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Cradle to Grave Lecture 7 Challenges of Youth. Themes Debates about ‘adolescence’ turn of 20 th century Boys and girls – fixed fund of energy, female.

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Presentation on theme: "Cradle to Grave Lecture 7 Challenges of Youth. Themes Debates about ‘adolescence’ turn of 20 th century Boys and girls – fixed fund of energy, female."— Presentation transcript:

1 Cradle to Grave Lecture 7 Challenges of Youth

2 Themes Debates about ‘adolescence’ turn of 20 th century Boys and girls – fixed fund of energy, female education, overstrain, juvenile delinquency Menstruation Hysteria Anorexia nervosa Youth and venereal disease Emphasis of lecture on turn of century when concerns with youth magnified – Empire, War, national future and concern about future population and citizenship and on women – most ‘medicalised’ debates However very little historical work focuses exclusively on youth and health – cf. infants and children

3 Youth! Youth begins to be defined as a separate stage in the late 19 th century – creation of school child, space between childhood and adulthood (work), new leisure opportunities Opportunities and challenges! Associated particularly with eugenic concerns Captured interest of doctors, educationalists, social workers and psychologists Concerned with physical, mental and sexual development, as well as ‘race’ more broadly Coincides with rise in ‘youth’ culture

4 J. Mortimer Granville: Perils of Puberty Many ‘lurid’ accounts of youth and its challenges! Dangers of girlhood (1880 book Youth) Urged parents to watch for indications of illness, disease or special weakness, especially if there was an hereditary taint in the family. Girls prone to palpitations, hysterics, fainting fits, giddiness, blood disorders, moodiness, nocturnal tooth grinding, nightmares and sleep walking, consumption, rheumatism.

5 Fixed fund of energy By third quarter of the 19 th century, doctors (inspired by economist Herbert Spencer) had evolved ‘economic model’ to explain how women’s reproductive systems interacted with other parts of body, especially the brain. Envisaged ‘the body as a closed system in which organs and mental faculties competed for a finite supply of physical or mental energy; thus depletion in one organ resulted in exhaustion or excitation in another part of the body’. Associated with American physician, Edward Clarke (Harvard Professor) and prominent psychiatrist Dr Henry Maudsley in UK

6 Maudsley vs. Garrett Anderson

7 Debate in Fortnightly Review (you can read this in its entirety in British Periodicals Collection) (1874) – centres around girls and education ‘Sex in Mind and in Education’ Maudsley argued that overspending vital energy would cause menstrual disorders and mental breakdown and potentially destroy women’s capacity to bear healthy children. Women should not attempt to run alongside men: ‘they cannot choose but to be women; cannot rebel successfully again the tyranny of their organisation’. ‘The important psychological change which takes place during puberty… may easily overstep its health limits, and pass into pathological change… nervous disorders of a minor kind, and even such serious disorders as chorea, epilepsy, insanity, are often connected with irregularities or suspension of these important functions’.

8 Elizabeth Garrett Anderson’s response Robust response! England’s first female physician wrote a response in Fortnightly Review. Stressed study unlikely to damage girls’ health compared with boredom and idleness of girls’ traditional pursuits. ‘There is no tonic in the pharmacopoeia to be compared with happiness, and happiness worth calling such is not known where the days drag along filled with make-believe occupations and dreary sham amusements’. Yet argued headmistresses and teachers needed to manage girls’ health carefully

9 Eugenicists Ideas of youth being a ‘critical epoch’ picked up on by emerging eugenics movement Interested in ‘puberty’ and ‘adolescence’ ‘Probably the most important years in anyone’s life are those eight or ten preceding the twenty-first birthday. During these years Heredity, one of the two great developmental factors, bears its crop, and the seeds sown before birth and during childhood come to maturity. During these years also the other great developmental force known as Environment has full play, the still plastic nature is moulded by circumstances, and the influences of these two forces is seen in the manner of individual that results.’ Mary Scharlieb and F. Arthur Silby, Youth and Sex (1919)

10 Particular risk for girls Robert Reid Rentoul The Dignity of Woman’s Health (1890). ‘a girls when becoming a woman should not have any mental or bodily labour to perform. She should therefore neither study nor work, but have only good food, exercise, sleep, and clothing. If she accomplishes the beginning of this important phase of her life with vigour and success, she will have secured one of the chief ends of her existence’.

