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Incarnations and practices of feminine rectitude: nineteenth-century gymnastics for U.S. women.

Often referred to as calisthenics in order to denote their feminization, gymnastic systems deemed appropriate for U.S. women between 1830-1870 were enmeshed within a matrix of nineteenth-century discourses and institutional investments. Specifically, the institutionalization and the popularization of those exercise regimes were contemporaneous with the increasing medicalization of female bodies, with the fairly recent yet provisory acceptance of secondary education for women, and with the restructuring of middle-class household dynamics that attended the emerging cult of domesticity. In the midst of this historical conjuncture, texts promoting gymnastics for U.S. women sought to engender and to maximize desires both for physical rectification and for a degree of self-determination, while also inculcating subjection. They did so by inviting (middle-class, white) U.S. women and girls to refashion and redefine not only their bodies but also their identities along specific lines as social subjects: as true women who had recuperated the bearing and habits, especially the domestic habits, of Republican Mothers.

This study explores the ways that those discourses feminized the nexus between imperatives of good posture and related gymnastic exercises, which, respectively, also were required of and at times were performed by men. Those works, by and large, underlined and embellished the import of an erect stance while positioning gymnastic regimens considered appropriate for women as resources for postural, moral, and procedural feminine rectitude: as remedies for the ills that plagued white, middle-class housewives, their future domestic endeavors, and thus their functions within and legacies to the nation as a whole. Simultaneously, many aligned the beneficial effects of such regimes with the physical characteristics of decidedly female figures; for several influential writers, in fact, renderings of the Venus de Medici (and sometimes the Venus de Milo) served as emblems of those physical traits that were to be acquired. (1) Such bodily characteristics, in turn, ostensibly equipped and distinguished those disciplined, useful (middle-class, white) U.S. women who were capable not only of adapting without incident to the pressures of the gradual, yet inexorable, development of modern life but also of negotiating and retaining both the traditions of Republican Motherhood and the sanctity of true womanhood.

Importantly, nineteenth-century gymnastics discourses comprehend both written passages and the material practices that many of those texts described and directed: not merely tracts enumerating the benefits of gymnastics that appeared in education reform, health reform, and popular periodicals of the day; not merely similar assertions that were deployed in the catalogues and the physical education classes of female seminaries and colleges predating the 1870s; but also lecture notes and popular textbooks that guided the performances of many female participants in gymnastics. Although we lack conclusive proof that gymnastics and calisthenics were practiced in the majority of female academies and seminaries of the day, irrefutable evidence exists that they were included in the curricula of leading northeastern female seminaries and women's colleges--most of which trained teachers who carried their pedagogical training with them to schools in mid-western, in southern, and in western regions of the expanding nation. Gymnastics, thus, were fundamental to the eventual institutionalization of U.S. women's physical education. Numbered among the more successful attempts in that regard were those of Dio Lewis, who established the first normal school for gymnastic instruction and whose regimen eventually found its way to female seminaries, to early women's colleges, as well as to a few early, private co-educational colleges. (2)

In general, roughly equivalent numbers of prominent female and male authors--ranging from physicians (e.g., Elizabeth Blackwell, the first U.S. woman to receive a regular medical degree, and John C. Warren, the first dean of the Harvard Medical School), to education and health reformers (e.g., Mary Lyon, Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps, Mary Gove Nichols, and Russell Trall), to purveyors of domestic advice (e.g., Lydia Maria Child and Catharine Beecher)--advanced gymnastics for U.S. girls and women through their writings. Due in part to those efforts, by the sixth decade of the century, Catharine Beecher and Dio Lewis were able to corroborate the popularity of the health manual as a genre and to prove that well-publicized gymnastics handbooks might achieve comparable success in the marketplace as well. (3)

Therefore, much like the reform, the child-rearing, and the domestic advice literatures that facilitated their emergence, published materials regarding gymnastics for U.S. women most often addressed middle-class readers (frequently middle-class mothers, daughters, and female students) as well. Granted, we cannot presume that those (ideal) readers and those nineteenth-century girls and women who participated in gymnastics exhibited uniform and undeviating fidelity to the guidelines for such exercises, much less to the various permutations of rectitude many of those regimens encouraged. Nevertheless, the prescriptive norms that were tendered and accepted in relation to women's gymnastics and their articulations of feminine rectitude reveal much about the anxieties and aspirations of middle-class Americans at the time. They illuminate considerable trepidation concerning the physical and moral integrity of future generations, an accumulation of fears that were intimately linked to the administration of women's education and to quality of women's everyday lives at home. They shed light, moreover, upon a range of practices that were propagated to help (white, middle-class) women to conduct and to improve the quality of their daily lives while reconciling four seemingly incommensurable objectives: protecting the health of U.S. women; enabling them to obtain more than a rudimentary primary education; preparing them to provide serviceable household labor; as well as readying them to incarnate and to enact idealized conceptions of femininity.

Furthermore, the discourses that sanctioned gymnastics for nineteenth-century U.S. women and girls spanned a number of institutional vicinities (medical, educational, and domestic). Concomitantly, they constituted and reinforced the capacities of those exercise systems as disciplinary regimens that not only converged with, bolstered, and supplemented practices pertaining to comportment and health but also complemented incipient disciplinary impulses with respect to household work. The latter finding, especially, augments histories of U.S. housework by delineating the ways that gymnastics were constructed as means to configure, to domesticate, and to distinguish healthy, useful female bodies shaped and trained to undertake domestic labor during an era marked both by the onset of modernization and by the consolidation of the middle classes. At the same time, this investigation also extends histories of U.S. women's sport and physical education that have noted ties between gymnastics for nineteenth-century U.S. women and domestic work through references to robustness, vigor, good posture, and physical discipline. It does so, expressly, by addressing the interlocking physical, moral, and behavioral components of comprehensive rectitude, the disciplinary dimensions of connections between gymnastics and housework, and the resultant implications for both feminine corporeality and feminine subjectivity.

Perceptions of Nineteenth-Century Housework: The Necessity of Domestic Rectitude and the Disappearance of Labor

Closely following the question of post-revolutionary women's standing relative to citizenship were those involving the nature and status of their domestic labor. Given that the gendered opposition between the (market-based, wage-earning) employments of male, U.S. citizens and the (domestic, unpaid, supposedly unproductive) pursuits of female dependents ultimately reoriented house/work and domestic labor in such a way that they became oxymoronic, we should not be surprised that the relationships among the market, domesticity, and corresponding definitions of middle-class femininity were fraught with contradictions. (4)

For instance, by the mid-nineteenth century, securing domestic servants had become a marker of middle-class status. Yet, among the developing U.S. middle classes, women's household duties--performed far less frequently in conjunction with the efforts of men than they had been in the past--typically necessitated more than one woman per home. (5) Therefore, because servants sometimes were assigned chores that had been accomplished previously either through barter with her female neighbors or through the efforts of her female children (whose time may have been devoted more and more to their education), the existence of domestic workers did not inevitably lessen the housewife's toil. (6) Thus, Susan Strasser has concluded that, before the Civil War, in both the North and South, the lady of leisure who delegated all domestic work either to servants or to slaves was more fiction than fact. (7) Likewise, as Ruth Cowan has asserted, the introduction of new household technologies often did not diminish the expenditure of women's energies and at times created additional household work. (8) Responding further to suggestions that manufactured goods may have eliminated the strains of women's labor, she replies "contemporary documents tell a different tale ... from the beginning of the century until its end, from one coast to the other, American women seem to have been exhausted much of the time." (9)

In concert with the fact that women had to adapt to any new household technologies that they may have put to use, in concert with the fact that training domestic servants to accommodate the unique practices of a specific household often was a difficult proposition for all of the women involved, and in concert with the fact that western expansion drew many young housewives away from what had been traditional familial sources of information and assistance, the belief that U.S. women often were less than competent as housewives had gained a rather firm foothold by the second half of the nineteenth century. (10) Although, in and of itself, this supposition certainly was an oversimplification, it cut to the heart of the matter while synopsizing the vicissitudes that many contemporary texts furthering feminized gymnastics situated in direct proximity to their central purposes.

