Thursday, May 26, 2005

Cruel Shoes

Latest goodie from a long term project of mine, culling through the 1870s run of the Woodhull & Claflin Weekly, a newspaper published in New York by Victoria Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee Claflin:
'Dr. Pancoast, of Philadelphia, remarked the other day, after performing a painful operation on an interesting little girl, whose feet had been ruined by wearing wrongly constructed shoes, “This is the beginning of a large harvest of such cases.” And what else can be expected? Mothers walk the streets with heels on their boots from two and a half to three and a half inches high, and not more than an inch in diameter, and their daughters follow the same bad practice. In many cases severe sprains of the ankles are suffered. But these are not the worst fruits of the high-heeled torture. The toes are forced against the fore part of the boot, and some begun to assume unnatural positions. In many cases they are actually dislocated. In others the great toe passes under the feet, the tendons harden in that position, and lameness is contracted, for which there is no cure but the knife. When the injury does not take this form, it assumes other aspects almost as distressing and horrible. There are thousands of young girls, tiptoeing it along our streets today, who, in a few years, will be cripple [sic] if their parents do not interfere and remove the cause.'
From: Unsigned, "Women Items," Woodhull and Claflin Weekly 7(3)(1 July 1871): 14.

Later in the same list of miscellaneous items is a story about women teachers' jobs being so stressful and undercompensated that they're dying of consumption at alarming rates. These nuggets are worth the eyestrain of reading tiny newsprint on rickety microfilm machines.

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