11 Rentoul continued For Rentoul, the chief end was motherhood, and the ovary was emblematic of the duties of girls passing into motherhood. ‘Show an uninterested observer an ovary. To such it appears only a bit of flesh. Yet on two such little organs… depend not only the future of the world’s population, but also the health and happiness of their owner.’ Once girls commenced their periods, schooling should cease ‘What is the use of sacrificing health for the sake of “grinding up” a little history, geography or music?’ Girls were urged to rest ‘until the system becomes used to the new condition… The effort to develop into womanhood requires all the best energies and strength a girl can possess.’

12 Eugenicists Ideas durable – including fixed fund of energy as were concerns about preserving girls’ femininity (worries they would become masculine though mental and physical exertions). Strongly influenced by G. Stanley Hall, American psychologist, educator and eugenicist (Adolescence 1904). Warned of ‘instability’ of adolescence. Health monitored, behaviour regulated ‘Another principle should be to broaden by retarding… a purely intellectual man is no doubt biologically a deformity, but a purely intellectual woman is far more so’. (G. Stanley Hall, Youth (1906)).

13 Arabella Kenealy (female eugenicist) Saw female adolescence as chrysalis stage: ‘From having been a strong, young, active, boy-like creature, now – provided her development be allowed to take the normal course – the girl lose physical activity and strength. A phase of invalidation sets in. Instinctively, she no longer runs and romps. New langours invest her in mind and in body. She is indisposed to brain-work or to much exertion. She lounges and muses… She suffers from lassitudes… She becomes a complex of disabilities…. which indelicate, sickly or over-taxed girls show in chlorosis, anaemia, hysteria and other ills’. (Arabella Kenealy, Feminism and Sex-Extinction (1920)).

14 Menstruation Menstrual cycle only properly understood by 1920s and 1930s Many cultures associate menstruation with pollution and ‘taboo’ Victorians saw it as making women unfit for mental or physical work – an ‘invalid’ (Michelet) Puberty seen as risky and dangerous – could cause weakness, mental illness, and be painful and debilitating (seen as pathological rather than natural) – yet mothers also chastised for leaving daughters uninformed and unprepared But also important epoch on route to ‘womanhood’ Medical Women’s Federation (founded 1916) began to produce advice for girls – in 1920 and 1930s, particularly for girl’s schools – advocated treating menstruation as normal and that they should not be prohibited from normal activities and sport (and work).

15 Hysteria ‘Daughters’ disease’ Victorian period – heyday of hysteria Associated with young women of higher and middle classes and persons ‘easily excited to mental emotion’ ‘Social’ and ‘medical’ causes Was said to result from strains of female education

16 Anorexia Defined 1873 by Sir William Gull in England and Charles Lasègue in France Strongly associated from this period with young, often ‘wilful’, women Associated with extreme weight loss and the ‘persistent wish to be on the move’, exercise, restlessness and repression of menstruation and ‘very common’ Related to family dynamics of middle class and manipulation

17 Anorexia Treated by management of physician –removal of girl from family to nursing home and rest cure (strong relationship to hysteria and neurasthenia – also referred to as ‘anorexia hysterica’) Many before and after photographs taken by physicians claiming their ability to cure. Miss C emaciated in first image – and described as ‘obstinate’, girl sullen and wilful. In ‘after’ image girls tranquil, pleasant and ordinary and feminine. Lancet includes many articles on anorexia nervosa e.g. by Gull and William Playfair

18 ‘Fading Away’, Henry Peach Robinson, 1858

19 What ailed boys? Youth potential period of crisis for boys too Overstrain applied to both sexes – at school (Dr Clement Dukes, physician Rugby School) Youth problem – juvenile delinquency, runaways, violence, misdemeanour – subject of welfare – fears of ‘juvenile underclass’ These challenges conceptualised increasingly as being outside the norm (medical issues) – psychology asserted that male adolescents likely to be disturbed by fluctuations in energies and vigour of growth into adulthood ‘Medicalisation of normality and abnormality’ and emotional maladjustment Concern about physical fitness and exercise cultures For girls, link with citizenship focused largely on ability to be future mothers, for boys regulation, management and potentially punishment (Borstal system, 1908 Children’s Act).