In addition, just as gendered ideologies overshadowed the economic value of the unpaid domestic labor furnished by middle-class women, they also recoded the physical toll exacted by that work as well. In fact, Jeanne Boydston has ascertained that the physical travails of housework were "magically extracted" from ideological depictions of nineteenth-century domestic femininity, which was imagined thereupon as an "ethereal" station. (11) Accordingly, female invalidism was characterized not as a result of the physically taxing demands of domestic work, but, rather, as a result of women's shortcomings (physical, moral, managerial, or all three in combination). The overwhelming conviction, therefore, was as follows: when it was executed correctly by a good and healthy woman, housework actually comprised uplifting and rejuvenating activities. (12)

The performance of strenuous work in a context that judged women positively on the condition that their labor was not recognized as such was complicated further by the fact that middle-class men had begun to work in circumstances that were modulated to time-clocks and mechanical regularity. (13) Nineteenth-century women, therefore, were obliged to negotiate the ensuing gap between the rhythms of the market and the tempos of their households. (14) Predicated on human need and task orientation, the pulse of home recalled cadences of pre-commercial and pre-industrial work, contributed to idealization of the domicile as a separate sphere, and yet positioned that realm as one that was unsystematized, inefficient, and irrational. (15)

Domestic work, therefore, not only needed to be done, but, given nineteenth-century ideological (and economic) pressures, it also needed to be done quite well by exceedingly healthy, moral, and efficient (mothers and) household managers while simultaneously rendering itself invisible. Throughout the pages that follow, I will explicate the ways in which coexisting discourses authorizing feminized gymnastics proffered an aggregation of solutions to this pressing set of domestic, social, and ideological conundrums: solutions that subsumed the particulars of postural, moral, and procedural feminine rectitude, while also entreating (middle-class, white) U.S. women and girls to materialize and to realize fully their own subjectivities as true women who had retained the cardinal traits of Republican Motherhood.

Perfecting the Female Spine and Chest: Instilling Postural Rectitude

As many nineteenth-century experts traced not only the physical exactions of housework but also perceived domestic deficiencies amid the infirm constitutions of U.S. women, a good number also pointed to female education as a precipitating cause of girls' poor health. In this context, specifically between 1830-1870, calisthenics and gymnastics regimes designed for U.S. women often were represented and deployed as disciplinary technologies that endeavored to mediate female bodies intensively and extensively in both U.S. homes and schools. Encompassing potential distortions of the neck, shoulders, and back, the marked concerns of such discourses with respect to feminine posture and to the female trunk often extended to the chest as well. (16) In each of these instances, those anxieties invariably converged on the spine, particularly in relation to two apparently gendered afflictions: scoliosis and tuberculosis.

Several of the earliest treatises promoting gymnastics for U.S. women predicated their views relative to the spine and to scoliosis on The Influence of Physical Education in Producing and Confirming, in Females, Deformity of the Spine, a text published in 1829 by British physician Edward Wilson Duffin. In that work, Duffin identified the ways that the human spine might have been "twisted" or "curved" by girls who had not been sitting upright whilst either playing the piano or writing. (17) While describing what was then a recalcitrant orthopedic affliction among school girls and young women--a physical complaint that manifests in early adolescence and that today is far more typical in girls than boys--he made a case for "[well] regulated exercises .... [s]uch are the calisthenics." (18) Likewise, throughout the nineteenth century, advocates of gymnastics for U.S. women often denounced lateral curvatures of the spine, crooked backs, and projecting necks and shoulders, while casting them as the effects of corseting, of continuous writing, and of protracted studying. (19) Dio Lewis thus warned his readers that the crucial question to be asked of female students was not "how have you progressed in latin [sic] but, 'Miss Mary, how is your spine?'" (20)

According to this same logic, rounded shoulders (kyphosis) attended female trunks with sunken torsos that augured both stooping, inelegant silhouettes and underdeveloped, contracted chests. (21) Insofar as adolescent girls and young women, especially female students and fashion plates (not to mention female students given to lacing their corsets tightly), appeared to be particularly prone to such anatomical phenomena, each and every one of those conditions was coded as an index of malformed, graceless, awkward, and debilitated womanhood. (22) Resultant social disadvantages notwithstanding, scoliosis and kyphosis also induced pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. (23)

These circumstances posed a threat, moreover, because many nineteenth-century devotees of gymnastics supposed that contracted chests, in conjunction with insufficient appropriate exercise, occasioned consumption--a malady that was emblematic of female invalidism during the nineteenth century. (24) Although the term consumption has referred primarily to tuberculosis, at the time, such a diagnosis covered a good deal of medical terrain (ranging from bronchitis, to asthma, to pleurisy, to anorexia nervosa). (25) Nevertheless, its symptomology typically was inclusive of severe pulmonary congestion, of prolonged and progressive physical deterioration (wasting), and of conspicuous lassitude. (26)

Relatively unremarked among the first U.S. settlers, consumption (or phthisis) gained prominence in the Republic amidst efforts to gauge a significant portent of the new nation's viability and, thus, a significant aspect of its identity as well--the health of its population. (27) By the mid-nineteenth century, pulmonary tuberculosis was rampant in the United States. (28) Many physicians and health reformers believed that physiological and environmental factors precipitated the illness and, consequently, that susceptibility was both inherited and acquired. (29) The architecture of the human chest therefore attracted a good deal of attention, while narrow, rickety, or "pigeon-breast" formations grew increasingly suspect as threats not only to individual patients but also to their progeny. (30)

Thus, as posited by many gymnastics discourses of the day, the habits of sitting in a bent position for prolonged periods, of engaging immoderately in intellectual pursuits, and of dressing improperly also were harbingers of consumption--which often was associated with a sedentary lifestyle, with the trappings of wealth, and with feminine excesses. (31) Perceived patterns of differential susceptibility reinforced such assumptions as well, while also indicting the lifestyles attributed to urbanization and to the burgeoning fortunes of women from the middle classes. (32) Although consumption certainly was (and is) not a sex-specific disease, women seemed to be extraordinarily vulnerable to it. (33) In contrast to their male contemporaries, nineteenth-century U.S. women were thought to have succumbed to it at a disproportionate rate. (34) Furthermore, the symptoms of consumption often were conflated with its causes. Thus, in a paradigmatic instance of blaming the victim, female idleness and inactivity were understood to trigger the disease. (35) In this vein, Lorna Duffin has argued that, contemporaneous with the development and expansion of the U.S. middle classes, nineteenth-century representations that rendered white, middle-class femininity synonymous with both conspicuous consumption and leisure also underwrote popular figurations of useless, disabled, (female) consumptives. (36)

Just as conceptions of consumption were gendered so too were approaches to medical care. Accordingly, whereas consumptive men often traveled to more hospitable climes (to the South, and, more often as the century progressed, to the West), most female consumptives were not advised to leave their homes. (37) Of those who remained in their households, many confronted two incompatible dilemmas: choosing among a variety of medical treatments and grappling with their domestic roles and obligations. (38)

Initially, regular physicians strove to combat consumption with treatments such as leeching, blistering, bleeding, opium, and digitalis. When these methods yielded minimal results, those doctors amended their heroic prescriptions and took a page from homeopathy: like their rivals, they began to suggest alterations in diet, in dress, and, most important for our purposes, in habits of exercise. (39) Often in those cases wherein it was presumed that either sustained, bent positions or sedentary lifestyles were the causes of consumption, exercise was the treatment of choice. (40)

Such was the milieu in which nineteenth-century gymnastics and calisthenics systems offered women palliatives for infirmities that were equated with consumptive female invalidism. In this environment, texts promoting such regimens also grappled with restrictions on exercise that sprang from the naturalization and romanticization of the languid female invalid, especially the consumptive invalid, which some had conflated with the delicacy and spiritual forbearance of true womanhood. (41) These discourses answered objections that even gentle exercise might inappropriately compromise inherently delicate female constitutions--much less those of consumptive women--by positioning gymnastics as extremely moderate, scientifically-sanctioned regimes that would benefit women's health, increase their attractiveness, and put them on the road to proper pursuits. (42)

Properly calibrated, gendered gymnastics, many argued, would enable women and girls to correct, develop, and maintain their figures by straightening their spines, by rectifying their rounded shoulders, and by improving their postures. (43) The gymnastics enthusiasts who made such assertions therefore effectively submitted that women might use their exercises, in lieu of backboards and external restraints (such as bandages and plaster "jackets"), as means to either prevent or cure scoliosis. (44) Consequently, they commended those regimens as resources with which girls might themselves engender a sure and supportive internal substructure.

At the same time, those writers alleged that women would increase their chest size and that they would obtain what Catharine Beecher--the famed proponent of women's education, of domestic felicity, and of feminized gymnastics--distinguished as the "full round chest of perfect womanhood." (45) The latter, of course, was the ideal repository for enlarged lungs with enhanced lung capacity. (46) Hence, even though many writers, speakers, and teachers did not express the same degree of optimism about the efficacy of gymnastics as a comprehensive cure for consumption, many did discuss the value of various systems in connection with enhancing respiration, with exhilarating the pulmonary organs, with purifying the blood, and, thus, with encouraging female vigor in the face of that disease. (47) Concomitantly, most favored female bodies with rounded chests that were attributable, in part, to an erectness of figure that also was considered essential to female beauty. (48)

Therefore, consonant with Peter N. Stearns's observation that "Victorian behavioral goals [including those linked with postural rectitude] were supported on the whole by middle-class recreational culture," many nineteenth-century gymnastic programs for women required, and also were formulated to cultivate, erect female forms. (49) For example, Beecher's first formal instructions regarding her Calisthenics Exercises appertained to the "Military Position!", the bearing that pupils were to adopt upon taking their places in the gymnasium with regard to the placement of their shoulders ('thrown back'), of their chests ('advanced'), and of their heads ('erect')." (50) When students assumed this attitude correctly, she adduced, they would bring "the ear, shoulder, hip, and ankle into a line." (51) Other calisthenics and gymnastics regimes for women, such as the one devised by influential hydrotherapist Russell Trall, also mandated that participants should muster and maintain just such a posture while walking, that they should return to it before they began each new exercise, and that "[i]n lying, sitting, standing, walking, riding, or laboring, the trunk of the body should be kept erect." (52) Thus, both within and beyond the walls of the gymnasium, pupils were directed to take up a normative (and "natural") stance that definitively and sometimes continuously countered even the slightest suspicion of scoliosis.

