Modern Woman Of 1908 Had Different
Choice of Beauty aids
I came across an interesting little book in the Old Stuff library recently. Health, Beauty and Comfort – The Modern Woman was written by Beatrice Franklin in 1908.
Since the start of the New Year so often turns one’s thoughts to methods for improvement, it seems an appropriate time to share with you what some ideas on the subject were over 100 years ago.
The author begins with some specifications for the ideal girl:
“She will be languid, with long violet eyes. Her cheeks will be round and there will be a dimple in her chin. She will be slightly above medium height and be plump, but not fat. Her forehead will be high, and she will be inclined to be intellectual.”
“Her complexion will be the newest thing about her.” Peaches and cream was out and olive toned skin was in.
A physical culturist (would that be the same as a health club instructor today?) was teaching some girls who wanted to play golf how to get that olive complexion. They were advised to play the game without hats.
“The hat,” he said, “shades the forehead and keeps it from burning. It also protects the cheek bones. It preserves the color of the upper part of the face, but leaves the lower part exposed, And what is the result? When a golf girl takes off her hat, across the forehead and the upper cheek bones she is a cream white, but the lower part of the face is burned scarlet. Her nose is a bright red, her chin is a vivid poppy, and her neck is burned a bright shade. Across the middle of her face there is a dividing line. She is disfigured!”
The author recognized, however, that there is more to a fine complexion than getting it olive-colored. Some ideas she promoted have not changed, although the text indicates they were fairly radical at the time. A woman was encouraged to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoid greasy foods, get plenty of fresh air and drink lots of water – not glasses, but quarts.
However, if blackheads and brown spots still occurred, several recipes for making them go away are included. For instance, if freckles are a concern, a combination of 60 grains of salicylic acid and 4 ounces of bay rum, applied twice a day, should take care of the problem.
There are also three recipes for removing moth spots from the face. Unfortunately, there was no explanation as to what a moth spot is.
There is no part of the body that the author ignores in her advice on health and beauty. There is a recipe for a solution to keep the hair curled and another to keep the hair from curling, and still another to keep it from falling out altogether. Some interesting hair dyes, or stains, are given. One uses walnut skins and another uses henna tea mixed with indigo.
Maintaining one’s appearance was a lot more work 100 years ago, before the vast array of beauty preparations became widely available. Next time you stand in front of the displays of hand lotion, trying to decide which will work best, recognize that at least you don’t have to be the lady of 1908 deciding whether she will 1) make a lotion of pine tar and olive oil; 2) use the olive oil mixed with mutton tallow; 3) stir up some ground barley, mixed with one egg white, some glycerin and some honey; or 4) beat up some myrrh with some melted wax and then add honey and rosewater to it.
As I see it, the only advantage those women of 1908 had was that plumpness was considered a good thing!
Return to Index