Monday, September 3, 2012

This will only hurt a little...

Because I'm a bit weird I love reading about strange historical facts, and one area that I've always found fascinating, in a disturbing kind of way, is medical history.  We did some really freaky things to each other back in the day!

Because I'm just that generous, I've decided to enlighten you all about some of my favourite medical treatments from history that make me glad I was born when I was!


Soothing Syrup:  Back in the 19th century they had a ... unique ... approach to child care.  Baby's crying?  Teething?  Won't go to sleep?  No problem, give the little darling some soothing syrup.  After all, how could anything with an ad this wholesome looking be a bad idea!

It turns out that it could be a VERY bad idea.  Like, ostrich farm bad!  What the pretty, pretty posters didn't tell you was that these soothing syrups usually contained either morphine, heroin, chloroform, cannabis, or any combination thereof.

Yeah, that baby wasn't sweetly sleeping, he was stoned off his gourd!

And they wondered why infant mortality was so high back then.


Tobacco Smoke Enema:  Another interesting medical practice was one that I found equal parts disturbing and hilarious.  Imagine this, if you will.  It's the late 1700's and you fall into the river.  The water closes all around you and blackness takes over.

Then, you suddenly come to, realising you've been dragged onto the shore by some well meaning passer by.  But that's not all they've done, oh no!  They've also rolled you over, lifted up your skirts, and are currently forcing large quantities of tobacco smoke into an orifice that was never intended to receive it.

Apparently back then it was believe that a tobacco smoke enema was a good way to revive someone who had drowned.  I don't know about you, but I expect it'd get me up and going pretty quickly, if only to get away from the guy wielding that scary looking set of bellows!


Female Hysteria:  Okay, so this one may be ridiculous, but let's be honest ladies, we owe Dr Granville a debt of thanks.  Sure, he may have thought he was curing the "weaker sex" of their debilitating hysteria, but we all know what he's REALLY doing under that skirt!

Back in the 19th century if a woman was moody, irritable, or showed any signs of a backbone at all, she'd be trotted off to the doctor by her disapproving husband, where she would most likely be diagnosed with female hysteria.

And the cure for this was what was called a "pelvic massage".  Yep, we all know what that means!

Eventually though a machine was built to do it for the doctor (maybe he was getting carpal tunnel?), first steam powered and then electrical.  So that meant that women could get their rocks off much more efficiently ... for the good of medicine, of course.

Jeez, the whole of the 1800's must have been like one enormous Carry On Doctor film!


Tapeworm Diet:  Hmm, so it turns out eating disorders have been around a lot longer than I realised.  Seriously?  Infecting yourself with tapeworms?  On purpose?  That's pretty fucked.

Lets overlook the fact that tape worms can cause cysts, loss of eyesight, neurological problems, and organ failure!  What does that matter as long as you're thin at the end of it!

But it's nice to know that unrealistic expectations of body image have been forced on women for so long, even to the point that they'd purposely give themselves a parasitic infection!



So yes, medicine has definitely come a long way since then.  We no longer drug our children to get them to be quiet, literally blow smoke up people's asses (and yes, that's where the expression comes from), or purposely ingest tape worms in the hopes of losing a few pounds.

What's that, you say?  What about the female hysteria machine?  Well ... let's just say female hysteria is no longer considered a problem and leave it at that, shall we?

42 comments:

  1. When I was a student midwife there was a girl in our group who was one of those people guaranteed to say the wrong thing. We once had a visiting lecturer, who was an enormously fat woman. Sitting in a quiet room, waiting for her to begin, the girl asked if any of us had seen the article about tapeworms being a great help in weight loss.

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    1. Oh dear ... some people need to learn how to turn on that filter in their brain that stops them from blurting out the first thing that comes to them!

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  2. Things haven't come that far, people are still using tapeworms as a diet. Don't believe me? Enjoy: http://www.everydiet.org/diet/tapeworm-diet-using-beef-tapeworms-in-humans
    Also, I really hope the doctor who "cured" hysteria's last name was Dr. Dildonics.

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    1. I'm not sure if I WANT hysteria to be cured, if that's the cure they recommend!

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  3. Oh my gosh!! Some of this is crazy! Tapeworms?? I have no doubt that are people who would sign up for this thru an infomercial right now if they could have a guarantee of weight loss!!

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    1. Now there's a business idea! I could make a fortune!

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  4. Have you seen the 2011 movie "Hysteria"? Here's the link to the trailer: http://youtu.be/4FWReqkTWfA

    Also, that drowning cure must be the origin of the phrase "to blow smoke up your ass," eh? Yowza!

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    1. I havent seen it, but I want to! It looks hilarious!

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  5. I think the tobacco smoke enema might be more scary than the drowning.

    All women should indeed be grateful for Dr. Granville, though I suspect the real reason these women were irritable had more to do with their husbands and their lack of consideration. After all, the men could have replicated the treatment at home if they had the slightest clue what they were doing.