Numbered among the other exercises designed to accomplish the same ends was one that should not surprise us: marching with a book atop the head. (53) M, the anonymous author of the first U.S. handbook dedicated to the subject of feminized gymnastics, conjectured in 1831 that "This mode of marching gives a noble air to the head and shoulders, such as we imagine Milton's Eve to have possessed. 'Grace was in all her steps,' & c." (54) Similar attentions to proper posture persisted after the mid-century mark, when Dio Lewis prescribed the iron crown (for men and women). (55) In M's system, then, good posture clearly was related to grace; in Lewis's, the crown itself signaled the "noble carriage" that was to be achieved through gymnastics exercise. (56)

The directives listed herein were circulated in books, articles, and chapters written exclusively with the supposed needs of women and girls in mind, in regimens initially devised for girls attending female seminaries, as well as in a few texts (such as Lewis's) that addressed both men and women but that ultimately distinguished the regimes depicted therein by stressing their suitability for members of the female sex. Thus, just as concerns about bodily comportment were not limited solely to women, a number of gymnastic counteractives for postural defects, such as the military position, were common to men's and women's gymnastics systems. (57) Nineteenth-century gymnastics for U.S. women, however, often included a greater percentage of calisthenic exercises (hence, the frequent, gendered use of the term to denote entire feminized gymnastics programs) and occasionally incorporated balletic guidelines for the placement and usage of hands and feet. Yet, even though gendered considerations were apparent as well in some descriptions specifying the appropriate sizes and weights of light apparatuses for women, the most important distinctions pertaining to the ways feminized gymnastics discourses sought to shape female bodies stemmed from the fact that those texts contextualized the regimens they lauded in relation both to female invalidism and to the resulting necessity for (various permutations of) feminine rectitude with respect to health and home.

As I have just noted, most nineteenth-century writers who espoused gymnastics for women approved of calisthenic exercises, several of which are recognizable today. Those activities, they purported, not only ameliorated curvature of the spine but also enlarged the chest and drew back rounded shoulders. (58) Some included exercises comparable to Beecher's "Chest Extension!," which called for students to hold their arms before them, straight and perpendicular to their bodies, and then to pull those limbs backward forcefully while bending the elbows. The excerpt recounting that movement was quite concise: "[p]lace the arms as at Fig. 5, and then draw them violently into the position at Fig. 6. Count only when drawing the arm back, to forty." (59) Beecher stated that, by consistently repeating this maneuver and others that accompanied it, pupils would "stretch the collar bone," "flatten the shoulder-blades," and cure consumption while converting "narrow and flat chest[s]" into broad, round ones. (59) Thus, whereas some calisthenic exercises also were associated with the inculcation of feminine grace (Beecher's "Arms Back!," "Side Swing!," etc.), and whereas others were intended to increase female vigor (Ipswich's "Hands Behind"), all were consistent with a straight-backed and broad-chested feminine form.

Appraising these exercises further from a Foucaultian vantage point, we might conclude also that these instances of dressage fostered docile bodies. (61) Situated at the nexus between anatomical (and physiological) analysis and manipulation, those bodies were to be transformed, improved, and rendered useful through exercises structured by codes that (as evidenced even in the brief guidelines for Beecher's "Chest Extension!"), partitioned space, movement, and time. (62)

In this vein, a substantial number of gymnastics systems touted the use of "wands," poles that were to be grasped (either overhand or underhand) with both hands, raised over the head, lowered to thigh-level, passed behind the back, etc. Such exercises were advanced by Lydia Maria Child in 1837 and may have appeared in truncated form for a short interval at Mount Holyoke--even before the seminary employed Lewis's system, which made use of the wands as well. (63) Almost a quarter century later, in 1860, Fitzgerald delineated three coordinated motions that composed his first course of wand maneuvers:
 Wand or Pole Exercises: ... when the word "steady" is given, the poles
 are to be held in the center, with the thumbs turned inward, and close
 together. FIRST PRACTICE. One. Slide the hands smartly up the pole to
 the top, which is to be grasped firmly; then dart the hands straight
 to the front, with straight arms, the thumbs close together and
 uppermost; the knuckles to the front .... Two. Throw the hands well
 back ... keeping the knuckles to the front. Repeat these motions from
 two to one, and from one to two. Three. Slide the hands down the pole
 to its center, and resume the position you had before the word "one"
 was given. (64)

Like this succession of actions, other nineteenth-century gymnastics activities that involved light apparatus work (with clubs, weights, rings, etc.) often segmented gestures and objects in order to chart series of movements in which both were correlated. (65)

Importantly, many such programs were performed to music as well (to violins, to pianos, and even to a simple drum beat). (66) Those regimens, in turn, imposed compulsory rhythms on the bodies of their participants, generating an "anatomo-chronological schema" that not only atomized actions and designated the positions of various appendages but also determined the bearing, duration, and sequences of movements. (67) Essentially, then, the temporal evolution of each action was assured by the internalization of the rhythmics that composed, contained, and maintained it. (68) Time thus permeated bodies; and gymnastics, as we will discover by the end this study, also served as drills for "adjusting the body to temporal imperatives." (69)

As early as 1831, M also recommended the use of either four or five pound weights both to improve the posture by combating rounded shoulders, and to afford "that graceful fall, that beautiful slope so universally admired in the female figure." (70) More than three decades passed before Lewis enjoined his readers to utilize dumbbells as instruments that would benefit their lungs, improve the condition of their hearts, and enhance their vigor. (71) Yet, he simultaneously he described and justified this aspect of his gymnastics program on grounds that also facilitated the participation of women:
 A just statement of the issue is this: if you only lift the dumbbell
 from the floor, put it up, and then down again, of course it should be
 heavy, or there is no exercise; but, if you would use it in a great
 variety of ways, assuming a hundred graceful attitudes, and bringing
 the muscles into use in every direction, requiring skill and followed
 by a harmonious development, the bell must be light. (72)

In these exercises--indeed, in some aspects of all the regimes reviewed thus far--we find more than procedures assembled to encourage good posture and pulmonary health. We also encounter attempts to remain faithful to a particular feminine aesthetic and to negotiate the amplification of female strength (especially in the case of Lewis) without creating the perception that girls might stray too far from the former (and, in many instances, too close to the latter). (73)

At the same moment, another significant phenomenon was emerging. By the late 1850s, a few regimes had begun to use ongoing and periodic measurement not only to substantiate the need for girls to obtain postural rectitude but also to assess their progress toward related normative medical and aesthetic goals. (74) Overall, therefore, many nineteenth-century gymnastics regimens were represented as techniques for straightening women's spines, for enlarging their chests, for prompting increased respiration, as well as for invigorating women's physiological systems in their entirety. In doing so, many gymnastic discourses endeavored to inspire women and girls to (re)align their postures and their bodies (both within and outside the gymnasium) in order to acquire the full, rounded chest that some attributed to the Venus de Medici. Although the statue's status as a maternal and nutritive figure was not incidental, and although the vast majority of those gymnastics discourses avoided either mentioning or picturing female breasts altogether (in part, because some were published as textbooks for schools), they nevertheless rearticulated that icon as a figure distinguished by a straight back, by good posture, by flat collar bones, by elegant sloping shoulders (that were neither rounded nor hunched forward), as well as by pulmonary health and heartiness. (75)

This image, in turn, stood in stark opposition to that of the deformed, graceless, debilitated scoliotic girl and to that of the languid, listless, and useless conspicuous consumptive. Therefore, in circumstances wherein exercise was one of the preferred mechanisms for counteracting the physiological and moral deterioration signified by consumption, a number of discourses supporting feminized gymnastics portrayed them as means to fortify both body and soul, while contravening the negative effects that urbanization and newly-realized prosperity were visiting upon American women and their offspring. Many such gymnastic regimens thus aimed to forge female bodies that were incarnations of twinned values that rested at the core of U.S. citizenship--godliness and usefulness. (76) Concurrently, many nineteenth-century texts that forwarded gymnastics meant to reconcile female bodies and feminine constitutions with the (recently) reconceived domestic responsibilities of middle-class, U.S. women.

