At a certain period in life, you cease to be a girl, and become a woman. Better live at
home than become a dead-weight, through constant ill health, on your husband in later
life. There is a poison in crowds, and it acts in a thousand unseen ways; a celebrated
surgeon was called to a female seminary where there was a number of hysterical girls.

He summoned them together, heated a number of iron instruments before their eyes,
and told them that the first one who had a fit should be cauterized down the spine.


Your morbid taste for chalk, charcoal, and slate pencil is strong evidence
of impregnation. You are now an object of active benevolence, public veneration, and
religious respect. A sick pregnancy is a safe one.
Through the constant interchange of blood, all nervous impressions which have altered
your circulating fluid are communicated to your child.
The beats of the fetal heart are more frequent in females than in males.


The child which you have carried for nine months and brought with suffering
into the world, still depends upon you for its existence. You drag through years of
misery, afflicted by manifold aches and pains, without obvious cause; you suffer
with your head and your stomach and your nerves. Nervous agitation may so alter
the quality of your milk as to make it poisonous. You alone are responsible
for this most fruitful cause of your wretchedness.


The beats of the heart are more frequent in females than in males. Your girl,
eight years old, by the repeated application to her breast of your new infant,
has sufficient milk to nourish the child for a month, while you are unable to nurse it.

Your little girl is shown to the Royal Academy of Surgery. The quantity of milk is such that
by simply pressing the breast, it is made to flow out in the presence of the Academy, and
on the same day, at the house of Baudelocque, before a large class of pupils,
your daughter ceases to be a girl, and becomes a woman.

Nearly all language in this piece is taken verbatim from The Physical Life of Woman: Advice to the Maiden, Wife and Mother (1889), by Dr. George H Napheys.

Kate Finegan has a soft spot for old medical texts. Her chapbook, The Size of Texas, is available from Penrose Press. She is Assistant Fiction Editor at Longleaf Review. You can find her at http://katefinegan.ink and twitter.com/@kehfinegan.