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    1. I'm beginning to think it may have been a conspiracy between the doctors and the ladies. Who needs an affair when you can make a doctors appointment!

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    2. Back then women were hardly more than pack mules. Or pets, if they were so lucky as to be rich and pampered. Otherwise they worked from sunup to beyond sundown, taking car of the ol' homestead, the men treated them like slaves, and that's what was expected. It's hardly surprising that the men didn't know their way around a woman in the bedroom. So just imagine what the women felt like as they first went into the doctor's office, where their demanding husbands made them go to, and the doctor started rubbing them out. What I want to know is what happened when they left? Did they take this newfound learning and try it out themselves? Or did they just keep going back to the doctor?

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  6. How have we as a species managed to live so long...?

    Not quite as bad as yours, but while processing a book for our Special Collection last year I came across a handbook for treating common illness at home that was around 100 years old or so. Half the cures for treating things like colds, headaches etc were;
    a. Give the person a brandy, or
    b. Soak the feet in a bucket of warm mustard with a cold flannel on their face.
    I thought it was pretty amusing :)

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    1. I suppose at least those won't hurt you ... unless you're allergic to mustard of course.

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  7. Kellie fabulous post - too funny!

    I love Tracey's and in particular L.G. Keltner's comments!!!! Hahaha

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    1. I do love the ridiculous! And there's nothing more ridiculous than some of those!

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  8. "Ostrich farm bad!" Your comments had me laughing so hard, that I think I may be suffering from hysteria. Looks like a pelvic massage is in order! Yaay!! :D

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    1. Women must have been lining up for that diagnosis. If I'd had a disapproving husband and an unfulfilling sex life, I know I would have been!

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  9. Hilarious and a little bit scary!! We have a fascination with a kids book here about beauty throughout the ages and what was in fashion at certain periods. It too is umm, a bit on the scary side :)

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    1. People will do the weirdest things to themselves in the name of fashion!

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  10. Now that's what I will always think of when someone says "smoke up their asses". I just stumbled across your blog and will be tuning in again :).

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  11. Ha, love it. Now that's delightfully ludicrous.

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  12. Great post. When I had my first child (1982) those were referred to as the Paregoric years. Mother's were O D'ing their children on that med. :/ I recently watched something on TLC about the female hysteria. Definitely will pass on the tapeworm diet. Yuk.

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    1. The idea of purposely giving yourself worms ... ugh!

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  13. You mean I can't give a child a chloroform and heroin concoction to calm them down anymore?! Man, what a nanny state we live in...

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    1. I know, what next! Not letting your eight year old smoke?

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  14. I suffer from female hysteria. It got so bad that my doctor prescribed equipment for at-home treatment. Or maybe that was the dude at the sex shop... I get the two confused.

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    1. Don't sweat it, it's a common mistake to make. Dr Torres, Dr Sexy McLovesausage, I get them mixed up all the time.

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  15. Oh what a period of time to be a doctor. Just come up with some crazy thing for you patients to do without any reasoning and then send them the bill. Although I guess that soothing syrup probably was pretty effective on babies.

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    1. Yep, especially if you wanted your little darling comatose.

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  16. Have you seen the movie Road to Wellville? It is about the sanitarium movement in the US in the late 1800's and cornflakes. It had a great ensemble cast. It was based on a book that was also, very lovely. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road_to_Wellville

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    1. I think I read that book a few years back! It was hilarious!

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  17. Tobacco smoke enema for drowning victims? I'd hate to see what they did for choking victims!! Yikes!

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  18. You have me cracking up here, his is a great post! I'm so glad we've made such wonderful progress. :) You have such a great way with words. Thanks for starting my day off with a big smile!

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    1. My pleasure! I do love sharing the weird and wacky things I find.

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  19. I guess the 1800s had its own sexual revolution of sorts!!

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    1. I'm not sure where we got this idea of them all being prudes!

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  20. I love your post Kellie. I have access to some really old books at my library and I just recently started reading Self Knowledge; Guide to Sex Instruction by T.W. Shannon (1913). It's actually hilarious how they try to describe a males "manhood" and the purpose of sex. These old books are like looking at a snapshot in time. I also found another book that did talk about a woman's hysteria!!! I believe Dr. William Worrall Mayo, who founded the famous Mayo clinic/hospital in Rochester, Minnesota also talked about the female hysteria thing in a biography I read. His specialty was working on female patients back in the early 1800's regarding their "female" problems. Thanks for the entertaining post!

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    1. LOL! We found one at my library once that was sex education for girls but, I kid you not, it skipped from the wedding night (before the good stuff) right up to just after the baby is born. Seriously, a sex book without a single mention of sex!

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  21. I just finished a book, The Birth House, in which the midwife was diagnosed with hysteria. She purchased the home device in order to give herself treatments two or three times a day. I'm not going to comment on every post, but just know that I have found them to be hilarious.

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