Comprehensive Rectitude: Domestication and Disciplinarity

Nineteenth-century discourses commending gymnastics for U.S. women coordinated postural rectitude and moral rectitude with distinctly utilitarian goals. For example, in her Calisthenics for Young Ladies in Schools and Families, M implied that gymnastics for women comprised right actions that both effectuated and sustained bodies of rectitude when she wrote that "you have no right to mar, what your benevolent Creator has well made. Man is distinguished from the brute creation by an erect form looking heavenward. Let us preserve it." (77) Class notes taken two years later, in 1833, by a student enrolled at the Ipswich Female Seminary, expressed similar sentiments:
 Dec. 6 School opened by Miss L We must obey the commands of God &
 cooporate [sic] in his plans. Lecture upon one branch of physical
 culture, Exercise [sic] The ultimate happiness of man is intimately
 connected with implicit obedience to the commands of God.... Any organ
 is strengthened by use. This duty may be drawn from the structure of
 man and also it is commanded in the word of God. (78)

The "Miss L" to whom the student referred was Mary Lyon, the eventual founder and principal of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. Subsequently, in reply to another student's request to be excused from calisthenics in order to accrue additional time for reading and playing, Lyon penned a note remonstrating that participation in Mount Holyoke's feminized gymnastics regimen was a "religious duty." (78) Such texts, most notably those that were comparable to first two excerpts cited above, indicated that teachers and students of gymnastics might become physically recognizable exemplars of their conscientious regard for their religious, moral, and personal duties. (80)

At the same time, moreover, usefulness became an essential standard of rectitude in several leading mid-century gymnastics discourses. Those works applied that measure in a specifically gendered fashion not only with respect to divine, natural, and social design but also, by extension, with respect to the terms and conditions of women's domestic labor. (81) Consequently, the majority of those texts were congruent with contemporaneous ideologies of gender that established the home as the sanctuary of feminine piety, as the backdrop for moral and dutiful feminine conduct, and thus as the mise-en-scene for multifaceted expressions of feminine rectitude. (82)

Domestic Rectitude

Given that the exaltation of women's duties was dependent upon the invisibility of their onerous physical dimensions, the obverse state was certainly all the more probable in those instances wherein women did not have access either to the information or to the resources that might have aided the proper and efficient performance (and effacement) of their domestic work. By definition, then, whereas the particular physical maladies that marked women's "married li[ves]" may have constituted what Catharine Beecher designated a "secret domestic history," their faults as ineffectual housekeepers and, thus, as useless, unhappy women were readily apparent: because they were unhealthy and inefficient household managers, their homes were in disarray and they experienced their domestic occupations as laborious, dolorous drudgery. (83)

Always at the ready to advise middle-class U.S. women on all matters great and small, Beecher proffered "physical education" as the mechanism through which this second sorrowful and fully manifest "domestic history" might be altered. (84) She did so initially in her extremely influential advice manual A Treatise on Domestic Economy, which both underscored the import of calisthenics and which announced her intention to write a subsequent book devoted to that subject (Physiology and Calisthenics, a work that included substantial portions of her Treatise). (85) Consonantly, several texts promoting calisthenics and gymnastics also lamented a pronounced absence of domestic knowledge and, thus, of domestic competence as well on the part of U.S. women. (86) By and large, those writings also advocated two coordinated remedies for that demonstrable lack of feminine domestic rectitude: physical education in the form of gendered gymnastics and housework. (87)

This connection was secured, insofar as, between 1830-1870, feminized gymnastics were utilized in educational institutions for women--particularly in female seminaries and colleges that, from the outset, had pledged to help prepare girls for their household duties. (88) Most import among them, Mary Lyon's Female Education: Tendencies of the Principles Embraced and the System Adopted in the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (1839) specified that "Physical Culture" at the school "presuppose[d] a good deal of health, and correct habits" insofar as "[t]he time is all regularly and systematically divided" and "the hour for exercise in the domestic department can be secured without interruption" along with "twenty minutes for calisthenics." (89)

The earliest U.S. women's colleges also forged links between gymnastics and domestic education well into the second half of the nineteenth century. (90) Using Mount Holyoke as its model, Elmira Female College, where Beecher briefly lectured on domestic matters immediately prior to her death in 1878, did so during the first twelve years of its operation (1856-1868). (91) Its 1864-65 catalogue assured parents and prospective students that "[c]areful attention is paid to health and physical culture. In addition to exercise gained in domestic duties, all students will be expected to engage in regular gymnastic exercises at least twice each week." (92) Likewise, Dio Lewis, whose gymnastics system was adopted by a majority of the first U.S. women's colleges during the 1860s and early 1870s, celebrated similar values when he proclaimed in the August 1861 edition of his New Gymnastics magazine that "[t]he truth is, my dear girls, you want less fashionable restraint and more liberality of action; more kitchen and less parlor; more leg exercise and less sofa....". (93)

On the one hand, as previously discussed, the majority of these discourses presented gymnastics as crucial measures for enabling middle-class women and girls to obtain correct postures and, thus, to participate in domestic labor and to assume their household duties without incident. On the other hand, this literature often reflected the prevalent opinion that housework was restorative, while postulating both that it was a coterminous (if not the ultimate) means for maintaining female health and that it was the standard for female fitness. (94) Gymnastics and housework therefore existed in mutual relation: gymnastics for women promised to fortify and to perfect their bodies while making them healthy and fit enough to undertake their household duties; and housework would complete the process by mobilizing and augmenting the healthful effects of gymnastics.

At this point, the concurrence identified between nineteenth-century gymnastics and household labor invokes another facet of rectitude, one that has played a role in our inquiry thus far: correctness in procedure and application. This dimension of rectitude and, more disturbing at the time, the perceived lack thereof were of no small moment. Beecher's Treatise thus provided the "practical" advice necessary for domestic rectitude, recommended that female education reckon with that pressing issue (along with the need for calisthenics), and argued that domestic labor would be implemented rightly when conceptualized as a "science" and governed by a "system." (95) By the same token, although prominent women's seminaries and early women's colleges expressly cautioned parents that their domestic departments would not teach students all aspects of household labor, a good number that included both domestic and physical education (in the form of feminized gymnastics) were committed to training young girls to conduct household work correctly by inculcating an overall sense of system, order, and habit. (96)

In and of themselves, the vast majority of feminized gymnastics regimes necessitated procedural rectitude on the part of their female participants. (97) Elizabeth Blackwell, for one, cast gymnastics in this light, writing that "the movements are executed with the utmost precision, the perfect performance of every movement being enforced with rigorous exactitude...." (98) At times, this need for rectitude was subsumed under broader assumptions about the status of many nineteenth-century feminized gymnastics regimes as systems in their own right, systems that were devised and arranged in such a way that they ostensibly were coordinated with female anatomy and physiology. (99) Of even greater import was the conviction that the female anatomy and physiology were tailor-made for the fulfillment of domestic duties. Beecher's views on this subject were made plain in Physiology and Calisthenics, wherein she made the case that "the work that Providence has appointed for woman in the various details of domestic life, is just that which, if properly apportioned, is fitted to her peculiar organization." (100) That several others who extolled gymnastics for U.S. women agreed was evident insofar as housework was their standard for female fitness. Therefore, if gymnastics for women were scientifically adjusted to women's physiological systems, if women's physiological systems were adapted to housework, and if housework was to be orderly and systematic as well, then we might make two inferences: nineteenth-century discourses promoting gymnastics for U.S. women often tacitly intimated that precise performances of such feminized exercise regimens would minutely calibrate female bodies to their domestic assignments; and, for all of these reasons, those same texts averred that regular and exacting participation in gymnastics was of no small (physical and moral) consequence to themselves and to their families.

Many texts also claimed that the regimens they sanctioned not only demanded rectitude from participants but also nurtured correlative inclinations. Along these lines The American Journal of Education printed the following declaration in 1860:
 [W]hen gymnastics can be taught and practiced as a regular branch of
 education ... when the incidental acquisition of the moral habits of
 cleanliness in person, neatness in dress, punctuality, promptitude,
 and obedience, is made a matter of even greater importance than the
 direct result of muscular development, an erect and graceful carriage,
 a firm and regular step, which are the direct objects of these
 exercises--then, they are truly valuable, and every facility for their
 introduction should be provided.... (101)

Soon thereafter Blackwell explained similarly that, through gymnastics "the faculties of order, precision, calculation, self-command, decision, energy, & c., will be called into intelligent action through the exercise of the muscles." (102)

In effect, then, toward the mid-nineteenth century, many such accounts suggested that girls who faithfully participated in gymnastics would attain, embody, and enact postural, moral, and procedural rectitude. Having learned to employ their bodies conscientiously, exactingly, and systematically via gymnastics, those girls evidently were conditioned to do the same during regular, orderly, and meticulously precise performances of their domestic chores. Therefore, as methods of habituating girls to procedural rectitude, as means of simultaneously instilling the propensity to follow the rules of domestic and social life, these discourses positioned gymnastics as switches that closed the circuits that ran between female education and domesticity.

