A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.6 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
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":
This is a short tale of two novels of the future. They both speak of utopias, they both were written in the 19th century, and (unusually) they both have the same title--but so far as the future of women goes, they have little in common.
Three Hundred Years Hence, the novel title in question, was first published in 1836, and was the property of Mary Griffith (1772–1846) who presented what was at the time a strongly pro-woman utopia set in the future, --and which was also as it turns out the first novel of its kind written by a woman in the United States.
A lesser and unhappier story for women of the high Victorian mold belongs to William Delisle Hay1, whose own Three Hundred Years Hence, a Voice From Posterity (published in 1881) , elevates females to a supreme position, though without any real power or effect. (Hay has a difficult history, or so it seems to me; he also wrote on mushrooms and other fungi, as well as the Maori "problem", and had a wide strain of white suprematist running through his works.) In Hay's future, in the 23rd century, there would be a global community, and at the head of the global body would be a perfect woman, a woman who would serve a ten-year term of glory and grandeur. She would not have any real duties, however, because she was didn't have the intellectual powers of man, and so her brain would no tbe called on to perform tasks outside of womanly chores. He writes:
"...the Empress does not possess one particle of actual power...for the facilities of women are not capable of following out the highest intellectual processes, since she has a less degree of pure Reason than the man."
"...Woman (is) most emphatically fitted to display in herself the ornamental part of government...and...she is manifested as the proper director of all that relates to domestic life".
This of course is 1881.
Hay hardly stands alone in his misanthropic approach to women. Percy Greg's tale of the future in his Across the Zodiac, the Story of a Wrecked Record (1880) shows the extent of the intellectual calamity and inferiority of women extending to Mars. In this novel2 Greg's Martians have come to realize that it is not possible to elevate their women to the intellectual status of men, and that their grand experiment of equality was a failure. There were many others, of course, like Walter Besant (The Revolt of Man, 1882), who could not abide the thought of equality.
And according to the wonderful I.F. Clarke (The Pattern of Expectation, 1644-2001), there were many more who looked into the future and saw greatness and expansiveness in the equality of women. There was E.B. Corbett (New Amazonia, 1889), H.R. Dalton (Lesbia Newman, 1889), Lady Dixie (The Revilution of 1900, 1890), G.N. Miller (The Strike of Sex,1891), A.G. Mears (Mercia the Astronomer Royal, 1895), R. Buchanan, (The Rev. Annabel Lee, 1898), and Sir Julius Vogel's (Anno Domini 2000, or, Woman's Destiny, 1889), where "woman became the guiding...force of the world".
I think, that, overall, the people who saw the restriction of women in the future (near and distant) held sway, or at least the majority, of writers envisioning the sexes int he future.
* The first image is by the great and prolific and short-loved J.J. Grandville (1803-1847) for his Autre Monde (1844).
1. I have found another reference to a bitter world of the future written by Hay in the excellent Airminded blog, which records his effort at a novel of doom and destruction of the overtaken London of the future.
2. Greg's characters visit Mars via the benefits of a sort of anti-gravity spacecraft called the Astronaut, and, interestingly, the Martians had seem themselves as the only life forms in the galaxy. It is also in this novel that the first attempt at creating an alien language appears. There was also another science fiction effort by this title as well, though it really doesn't apply to what we're talking about, here. (I wonder how prevalent duplicating titles is in the sci fi genre?)
"That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes — the legal subordination of one sex to the other — is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other."--On the Subjugation of Women, John Stuart Mill, 1861.
Perhaps one of the most devastating logical displays in the history of the struggle for equality for women was that of John Stuart Mill. He makes a powerful and inescapable argument on what he considered the basic enslavement of women in his The Subjugation of Women in 1861--that, and of course a complementary argument for the recognition of women as moral/ethical/legal equals of men.
If Mill was the doctor of the state of England, he would have said that his patient was suffering a necrosis, that women as slaves would be the eventual death of the United Kingdom, and that equal freedoms and individual rights needed to be granted to them to ensure the survival of the state. Women needed to be added to the equality register so far as the law was concerned, to be equal beneficiaries of everything that society had to offer. and that equality extended to the family unit, where the married partners would share the domestic scene, and that the husband would live more of his social life within the family rather than without, changing the basic structure of the family for the better. It was to this political end that as a Member of Parliament Mill--on 20 March 1867--introduced the idea of female suffrage to the House of Commons as a stipulation to the Representation of the People Bill, which would lead to the Reform Bill of 1867. Mill suggested changing the word "man" to "person". It was not a success, of coure, and women would not get the vote for another 50 years.