20 Psychology and delinquency Psychology important discourse in explaining educational malfunction, social disorder, criminality – ‘disturbed children’ ‘The study of the criminal thus becomes a distinct department of this new science – a branch of individual psychology; and the handling of the juvenile offender is, or should be, a practical application of known psychological principles. To whip a boy, to fine him, to shut him up in a penal institution, because he has infringed the law is like sending a patient, on the first appearance of fever, out under the open sky to cool his skin and save others from infection’. Cyril Burt, Report on Juvenile Delinquency (London, HMSO, 1920).

21 Borderland of normality ‘Permanent children’ ‘Grown-up children’ Mental deficiency – Mental Deficiency Act 1913 – efforts to set up institutional care. ‘Borderlands of imbecility’ (Mark Jackson) – crucial to identify and separate mentally deficient child in battle against ‘race suicide’ (e.g. Mary Dendy Sandlebridge school) Specific concerns about adolescents – physical and sexual maturity – worries about next generation and cost to state Dangers of feeble-minded and need to provide ‘maintenance, protection, training, and employment for boys and youths who are mentally incapacitated from earning their own living and who are yet so far intelligent as not to be eligible for any asylum for the imbecile or insane’ (British Medical Journal, Dec. 1894)

22 Venereal disease Especially around time of 1 st World War Concerns about moral deterioration in war conditions, illegitimacy and risk of venereal disease, especially syphilis (factory work/war work) ‘Moral panic’ about girls falling into sexual delinquency Yet also period when very little information about their bodies and sexuality Council of Public Morals for Great and Greater Britain and National Council for Combating Venereal Diseases set up WWI Warned of desertion of girl, loss of character, and venereal disease which could affect all classes: A mother consults a doctor ‘I had great hopes of my girl; I thought that she would go to Girton or some college… Now her memory has failed and she has all sorts of queer fads and fancies… she cannot eat’…. Syphilis also deadly in this period!

23 Counter-forces – positive changes New Woman – new models of womanhood and girlhood. Advice literature – information, increasingly directed at young people, responsible for own health. Modernity – for girls meant more opportunities in workplace, leisure activities and society. Health helped support these – enabling! Girlhood positive and energetic associations as new and exciting phase. Health of children and young people generally improving. Organisations such as Boys and Girls Clubs – evolved into Youth Clubs and Guides and Scout movements. Empire missions/concerns about future citizens – but also encouraged healthy practices, outdoor activities and gave a surprising amount of attention e.g. to disabled members and also to poorer children.

24 Girls’ health – ‘corset mania’ to robust good health

25 Menstrual hygiene Not an ‘illness’, but persistently taboo subject – ‘menstrual etiquette’ Schools – improved facilities/emphasis on hygiene Increased information inter-war years Girls consumers of sanitary products – promoted ‘menstrual ability’

26 Diet Improved ideas on health and improved diet But also increased interest in achieving idealised female (and increasing male) figures, which tended through course of 20 th century to become slimmer – while at same time, improved diet (and more access to food) tended to make bodies bigger! Fashion? Advertisements? Media images? From corsets and tight-lacing to heroin chic.

27 First teenagers Often concluded that youth culture/first teenagers date from 1950s and 1960s (David Fowler). In fact, ideas about youth and adolescence – as separate medical epoch, important time of development and cultural phase have longer antecedents back to start of 20 th century. However only in recent decades greater emphasis on idealisation of adolescence and also interest in boundaries of mental ability, development and health. Again reflects interest in shift from children’s bodies to minds.

28 Conclusions Only in recent years has there been increasing historical focus on adolescences as special category in terms of history of medicine and health (cf. older histories of welfare) After the 1960s policy makers and doctors have started to differentiate medical care of adolescents from younger children e.g. in treatment of cancer. Recognition they have different needs, concerns and conceptualisations of illness than younger child. More focus too on issues such as menstrual health, anorexia and sex education. Youth, however, remains a point in the life cycle associated with psychological turmoil and potential ill health – why?

29 New challenges High incidences of depression noted amongst young people in last couple of decades. Anorexia increasingly affecting young men. Just this week proposed that age of sexual consent reduced to 15 – ideas on life cycle shift once again!


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