(Domestic) Rectitude and (Disciplinary) Temporality

Kathleen McHugh has maintained that Catharine Beecher's A Treatise on Domestic Economy was emblematic of the nineteenth-century domestic advice texts that were mobilized by academic institutions in accordance with "quasi-disciplinary techniques." (103) Specifically, McHugh asserts that, in and of itself, domestic education coded, arranged, and established domestic space as useful space, while offering a course of study that had as its end point the "state of knowledge" that underwrote Beecher's aim to systematize and professionalize housework. (104) In those circumstances, McHugh concludes, household work essentially functioned an "ur-discipline" that came up short because the materiality of domestic labor ultimately was outstripped by the symbolism of the housewife's body, which--in accordance with Boydston's assertions regarding the magical extraction of labor from housework--was in no way to admit the performance of that labor as such. (105)

This study has taken a slightly different tack by examining the ties between postural and procedural (domestic) rectitude that may have resided not only in idealized images of healthy female bodies that purportedly were fitted to perform housework but also in the elements of gymnastics exercises that potentially infused those bodies with temporality. Indeed, for Foucault, "precision," "application," and "regularity" constituted "the fundamental virtues of disciplinary time." (106) These hallmarks of disciplinary temporality, in turn, are virtually synonymous with those of the domestic (and comprehensive) rectitude idealized by nineteenth-century gymnastic discourses. Equally important, they cut across the interrelated incarnations of spinal and pulmonary health and of domestic proficiency that many early to mid-nineteenth-century discourses supporting and disseminating gymnastics for U.S. women hoped to animate.

Nevertheless, as McHugh has observed, domestic education per se did not transform housework into a fully-disciplined enterprise. (107) Disciplinary power and disciplinary time, in other words, most certainly did not function identically in the home and in the workshop. (108)

Yet, although domestic work clearly was not governed in a strict sense by mechanisms of disciplinarity, many gymnastics regimens were to a far greater extent. Moreover, as previously noted, many middle-class homes required the labor of more than one woman. Thus, it is possible that, in proposing to ingrain procedural rectitude, gymnastics also may have appeared to furnish resources not only for enabling individual women to implement and to manage their housework in isolation but also for outfitting them to combine and coordinate their own labor more effectively and efficiently with the work of other women in their households. (109) In particular, given that many gymnastics discourses identified families as sites wherein mothers were to supply gymnastics instruction to their daughters, in theory, some of those texts promised to prepare at least two participants to loosely approximate Foucault's combination of forces within a methodically systematized domestic economy. (110)

Additionally, just as Cowan, Epstein, and McHugh have established that the emergence and feminization of domesticity (as well as of the true womanhood that comprehended it) attended the onset and expansion of a commercial (and eventually an industrial) marketplace, so Foucault also has found that disciplinarity is aligned with the needs of capital. (111) With respect to Foucault's proposition that "the time of each must be adjusted to the time of others," then, the most vital potentiality of gymnastics might well have been extra-domestic. Both the habits of system, order, precision, and regularity that they meant to impress relative to domestic rectitude as well as the temporal adjustments and attentiveness called for by gymnastic exercises that collectively spurred comprehensive rectitude may have tendered means for equipping women to accommodate the changing work rhythms of an increasingly commercialized and industrialized market--means to attune their domestic work to, and to synchronize it with, the tempos of time clocks and mechanical regularity that orchestrated the routines of their spouses and the schedules of the modernizing world. (112)

Nineteenth-century gymnastics systems for U.S. women, therefore, were modern methods of corporeal regulation (in the Foucaultian sense) that endeavored to refigure, to rectify, and to discipline female bodies that were presumed to have been ravaged and rendered useless by the exigencies of prosperity and progress. Those regimes, in essence, aimed to inoculate not only women's constitutions but also their household labor against what were understood to be the materially palpable risks of contemporary life shaped increasingly by the gathering constituents of modernization. At the same time, while finessing the conundrums and contradictions that inhered in popular perceptions of housework, those regimes also sought to enhance the utility of such women within domestic as well as broader societal arenas.

The Magic of Feminized Gymnastics: Performances and Incarnations of Subjection, of Transcendence, of Exclusion, and of Ideal (Domesticated) U.S. Femininity

Thus far, we have ascertained that many nineteenth-century gymnastics regimes directed U.S. women to self-consciously cultivate bodies comprising impeccable thoraxes and rounded chests buttressed by straightened spines. Through this physique, one that was equated at times with that of the Venus de Medici, the strong and vigorous housekeeper was to be realized. By stressing the moral, domestic, and even national necessity that U.S. women assume this form, many nineteenth-century gymnastics discourses asked them to reshape themselves correspondingly and, concurrently, to situate and to regulate themselves decisively as pious and useful figures within a well-ordered, systematized, domestic realm. In doing so, such texts countered conceptions of true womanhood as a languid state of delicacy and spiritual forbearance that was predicated on romantic renderings of invalidism; instead, they encouraged U.S. women to subject themselves as authentic, true women in accordance not only with corporeal, disciplinary correctives to slipshod household work but also with the prescriptions of precedent.

Accordingly some aspects of domestic rectitude predated the cult of domesticity. During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, for instance, Republican Mothers were thought to have served the national interest via both maternity and household management. More specifically, the Republican Mother's "faculty" for household regulation, an outgrowth of the Protestant (Puritan/Calvinist) work ethic, was thought to have been evidenced on a practical level through her calculated domestic work habits. (113) Thus, Mary Beth Norton has referred to women exemplifying this mode of subjectivity as "efficiently directing household affairs," as "well ordered," and as "punctual"; and, more to the point, Linda Kerber has portrayed them as "properly methodical." (114) By summoning these very qualities, then, nineteenth-century discourses touting gymnastics for women between 1830-1870 presented the regimes they recommended as methods for restoring a not insignificant facet of Republican Motherhood to (true) U.S. women.

Of equal bearing to this investigation is Jeanne Boydston's description of the ideology of true womanhood as a "spell" under which housework lost both its standing as labor and any sense that it might have been physically taxing in and of itself. (115) Often adjoined with pedagogical agendas that entailed systematic training not only for intellectual return but also for ideal femininity, gymnastics frequently were deemed fundamental to that very magic. (116) In this regard, we have discovered, in the curricula of several leading nineteenth-century women's seminaries and colleges, additional connections not merely between female education and domestic education, but ultimately between physical education (calisthenics and gymnastics) and systematized labor in the domestic sphere. Thus, when performed conscientiously and correctly as moral acts of rectitude that exhibited a woman's habitual choice to do right--her ability to regulate her work and her household, her willingness to fulfill her duties to home and nation, as well as her resulting ability to promote the well-being and comfort of others in each of those realms--both gymnastics and systematized housework became vehicles through which she could attain the transcendent status of true womanhood.

For all intents and purposes, then, the gymnastics wand ultimately was depicted as a counterpart to the systematically and regularly deployed broom: it magically transformed (consumptive) invalids into vigorous, strong, systematic, orderly, efficient, and meticulous housewives; it thus ostensibly evacuated drudgery from household work; and it offered women an apparatus with which they might prepare themselves to execute and to experience their household duties not as arduous labor per se but as the authentically gratifying, morally uplifting, familial, civic, and sacred appointments of true womanhood. Such women were to be recognized neither as valetudinarians nor as scullery maids and household drudges, but, rather, as efficient household managers who were recovering the heritage of Republican Mothers while devoutly laying claim to the household as their rightful domain. (117)

For her part, Kathleen McHugh has argued that, within quasi-disciplinary domestic economies premised on system and order (such as those apparently supported and facilitated by a number of nineteenth-century discourses endorsing feminized gymnastics), the middle-class woman who worked hard was not to appear as if she worked at all. (118) Instead, McHugh contends both that the housewife's moral identity was to eclipse her physical travails and that, concomitantly, her body was to resemble those "of women whose social status would usually protect them from such labor and its debilitating marks." (119) These, McHugh continues, were the class contradictions that were embodied by middle-class women as the transcendent and universalized condition of "properly domestic" and "properly feminine" (true) womanhood. (120) In turn, she concludes that such nineteenth-century conceptions of femininity were rendered "incompatible with those of labor and work," that class differences were overshadowed by concerns with the adequacy of gendered performance, and that questions of race were eliminated altogether. (121)

In short, McHugh submits, white, middle-class housekeepers embodied femininity writ large as a "dematerialized sign of class difference." (122) Assuredly, discourses advocating gymnastics in some ways may have fostered variants of this phenomenon. Absent the sedentary lifestyles and the feminine excesses that supposedly plagued conspicuous consumptives in the classes above them, absent the slumped postures ostensively denoting either servility or the impact of continuous work at factory tables among women (often non-Anglo women) from the classes below, absent the physical as well as the spiritual anomalies and the domestic disarray that were assumed to have characterized women from both of those social categories, the middle-class, white women who practiced gymnastics presumably never would have left the operations of their households to chance. (123)

Nevertheless, according to much of the literature pertaining to nineteenth-century gymnastics, those same women also would have manifested signs of their grace and rectitude--corporeal indications of their veritable domesticity, of their true femininity, and ultimately of their morality. These, again, were women who walked gracefully and naturally; women with good postures, straight backs, broad shoulders, round, full chests, and increased lung capacities; women of vigor and modulated strength who faithfully, systematically, habitually, regularly, and meticulously undertook not only their gymnastics exercises but also their duties to home and nation. Thus many nineteenth-century accounts enumerating the advantages of feminized gymnastics ordained that the middle-class woman who conducted housework was not to appear as if she labored arduously but, instead, was to attest corporeally that she (and others) had benefited, both in terms of health and happiness, from the accomplishment of her household duties. Feminine morality, as conveyed in those gymnastics texts, therefore did not eclipse housework per se. Clearly, those writings suggested that piety and morality would obscure the sense that housework was intrinsically arduous; but, in the end, they adjured that piety and morality would be incarnated and performed (in several ways and on multiple levels) by middle-class, white women engaged in the regular, systematic, and efficient implementation of their domestic duties.