Punch, or the London Charivari, the leading satirical and social-commentating periodical of Great Britain, took a relatively neutral position on Mill a week later (30 March 1867) with a full-page cartoon (above). Mill is daintily bu8t forcefully trying to clear a path for the women at his right hand, trying to open a way through a crowd of men being anchored by John Bull. I'm no authority on any of these matters, but it seems to me that if Punch had decided to take a hard line against the vote for women they might've made the group of women depicted here more tawdry or "manish" or un-ladylike or something, anything, than the relatively benign group that was depicted.
A few weeks later another cartoon appears (on 1 June 1867) with Mrs. (John) Bull greeting Mill with some level of amusement, this time the editors carrying more of a challenge to the whole idea. Mrs. Bull says "I hadn't the slightest notion that we were such miserable creatures", with a good smile and crinkling eyes, looking down at the diminutive Mr. Mill, whose head is bowed and eyes downcast in defeat of the bill.
I've not studied Punch but I have sat down with a few decades of it, and I've gotta say that I don't see very much there at all regarding the vote for women--and even here, when it does, twice, the rebuke--if any--for thinking such thoughts as Mill is surprisingly mild.
Mill's closing paragraph of his Subjugation, summing up:
"When we consider the positive evil caused to the disqualified half of the human race by their disqualification — first in the loss of the most inspiriting and elevating kind of personal enjoyment, and next in the weariness, disappointment, and profound dissatisfaction with life, which are so often the substitute for it; one feels that among all the lessons which men require for carrying on the struggle against the inevitable imperfections of their lot on earth, there is no lesson which they more need, than not to add to the evils which nature inflicts, by their jealous and prejudiced restrictions on one another. Their vain fears only substitute other and worse evils for those which they are idly apprehensive of: while every restraint on the freedom of conduct of any of their human fellow-creatures (otherwise than by making them responsible for any evil actually caused by it), dries up pro tanto the principal fountain of human happiness, and leaves the species less rich, to an inappreciable degree, in all that makes life valuable to the individual human being."
[All images from John Brown's Public Diplomacy Press and Review Blog, here.]
Almost all of these posters were printed by the U.S. government as a preventative measure to help eradicate the costs of venereal diseases to the American armed forces. They look a little outre and goofy and unbelievable in their way, but their message was very clear. The effects of venereal disease too is a very clear one to military forces, because as important as it is to feed and clothe your troops, it is equally important to keep them healthy, for since the beginning of keeping armies there are always episodes of armed forces being decimated by disease, some percentage of them being sexually transmitted.
So I understand that the powers that be were trying to limit the lovelust interests of a (conquering) military force by scaring them,but sometimes the message came with a price, as with the lead poster on this post, which basically shrank the individuality of women down to the nexus, eliminating their individuality and robotizing them into VD-carrying sex toys. .
The percentage enough would carry this message, but a detailed view of the poster shows how it enunciates the mechanization of the female love receptacle:
I don't disagree with the underlying purpose of these posters, or even most of their sentiments--except of course for the lobotomized-disease-carrier-women parts.
According to most of these big, spongy pulp magazines, women were made to be rescued, and rescued not only from Enormous Situations, but also from unnameable, unknowable Enormous Things. I guess they were slightly soft-porny, or at least the cover art was, attracting young readers by promises of an "easily read" with excitement and voluptuous women in need of saving. It was yet another turn on the fateful screwing of the tale of the damsel in distress, seen and heard countless times in art and story. Only in these sci fi mags the damsel showed a lot more skin--it is extraordinary how cleavage attracted so much alien danger/romps.
JF Ptak Science Books Post 1548 [Abdullah Cigarettes Revisited]
Here's a not-usual question: when was the first image printed of a woman pointing a gun in the commission of a felony who was NOT an American Western leather-slapping, bronc-ridin', Buffalo gal? I have a funny feeling that it wasn't until relatively recently, 20th century, or thereabouts. I thought about this when I saw this ad in the Illustrated London News for 21 August 1926, calling for women to rush out and buy the ciggy that was worth stealing--Abdulla ("Superb") cigarettes.
The doggerel of the poet-izer F.R. Holmes that decorates this page (and who recognizes that the clerk named Archibald who was handing over the cigarettes was chattering through "store-teeth", which is kind of nice) did absently grind out a factual bit when he referred to the packaging of the Abdulla cigarettes as "Caskets". Of course he had something else in mind in line with his time, but he did mistakenly have a peep into the future when he labeled the box of coffin nails so, though not so "fragrant" as he was thinking. (I also like the masked male accomplice peeping into the scene from the safety of the getaway car.)
Offhand, though, I cannot bring up an earlier image of a non-cowgirl-performing woman pointing a gun at someone to achieve a criminal end--especially not in an advertisement.
It is interesting considering this ad as a statement of sorts of women in the marketplace purchasing stuff that had previously been considered male terrain. Woman had been he target of cigarette manufacturers in some small ways in the late 1880's and early 1890's, but it seems not until after the War and then after the Vote was there a full-on effort to sort women into some consuming fields that they had been excluded from previously. Unfortunately, in this case, the advertisers recognized that they were missing perhaps half of their possible market, and that new market was pursued and resulted in tens of millions of cancer-related deaths.
