Sunday, 13 January 2013

Women’s Health–Why I’m glad I’m not a 1910s Woman

There are some days I would really love to live one hundred years ago,  when life seemed less hectic, fashion was wonderful, servants abounded and people used manners - but it is easy to idealize an earlier period in history and look at it through rose coloured glasses.  What I am hoping to do on this blog is look at the reality of the past,the good and the bad, to learn from it, appreciate it and then appreciate what we have today. 

For instance,  I love my washing machine – I use it everyday and can’t imagine not having it.  Mind you, if I was a middle class women in 1913 I probably would have either had a live in maid or sent my laundry out to be cleaned. Or maybe I could have bought one of these:

1913WasherAG 1913 ad source

The main reason I am glad I am living in 2013 and not 1913 is modern medicine – especially advances in childbirth, disease and pregnancy prevention and antibiotics.  Neither I nor my five children would be here without modern medicine.

This week alone, I have had three blood tests, an ultrasound, an x-ray, a blood transfusion and an operation.  I finally realised that my lazy holiday was actually something of a necessity, as I could not get off the couch.  Blood tests diagnosed a low blood count (a haemoglobin level of 61 instead of around 120), so I was put into hospital and given a blood transfusion.  That’s what four months of heavy monthly bleeding will do to you girls, so take care – don’t be slack like me and think it’s normal and that the tiredness is in your mind – GO TO A DOCTOR!  I had a uterine growth that needed removing, which  they did quite painlessly under a general anaesthetic, and two days later here I am back at home and feeling a whole lot better.  I can even manage to have a shower and wash my hair without getting breathless, and I even took the dogs for a walk this afternoon!


Nurse training at Atlantic Hospital, Iowa, 1913 – about to get an anaesthetic I think

I imagine that many women’s deaths were caused not just by childbirth, but by menstrual and uterine problems – something of course that wasn't’ talked abut 100 years ago – but in novels and death notices the women would have died of blood poisoning or heart failure.  Of course heart failure is what happens just before most people die, and is defiantly what happens if you have a low blood count.  I have found an online copy of ‘A reference hand-book of ‘gynecology’ for nurses’ published in 1913, which makes for delightful reading, and implies that only nurses dealt with these women’s issues, including cervical cancer and such, and doctors weren’t really involved. I may be wrong, but I recommend a quick look at this book for yourself!


Surgery at St. Luke's Hospital, 1913 -A view of an operating room with surgery in progress.

So thank you again modern medicine, and all the wonderful doctors and nurses who strive to make us well and to the researchers who look for answers.  A stay in hospital is a wonderful way to make you appreciate life – especially a stay in the surgical ward.  Not that I recommend it, really!

Stay safe, and as usual, more images on tumblr.

Deb xxx

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