Such were the physical, characterological, and behavioral markers that those discourses universalized through references to female health, to domestic fitness and, correspondingly, to their conceptions of ideal, U.S. femininity (authentic and practicable true womanhood that recaptured the best qualities of Republican Motherhood). As a consequence, the incarnations of femininity sanctioned and encouraged by those gymnastic texts were co-extensive with middle-class enactments of both transcendence and exclusion. Through gymnastics, participants were told, U.S. women and girls (even female students living away from home) could reconstitute their bodies as guarantors of middle-class ideology and coalescence; as vehicles of disciplinary transcendence; as useful, modern (yet traditionally informed and thoroughly moral) bodies that would serve as buffers between the home and the world; as bodies that would ensure not only the physical and moral integrity of future generations but also the viability of domesticity and, thus, of the nation as a whole.


1. Consult, for instance, Mary S. Gove, Lectures to Women on Anatomy and Physiology (New York, 1846), 205, Catharine E. Beecher, Physiology and Calisthenics (New York, 1856), 153; Russel T. Trall, The Illustrated Family Gymnasium, Containing the Most Improved Methods of Applying Gymnastic, Calisthenic, Kinesepathic, and Vocal Exercises to the Development of the Bodily Organs, the Invigoration of their Functions, the Preservation of Health and the Cure of Diseases and Deformities (New York, 1857), 26-27; Elizabeth Powell, instructor for physical training requests a cast of the Venus de Milo for Vassar Gymnasium, 16 Oct. 1867, Department of Physical Education, Vassariana, Archives and Special Collections, Vassar College (hereafter cited as Vassariana); Mary Alice Ives Seymour, "Fern Grove Gymnasium," The Herald of Health (1870), no. 2: 111; Dio Lewis, M.D., Dio Lewis Treasury (New York, 1886), 241-43.

2. Prior to 1870, only two co-educational, post-secondary institutions employed gymnastics for women. Both of those institutions appear to have used Dio Lewis's system to instruct their female students exclusively. See Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Knox College, 1868-69, 32, Special Collections and Archives, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois (hereafter cited as Knox Catalogues); Knox Catalogues, 1869-70, 47; Swarthmore College First Annual Catalogue, 1869-70, 30, College Archives, Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College.

3. Roberta Park, "Embodied Selves: The Rise and Development of Concern for Physical Education, Active Games and Recreation for American Women, 1766-1865," Journal of Sport History (1978): no. 2: 16; Harvey Green, "Introduction," in Kathryn Grover, ed., Fitness and American Culture: Images of Health, Sport, and the Body, 1830-1940 (Amherst, MA, 1989), 8; Jan Todd, Physical Culture and the Body Beautiful: Purposive Exercise in the Lives of American Women 1800-1875 (Mercer, GA, 1998), 211, 229.

4. Susan Strasser, Never Done: A History of American Housework (New York, 1982), 183; Kathleen Ann McHugh, American Domesticity: From How-to Manual to Hollywood Melodrama (New York, 1999), 6.

5. Faye E. Dudden, Serving Women: Household Service in Nineteenth-Century America (Middletown, CT, 1983), 145-46; Jeanne Boydston, Home and Work: Housework, Wages, and the Ideology of Labor in the Early Republic (New York, 1990), 80.

6. Dudden, 47; Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York, 1985), 66; Boydston, 12, 80.

7. Strasser, 33, 181. See also Anne Firor Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics: 1830-1930 (Chicago, 1970), 28-31, 34, 44.

8. Ruth Schwartz Cowan, More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave (New York, 1983), 12. See also Strasser, 6, 24, 33, 183.

9. Cowan, 43. See also Strasser, 6, 183.

10. Kathryn Kish Sklar, Catharine Beecher: A Study in American Domesticity (New Haven, CT, 1973), 152; Mary P. Ryan, The Empire of the Mother (New York, 1982), 82; Dudden, 66; Smith-Rosenberg, 198-99, 203; Boydston, 77, 109-10.

11. Boydston, 149.

12. Boydston, 148-50; Glenna Matthews, Just a Housewife: The Rise and Fall of Domesticity in America (New York, 1987), 31; Barbara Welter, Dimity Convictions: The American Woman in the Nineteenth Century (Athens, OH, 1976), 33; Marilyn Ferris Motz and Pat Browne, Making the American Home: Middle-Class Women and Domestic Material Culture: 1840-1940 (Bowling Green, OH, 1988), 34.

13. Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women's Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s (Amherst, MA, 1984), 16. See also Peter N. Stearns, Battleground of Desire: The Struggle for Self-Control in Modern America (New York, 1999), 12, 20.

14. Nancy Cott, The Bonds of Womanhood (New Haven, CT, 1977), 58; Boydston, 104-6, 114. See also Strasser, 6, 168-69.

15. Cott, 58-62; Strasser 5, 185. See also McHugh, 46.

16. See, for example, Catharine Beecher, Calisthenic Exercises, in Physiology and Calisthenics, Catharine Beecher (New York, 1856), 20.

17. E.W. Duffin, The Influence of Physical Education in Producing and Confirming, in Females, Deformity of the Spine (London, 1829), 71. See also E.W. Duffin, 1-5, 23-25, 68-74.

18. E.W. Duffin, 97. See also Jane Farrell-Beck, "Medical and Commercial Supports for Scoliotic Patients, 1819-1935," Caduceus: A Museum Quarterly for the Health Sciences 11 (Winter 1995): 142-63; Valerie Steele, The Corset (New Haven, CT, 2001), 71.

19. See, for example, [M.], A Course of Calisthenics for Young Ladies in Schools and Families with some remarks on Physical Education (Hartford, CT, 1831), 18, 23, 27, 67; "Calisthenic Exercises," Atkinson's Casket, 7 (1832): 186; Mrs. Phelps, The Female Student; or Lectures to Young Ladies on Female Education, for the Use of Mothers, Teachers, and Pupils (New York, 1836), 85-87; Catharine Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy (Boston, 1841; New York, 1970), 49; Gove, 189-90; John C. Warren, M.D., Physical Education and the Preservation of Health (Boston, 1846), 13-18, 36-37; Elizabeth Blackwell, M. D., The Laws of Life with Special Reference to the Physical Education of Girls (New York, 1852; New York, 1986), 125-26; Beecher, Physiology and Calisthenics, 152-58; Dio Lewis, "Spinal Curvature," Lewis' New Gymnastics for Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children and Boston Journal of Physical Culture (1860): no. 2: 48; Trall, 21-27; Helen C. Lewis, "Crooked Spines in Girls," Lewis' New Gymnastics for Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children and Boston Journal of Physical Culture (1861): no. 6: 83.

20. Dio Lewis, "New Gymnastics," [Barnard's] American Journal of Education, 27 (June 1862): 532-533.

21. Farrell-Beck, 143; Stearns, 76.

22. Stearns, 76. See M., 18, 25; Gove, 189-90; Blackwell, 126; Catharine Beecher, Letters to the People on Health and Happiness (New York, 1855; Reprint, New York, 1972), 15, 89-90; Beecher, Physiology and Calisthenics, 21, 157-58; Catalogue and Circular of Dr. Dio Lewis's Family School for Young Ladies 1867, 15, used by permission of Lexington Historical Society; Dio Lewis, The New Gymnastics for Men, Women, and Children, 10th edition (Boston, 1868), vii; P.A. Fitzgerald, The Exhibition Speaker: Containing Farces, Dialogues, and Tableaux, with Exercises for Declamation in Prose and Verse (Cincinnati, 1860), 248; Mrs. Taylor, "Physical Training for Young Ladies," Lewis' New Gymnastics for Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children and Boston Journal of Physical Culture (1860), no. 2: 36; Seymour, 112; Almira H. Lincoln Phelps, The Educator: or Hours with My Pupils (New York, 1876), 110.

