I was digging through a pile of old magazines at the flea market in Bloomington, Illinois one summer when I came upon the hefty and slightly-tattered dove grey book at the bottom of the stack. I was immediately captured by the title: “The Perfect Woman.” The two faded photographs on the cover depicted women at the turn of the century-one watches over a small child, another stretches out her arms in some sort of exercise. I checked the copyright date and saw that the book was from 1903.
I flipped to the title page and was further intrigued by this book that promised “Perfect Womanhood for Maidens-Wives-Mothers.’ It was a medical guide for women written by Mary R. Melendy, M.D., Ph. D. and was described as “A book giving full information on all the mysterious and complex matters pertaining to women”, which also included information on “diseases peculiar to women”. Immediately I knew this book would be full of amusingly archaic medical advice. As I read on, I was totally entertained and at times somewhat astonished by the information passed on to women everywhere through this book, and by an educated woman, nonetheless!
I have started scanning in some of my favorite illustrations throughout the book, which I will be sharing on here from time to time, along with some of the more outrageous/outdated/confusing medical advice that I found interesting.