Well! Now that I've finished this short post, it just came to mind that a good alternative and much earlier source might be images of she-pirates, though it might still be a stretch to find one of those women with their sword at someone's neck...
Most of the following relate U.S. patent reports on brassieres--for shaping, reducing, electrifying, supporting, warming and preventing "breast cake"--but I've added a few other associated undergarment creations. It seems that there was so very much "underneath"sections to the bodies of the dressed woman during this time that there could scarcely be any room for anything on top of them. There was just so much fabric and texture and belts and straps and loops and metal and fasteners and looseners and ties and wraps that, once the onion was peeled, there was nothing left but peel, which may well have been the overall societal message draped over women during this period of time.
Where does a device like the one, below, belong, exactly? Where in the long rolls of intellectual history should it be found?
E.A. Agerton is actually Ella C. Agerton--it was easy for me to assume that the person Agerton was a man, because to my experience when I find such devices in the patent office archives they are usually made by men. What Ms. Agerton was attempting with this device is something I don't understand, though she does make the following statement in her Patent Office record:
Here's another, earlier version of this beast, displayed in practical use. I have to say that the drawing of the woman's face is deeply disturbed:
I've also found quite by chance that the drawings of the faces of the women drawn as "patients" of these devices can be very unsettling, hardly faces at all, even though the representation of the rest of the body is functional. For example, the face of the woman below looks as though it is part of the furniture/device:
The drawings of faces can be so bad that I wonder if anyone can actually be that bad of an artist without trying to be.
None if this even reads comfortably; I don't know what it would have been like to been trussed up in such a thing.
This leads to another uncomfortable image. At first glance I thought it was part of a delivery procedure, but it turns out that this was the rigging for a woman undergoing a gynecological examination. The woodcut appears in the first volume of Sammelband von 7 Kleinschriften zu gynakologischen Spezialthemen, 1858-1901, and more exactly in the contribution by Ludwig Neugebauer on an examination with a "speculum bivale l’ecarteur vaginal a trios branches…" published in 1884. I know that the prissy prejudices brought about with the coming of Queen Victoria in 1837 still had another 17 years to go at this point, which could explain why, perhaps, a doctor would want an aid in helping a woman maintain an examination position without him having to touch his patient, but, well, just look at the massiveness of the restraints! Also, the woman’s arms are *inside* the ropes—not down, not holding the ropes, but inside the binding, restrained. Either way, it isn’t good, treating the woman—in either case of pregnancy or obstetric examination—as the inferior vessel.
This is also part of a long history of the subjugation of women—the medical aspects of that indoctrination were perhaps somewhat more heinous than the social/legal/ethical/pedagogical/moral constituents. This illustration, even coming at the end of the Victorian era and approaching the dawn of encroaching bits of equality for (white) women, is a fair example of their subordinate status.
I just happened upon this picture during the course of my business day—a random image compiling these thoughts. If I were to try and choose another example of the medical aspect of the subjugation of woman I think that I would choose the story of the Chamberlen family. For several generations, beginning around 1680, this family of medical doctors practiced a secret—their secret—in delivering breeched babies. Breeched babies are those who were born feet first, which was usually a death sentence for both the child and the mother. Patriarch William Chamberlen invented a device that would greatly aid in delivering babies in this position—the forceps. And even though everyone today knows what these things are, the Chamberlens kept them a secret from the inquisitive medical world for more than a century. Their instrument was shrouded—literally!—in secret(s), used under cover, with ceremony, conveyed to the delivery area in a box and brought out with no witnesses. The Chamberlens felt their invention to be their own, for their own particular use and monetary gain, and the rest of the world be damned, and at least three generations (grandfather, father, son) kept the family secret. If their family could not be in charge of such a delivery then there would be no use of their extraordinary invention. This of course would save their income from being chipped away by other physicians or midwives or whatever competent person could be found to utilize the forceps—their economic gain coming at the cost of (savable but imperiled) pregnant women who would either pay the Chamberlens for aid in their breeched births or, well, probably die. To what degree this revolting behavior damaged other people can not be calculated. I’m not even sure about how to translate this into something more recognizable—would it be like Robert Koch keeping his isolation of Bacillus anthracis (1877), or tuberculosis bacillus (1882) a secret? Or Wilhelm Roentgen shrouding his discovery in secrecy somehow? (I know, I know, this is impossible.) Or isolating a secret, proprietary cure for cancer?
There is a large part of me that believes that if the Chamerlens had figured out something like this that affected only men, a silver bullet for something or other, that their secret wouldn’t stayed a secret for 100 hours, let alone 100 years.