23. Farrell-Beck, 143.

24. Some texts were concerned about underdeveloped or weak lungs Beecher, Calisthenic Exercises, 11; Phelps, The Educator, 110; Lewis, Treasury, 267. Some also associated weak lungs with a predisposition to consumption; while others were alarmed by consumption in and of itself. See, for example, M., 23, 67; Beecher, Calisthenic Exercises, 11; Warren, 19-21; Nathan Allen, Lecture: The Education of Girls as connected with their Growth and Physical Development (Boston, 1879), 21; Lewis, Treasury, 267.

25. Katherine Ott, Fevered Lives: Tuberculosis in American Culture Since 1870 (Cambridge, MA, 1996), 7; Sheila McLeod, The Art of Starvation: The Story of Anorexia and Survival (New York, 1982), 4.

26. Ott, 1, 4, 7, 13; Sheila M. Rothman, Living in the Shadow of Death: Tuberculosis and the Social Experience of Illness in American History (New York, 1994), 78; Georgina D. Feldberg, Disease and Class: Tuberculosis and the Shaping of Modern North American Society (New Brunswick, NJ, 1995), 7, 11.

27. Feldberg, 12.

28. Lois W. Banner, American Beauty: A Social History.... Through Two Centuries of the American Idea, Ideal, and Image of the Beautiful Woman (New York, 1983), 51; Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts Advice To Women (New York, 1979), 112; Ott, 8; Feldberg, 14.

29. Feldberg, 9; Ott, 16.

30. Ott, 13; Rothman, 81; Thomas Dormandy, The White Death: A History of Tuberculosis (New York, 2000), 41.

31. Ott, 4, 49; Feldberg, 30-32.

32. Feldberg, 7, 11, 29, 31-32.

33. Banner, 51-52; Ehrenreich and English, 112; Feldberg, 13.

34. Ehrenreich and English, 112.

35. Banner, 52; Stearns, 60. See also Lorna Duffin, "The Conspicuous Consumptive: Woman as Invalid," in The Nineteenth-Century Woman: Her Cultural and Physical World, ed. Sara Delamont and Lorna Duffin (New York, 1978), 26.

36. Lorna Duffin, 26.

37. Rothman, 77, 105, 108.

38. Rothman, 105, 77-78.

39. Rothman, 107; Feldberg, 15, 18.

40. Feldberg, 15-16; Rothman, 77-78.

41. Ehrenreich and English, 108-109; Roberta Park, "Sport, Gender and Society in a Transatlantic Victorian Perspective," in From Fair Sex to Feminism, ed. J.A. Mangan and Roberta J. Park (London, 1987), 30; Allen Guttman, Women's Sports: A History (New York, 1991), 85; Todd, 74.

42. Banner, 90; J.A. Mangan, "Introduction," in From Fair Sex to Feminism, ed. J.A. Mangan and Roberta J. Park (London, 1987), 4; Park "Sport, Gender, and Society," 30; Guttman, 91-93; Todd, 59.

43. See M., 27; E.W. Duffin, 86-89, 97-99; Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy, 34; Beecher, Physiology and Calisthenics, 158-59; Gove, 202, 209-10, 218-19; Blackwell, 106; Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "The Health of Our Girls," Atlantic Monthly 9 (June 1862): 729-30; Lewis, "The New Gymnastics," Atlantic Monthly 10 (Aug. 1862): 129; "Plans of School Houses with One Room," [Barnard's] American Journal of Education 23 (December 1860): 528; E.M. Powell, "Physical Culture at Vassar College," Herald of Health and Journal of Physical Culture 13 (March, 1869): 134.

44. E.W. Duffin, 22, 115-17; M., 59. See also Dorothy Ainsworth, The History of Physical Education for Women and Girls in Colleges for Women (New York, 1930), 2; and Farrell-Beck, 143, 145, 149-59.

45. Beecher, Physiology and Calisthenics, 127. See also Beecher, Calisthenic Exercises, 11, 13. See as well E.W. Duffin, 104-5; "Calisthenics," "Hands Over Head.," [c.a. 1830?], Zilpha P. Grant Banister Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Mount Holyoke College (hereafter cited as Zilpha P. Grant Banister Papers); Emma Lydia Bolzau, Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps: Her Life and Her Work (Philadelphia, 1936), 148; Powell, "Physical Culture," 134; Dio Lewis, Our Girls (New York, 1871), 357-60.

46. Beecher, Calisthenic Exercises, 11, 12; Dio Lewis, Treasury, 267. See also Lewis, New Gymnastics, 10th edition, 272-73; and Lewis, "The New Gymnastics," 148.

47. Beecher, "Physiology and Calisthenics," New Gymnastics for Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children and Boston Journal of Physical Culture (1860): no. 1: 1. See also M., 28, 67-68; Lydia Maria Child, The Little Girl's Own Book, enlarged edition (Glasgow, 1837), 242; Bolzau, 291; Warren, 20, 40-41, 68; Blackwell, 177; Catalogue of the Officers and Pupils of Rockford Female Seminary, 1853-54, 19, College Archives, Rockford College (hereafter cited as Rockford Catalogues); Trall, 17; Fitzgerald, 248; Dio Lewis, "The New Gymnastics," 130-31, 136; Prospectus of the Mills Seminary, 1871, 14, College Archives, Mills College (hereafter cited as Mills Prospectus).

48. Blackwell, 126; Higginson, 729.

49. Stearns, 25, 78, 80.

50. Beecher, Calisthenic Exercise, 10.

51. Beecher, Calisthenic Exercises, 10.

52. Trall, 21. See also "Calisthenics," "The Position of the body.," [c.a. 1830?], Zilpha P. Grant Banister Papers); "Calisthenics. First Series," "Standing Position.," Notes of Mary, Titcomb, [c.a. 1850?], Alumnae Biographical File, Archives and Special Collections, Mount Holyoke College (hereafter cited as Mount Holyoke Alumnae); Beecher, Physiology and Calisthenics, 155-57; Lewis, New Gymnastics, 10th edition, 19-20.

53. M., 38-39. See also Child, 253-54.

54. M., 39. See also Todd, 104.

55. Dio Lewis, New Gymnastics for Men, Women, and Children, (Boston, 1862), 99-100.

56. Lewis, "The New Gymnastics," 142.

57. Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-class Culture in America 1830-1870 (New Haven, CT, 1982), 96-97; John F. Kasson, Rudeness and Civility: Manners in Nineteenth-Century Urban America (New York, 1990), 176; Richard L. Bushman, The Refinement of America (New York, 1993), 44, 64-69; C. Dallett Hemphill, Bowing to Necessities (New York, 1999), 188-89.

58. See, for example, "Calisthenics," "Hands Behind.," [c.a. 1830?], Zilpha P. Grant Banister Papers; "Calisthenics," "Hands over head.," [c.a. 1830?], Zilpha P. Grant Banister Papers; "Calisthenics," Journal of Health (23 Feb. 1831), no. 12: 191-92; "Fig. 13." (M., 35); M., 36, 50; "Collar-bone Extension!" (Beecher, Calisthenic Exercises, 12, 52); "First Arm Position: Arms Up!" (Beecher, Calisthenic Exercises, 16); "Arms Back!" (Beecher, Calisthenic Exercises, 20); exercise no. 1 (Mary Titcomb, Calisthenic Exercises, 1867, 1, Mount Holyoke Physical Education Records [hereafter cited as Mount Holyoke PE Records]); exercises no. 6 and no. 7 (Titcomb, Calisthenic Exercises, 1867, 2, Mount Holyoke PE Records); "No. 4" (Lewis, New Gymnastics, 10th edition, 50-52); and "No. 8" (Lewis, New Gymnastics, 10th edition, 54-55).

59. Beecher, Calisthenic Exercises, 13.

60. Beecher, Calisthenic Exercises, 13.

61. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York, 1979), 136.

62. Foucault, Discipline, 136-37.

63. "The Wand Exercises" (M., 32-34); Child, 245-49; "notebook Describing Calisthenics," 1846-48, Sarah Packard Holden Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Mount Holyoke College; Lewis, New Gymnastics, 10th edition, 152.

64. Fitzgerald, 258. Fitzgerald asserted that all of his calisthenics exercises were beneficial for girls' chests (248). They appeared previously in Francis, Forrester, Esq., Minnnie's Playroom; or, How to Practise Calisthenics (Boston, 1854), 44-46.

65. Foucault, Discipline, 152-53. Gymnastic exercises that explicitly cultivated postural rectitude were not the only maneuvers that potentially inculcated both adjustments to temporal imperatives and an awareness of time and timing. Yet, it is through those exercises that we might best understand the linkages among gymnastics for women, comportment, domesticity, Republican Motherhood and true womanhood that are analyzed throughout the remainder of this essay.

