Wednesday, April 27, 2011

May 2, 1892 --- The Education of Women

Speaking to the 110th annual meeting of the Medical Society of London on the subject of "Sex in Education," Sir James Crichton-Browne (right) suggests that expanding educational opportunities for women is not in the best interests of their health or their pulchritude. An expert on the criminally insane and editor of The Brain, Dr. Crichton-Browne cites his own research to make the claim that the female brain is lighter than the male organ and the blood supply, which in the man is directed toward "volition, cognition and idea-motor processes," in the woman is directed to those areas of the brain which concern themselves with "sensory functions." Such physical realities cannot be ignored; at one London school for daughters of the upper and middle classes, 137 of the 187 pupils complain of headaches --- conclusive proof, the medico argues, of "excessive brain work as a factor in the production of ill-health."

He concludes with his "haunting" dream of encountering a group of young ladies, graduates of a celebrated college: "I should describe them as pantaloon-like girls, for many of them had a stooping gait and withered appearance, shrunk shanks, and spectacles on nose. Let us conserve the beauty of our English girls very jealously. I would rather they remained ignorant of logarithms than that they lose a jot of it."

The Times calls it "an argument well-calculated to enlist the stronger sex unanimously upon his side." Crichton-Browne lived on until 1938, long enough to see his theories discarded. He's remembered (if it all) for his best-selling four volume memoirs, What the Doctor Thought, The Doctor's Second Thoughts, The Doctor's Afterthoughts and The Doctor Remembers.

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