 World's Fair. Enjoy.
These images are just quietly magnificent. They were made by the Detroit Publishing Company, and published sometime between 1890 and 1900. The original is a glass negative, and this digital copy appears on the Library of Congerss site, here.
This photograph--a daguerreotype, really--is both extraordinary and terribly common, at the same time, and is so in a way that is difficult to define, just that it is so. It is the work of Frances Benjamin Johnston (whose collection resides at the Library of Congress) and was completed between 1845-1860, and shows the photographer's aunts. They make a formidable group. I'd like to be able to find the data that the outline of their portraits form, because to me they look lik a graph.
The photographer, Frances Johnston (1864-1952), was one of America's first successful female workers in the field of photography and photo-journalism. She opened a studio around 1890, and went into business, no doubt helped along by her wealthy family's social clipboard. That it took 50 years or so and the application of a family's small fortune to firmly establish a woman at this rank in photography, so close to the year 1900, so far into the advance of photography, is remarkable. The self-portrait, below, shows her mind:
she reveals herself a woman of the modern age, with her petticoats flaring and obvious, a cigarette in one hand, and a beer stein in the other, secrets no longer.
Again from the interesting and charming La Boite Verte website I've found an interesting suite of French photographic postcards. This set concentrates on the possible occupations of women in the future ("avenir"/"future"), and printed in 1902 by A. Bergertet in Nancy, France. The images are slightly odd, most tbeing a little on the "swimsuit issue" side, but then again not without the women exhibiting a kind of coy pride in spite of what they looked like. In spite of the attire, the women depicted as the "general", the firefighter ("pompier"), student (complete with a jauntily-held cigarette), and the sailor ("marin"), for example, are all taking their future positions seriously, even though their uniforms have been arranged for a 1902 man's viewing pleasure.
Its interesting to see that seeing into the future of professions and callings for women didn't habe to "see" all that far, with all of the professions being attained within the next 50-75 years. Of course the pay is largely still not same for women as it is for men, nor is women's percentage share (for most) anywhere close to a proportional share, but it is a good start.
"Life for both sexes—and I look at them, shouldering their way along the pavement—is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion that we are, it calls for confidence in oneself."--Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
I'm sorry to have stayed for so long in Punch magazine, but it is a very interesting read. I've a run of 50 years or so of it here and on occasional a few volumes get pulled out and I make my way slowly/quickly through them. Earlier this morning a cartoon lampooning British scientists (and a screaming zero) caught my eye--and now, after tea, comes a chance find of this image of a female doctor that seems to my interpretation to be an endorsement of sorts to the general idea of female education.
Punch can be a very cranky periodical, lampooning everything, taking few (or no) prisoners. On occasion I've noticed (and this is hardly an academic summary, just an exposure-to-a-lot-of-pages identification) that the idea of educating women and girls has fallen in and out of favor with Mr. Punch--the idea of the general intellectual capacity of woman seems occasionally to be in crinoline-entombed confusion in Punch's pages, even though it does seem to be a not-irregular contradiction for the large-headed, small-bodies, world-balancing Mr. Punch.
But not this time. It seems the cartoon, the "Lady-Physicians", takes the high road for the woman doctor, portraying her as a competent professional while her limpid cold-attracted patient is portrayed as a pillow-encrusted dandy who has called upon his doctor than for no other reason than to gain her fancy. Its an interesting position for the magazine to take, here in its 23 December 1865 issue. A pro-woman professional, pro-female education stance is not a common one for many magazines at this time, not even in Punch itself, which seems at this point to be throwing off its own earlier opinions on the question sagacity of advanced instruction and education for women.
It seems to me as though Punch, even as early as 1865, is getting ready to grant women a room of their own in which to do what needs to be done.
These were the helpful hints to get the working woman out the door and into a job that she could keep--following the reimine of daily healthcare and body awareness as suggested by Bristol-Myers, the maker of the list as well as most of the products that one could buy to help keep pace with it.
People, working people, the so-called "vulgar classes", sailors, unescorted women, married women with babies, people who worked with their hands, people who worked (in general), all began their assault on the previously-just-for-the-"correct"-classes knowledge base of England--the British Museum--in the first third of the 19th century. It was a failed attempt, really, because the powers-that-be of the Museum were repulsed by the idea of the underclasses coming in to the place were the proper people came to learn, fearful that they would be repelled by their lowered and unfortunate brethren.
["A Dream of the Future"--the Sunday Opening, from Judy, 1885. Source: Lynn Barber, The Heyday of Natural History, Doubleday, 1980, page 166.]
The Museum wasn't open very much at all--only three days a week, receiving people between the hours of 10 and 4, restricting access to women with children, to women in general, as there weren't any restrooms for females. I'm not sure when the first women's facilities came into being at the Museum, but it took them until 1879 before the place was opened daily. And "daily" means every day, every day but Sunday, Sunday being a day not only of various religious obligations (which I think was the least of it), but also a day in which the greater percentage of the working class was not working ( which I think was the root of the issue). That privilege of opening the Museum to the great unwashed, opening the place on Sunday, didn't occur until 1896. I imagine even then that there was resistance to the innovation of reaching out to working people.
The odd thing, now, is that many museums and libraries have been limiting their public hours, closing on Sundays, the day on which most people today find themselves not at work, restricting themselves to availability to a population of people who may mot be working a 5/6 day workweek. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.
This adventure ("Radio Planet vs. the Ant Men") sounds more like a Captain Beefheart song than a fantazine for kids/young adults/whatever, but there it is--and what the cover for the magazine features in spite of the article title was yet another (dazed) woman in sci-fi distress. In the panoply of sci-fi-danger-women this one is pretty composed and dressed relatively, this of ccourse is relative to all of the other who have their dresses falling/slashed/dissolving/torn/falling of, revealing the Great Secrets of Composed and Dangerous Sexuality. In any event, there seemed to be many instances of women-needing-rescue--and in many circumstances they are tending towards nakedness or its suggestion, and have their arms dangling at their sides. Here's a quick review of some of the covers that might have put the "X" in "se_uality":