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Crazy Health Facts for College Students

It’s amazing how solid facts in one era are exposed as silly prejudices in a later era.

One of my uncles gave me a book that he knew would make me laugh: Health Facts for College Students by Maude Lee Etheredge. Published in 1933, it presents the “solid facts” of the 1930s for college students.

It’s mostly written for male college students, of course. Back in the 1930s, one of the solid facts was the belief that women shouldn’t go to college. If a woman gets an education, it gives her ideas, and you know how much trouble that can cause. 🙂

The book is old, of course, and the original owner’s name is just too perfect: Virginia Woolf. I’d be amazed if the book was owned by the famous Virginia Woolf, but I suppose it’s possible. The name coincidence is interesting, and the signature looks really old, so I don’t think that anyone wrote it there as a joke.

Some of the advice is fairly sensible, such as:

As one enters college, he must face life squarely. He must make a real effort to overcome any wrong ideas or early prejudices. He must make every effort for fine, independent thinking in order not to become a parasite.” (p. 45)

In other places, it gets a little silly. Or maybe ominous, due to the author’s own prejudices:

In the United States, mulattoes have greatly increased in the past twenty-five years. Intermixing is going on to some extent among practically all races. Some of the hybrid races are inferior and some seem to be superior to the pure bred races. (p.151)

A “mulatto” is what they used to call a person whose parents were of different races. (Yes, I looked it up.) Apparently, that was supposed to be shameful. Don’t ask me why.

And then the book gets to the real punch line. You won’t believe it. This book was published in America. It’s not a nutty political tract. It’s just a book of advice for students, reflecting the common sense of the time:

It seems that we need more legislation and more enforcement along the lines of segregation and sterilization, but above all we need light through education. (p.151)

I’d say that the author needs a lot of light, but in fairness, the book was written in the early 1930s. That was before Hitler and the Nazis showed where that kind of thinking could lead. The ideas were still horrible, but the full extent of their horror had not yet been demonstrated.

Some of the rest of the book is so old-fashioned that it’s hilarious. It reassures readers that menstruation “is not an illness.” It advises that “homosexuality  can be dissipated by strong will power, by sufficient regular physical exercise, and by the entertainment of wholesome thoughts.”

Sex, of course, is just for marriage, which should be the main if not the only goal of every woman:

Do some of our ultra-modern writers and lecturers consider the health and well-being of the individual himself rather than society when they advocate free sex relations? … “Free love” as advocated by some, more often means heartaches. … It should include the care and training of children.

There was also a description of a disease called “trench mouth” that I had never heard of. I’m not sure what it was, but I’m glad that I don’t have it.

My main health goal for tonight is to finish some homework. It might not be as entertaining as the crazy things people believed in the 1930s, but it is very helpful in my classes. 🙂

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

  1. March 27, 2010 at 10:49 am

    We have a very old medical textbook and you wouldn’t believe what is in it! This college one is great!!
    Came over from SITS. Hope you are having a great weekend.

    • Rinth de Shadley
      March 27, 2010 at 12:38 pm

      Hi Debbie —

      Happy SITS Saturday! Thanks for coming by.

      I bet that medical textbook is funny. Is it worth your doing a blog about it? I’d read it for sure. Have a great weekend, too!

  2. March 28, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    What a find! I’m so glad that thinking has moved on…

    Thanks for visiting my blog, I hope I’ll see you again soon 😉

    • Rinth de Shadley
      March 28, 2010 at 8:48 pm

      Hi Rachel —

      Thanks for coming by! I loved reading your blog, and I’ll be back.

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