66. See Songs for Calisthenics, 1849, Mount Holyoke PE Records; Songs for Calisthenics, 1857, Mount Holyoke PE Records; Persis Harlow McCurdy, "The History of Physical Training at Mount Holyoke," 1909, 6-7, Mount Holyoke PE Records; Catharine E. Beecher, Educational Reminiscences (New York, 1874), 84; Catalogue of the LaGrange Female Institute, 1851, 19, LaGrange College, Archives at the Troup County Archives; Seymour, 111.

67. Foucault, Discipline, 151.

68. Foucault, Discipline, 151-52. See especially Moses Coit Tyler, "The New Gymnastics as an Instrument of Education," in The New Gymnastics for Men, Women, and Children, 10th edition (Boston, 1868): 264-65. See also "An Account of the Gymnastics Exercises at Mount Holyoke," [c.a. 1870s?], Hygiene and Physical Education Dept. Records, Archives and Special Collections, Mount Holyoke College (hereafter cited as Mount Holyoke Hygiene and PE Department).

69. Foucault, Discipline, 153. See Lewis, New Gymnastics, 10th edition, 275.

70. See also M., 36-38.

71. Lewis, New Gymnastics, 59-71.

72. Lewis, New Gymnastics, 60-61.

73. Taylor, 36; Seymour, 11; Mills Prospectus, 1871, 14.

74. Beecher, Calisthenic Exercises, 11, 13; Beecher, Physiology and Calisthenics, 192; Report of the Department of Physical Training, 17 June 1867, Archives and Special Collections, Vassar College. See also Lewis, New Gymnastics, 272-74; and Lewis, Treasury, 317.

75. Beecher, Physiology and Calisthenics, 152-57.

76. Feldberg, 35.

77. M., 26.

78. Student Diaries, 6 Dec. 1833, Ipswich Female Seminary Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Mount Holyoke College.

79. Book of Memorabilia of Mary Lyon, n.d., 61-62, Mary Lyon Collection, Archives and Special Collections, Mount Holyoke College (hereafter cited as Mary Lyon Collection).

80. See Catalogue of the Officers and Members of the Ipswich Female Seminary, April 1834, 16, Ipswich Female Seminary Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Mount Holyoke College. Also see "Physical Education," Outline of Advice Given to those who may engage in the duties of a Teacher, n.d., Memoranda Books, Stowe-Day Library, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford, Connecticut; Catharine E. Beecher, Elements of Mental and Moral Philosophy, (Hartford, CT, 1831), 413-14; Lewis, "The New Gymnastics," 136; and Lewis, Our Girls, 358.

81. See Blackwell, 52, 106-7; Catalogue and Circular of the Elmira Female College, 1864-65, 17, Archives and Special Collections, Elmira College (hereafter cited as Elmira Catalogues).

82. Strasser, 186; McHugh, 9; Sarah A. Leavitt, From Catharine Beecher To Martha Stuart: A Cultural History of Domestic Advice (Chapel Hill, NC, 2002), 20, 24. Gymnastics discourses were thus commensurate with domestic discourses which, like manners, had been governed previously by the authority of the clergy. See Ryan, 34-35.

83. Beecher, Letters, 121; Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy, 19. See also Beecher, Physiology and Calisthenics, 161.

84. Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy, 19.

85. Sklar, 151-52. See also Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy, x.

86. Sklar, 151; McHugh, 34-35; Leavitt, 15. See also, M., 14; Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy, vii; Warren, 23; Dio Lewis, "Miss Beecher and her Western College," Dio Lewis' New Gymnastics for Ladies, Gentlemen and Children and Boston Journal of Physical Culture (1861): no. 10:155.

87. Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy, 26, 34, 49, 114-15, 117; Blackwell, 107, 176-77.

88. Thomas Woody, A History of Women's Education in the United States, vol. II (New York, 1966), 192-93; McCurdy, 1-4, Mount Holyoke PE Records. Although Mount Holyoke did not wish to assume the responsibility for training girls in domestic matters, the seminary did require that they participate in assigned and scheduled domestic duties. See Prospectus of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, 1 May 1837, 8-11, Archives and Special Collections, Mount Holyoke College. See also Fowle, 698; M., 13; Phelps, The Educator, 251; Bolzau, 163, 283; Rockford Catalogues, 1853-54, 19; Prospectus of the Vassar Female College, 1865, 17, Archives and Special Collections, Vassar College.

89. Lyon, Female Education, 1839, 9-10, Mary Lyon Collection. With respect to Catharine Beecher's views in this regard, see McCurdy, 2 Mount Holyoke PE Records; Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy, 32, 34, 116; Beecher, Educational Reminiscences, 155, 157-58.

90. Although some discourses enumerated herein (i.e., Lyon's, Beecher's, and Lewis's) were either predominantly or partially inclusive of middle-class U.S. girls and women, many seminaries and colleges did not share Mary Lyon's commitment to educating middle-class students. Many did, however, adopt the Mount Holyoke model. Moreover, even as they catered to wealthy students, many strove to reassure the public that education was appropriate for women by self-consciously reinforcing (middle-class) conceptions of domestic femininity and true womanhood.

91. Horowitz, 29. See, especially, Elmira Catalogues, 1877-78, 11.

92. Elmira Catalogues, 1864-65, 17.

93. Dio Lewis, "To the Girls," Lewis' New Gymnastics for Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children and Boston Journal of Physical Culture (1861), no. 10: 151. Even as late as 1877, Wellesley College's First Announcement also situated the school as an heir to Mount Holyoke's legacy. See "First Announcement," Dec. 1874, 3-4, Archives, Wellesley College (hereafter cited as Wellesley "First Announcement"); Wellesley College Regulations, 1877-8, 5, Archives, Wellesley College. See also Strasser, 203.

94. Fitness is defined herein with reference to robustness, vigor, good posture, and physical discipline, as Linda Borish and Patricia Vertinsky have asserted, and with reference to comprehensive rectitude, as characterized throughout this study. See Borish, 141-43; and Vertinsky, "Sexual Equality," 44-45. See also Boydston, 149. With regard to primary documents, also consider Blackwell, 106-7; Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy, 32, 34, 116-17; Beecher, Letters, 123; Quotations from the Second Catalogue of Elmira Female College, Physical Education Department Records, Archives and Special Collections, Elmira College; Elmira Catalogues, 1864-65, 17; Lewis, "Miss Beecher and Her Western College," 155; Higginson, 729. Gymnastics also sometimes were portrayed as a possible substitute for housework when women did not engage in their own household labor.

95. Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy, 18, 28, 41, 117.

96. See prior references in the main text and related footnotes. See also: Elmira Catalogues, 1855-56, 19, 20; Elmira Catalogues, 1862, 17; Elmira Catalogues, 1864-65, 17; Letter from President M.P. Jewett, First President of Vassar College to President Augustus W. Cowles, First President of Elmira College, 18 May 1861, Vassariana; Prospectus of the Vassar Female College, 1865, 16-17, Archives and Special Collections, Vassar College; Wellesley "First Announcement," Dec. 1874, 3-4, Archives, Wellesley College; Bolzau, 164, 284. Additionally, see Strasser, 191; and Leavitt, 16.

97. Consult, for example, M., 85; Child, 249; Beecher, Calisthenic Exercises, 41; Fitzgerald, 249; Dio Lewis, "Mistakes in Gymnastics," Lewis' New Gymnastics for Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children and Boston Journal of Physical Culture (1860): no. 1: 9; Dio Lewis, "Gymnasia and Teachers," Lewis' New Gymnastics for Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children and Boston Journal of Physical Culture (1860): no. 1: 10; Lewis, "The New Gymnastics," 135; An Account of the Gymnastics Exercises at Mount Holyoke, [c.a. 1870s], Mount Hygiene and PE Dept..

98. Blackwell, 175.

99. M., 80-81; Beecher, Physiology and Calisthenics, iii-iv, 12; Beecher, Calisthenic Exercises, 9-10; Letter from Love Brown to Helen, Normal Institute for Physical Culture, 11 August 1866, Mount Holyoke Alumnae; Lewis, "The New Gymnastics," 131; Powell, "Physical Culture," 134.

100. Beecher, Physiology and Calisthenics, 150.

101. "Plans of School Houses," 528. This passage praised the effects of outdoor playgrounds that included gymnastics equipment designed for both girls and boys.

102. Blackwell, 172.

103. McHugh, 42.

104. McHugh, 43, 47.

105. McHugh, 42, 41-46, 50.

106. Foucault, Discipline, 149-51.

107. McHugh, 44. See also Strasser, 194.

108. Foucault, Discipline, 164.

109. Strasser, 33, 181; Dudden, 145-46, 155-90; Harvey Green with Mary Ellen Perry, In the Light of the Home: An Intimate View of the Lives of Women in Victorian America (New York, 1983), 86. Also, Katharine Sklar and Susan Strasser each mention aspects of Beecher's domestic advice that were useful for servantless households (151; 163-64). Yet, we must also note that, from the outset, in her Treatise on Domestic Economy, Beecher also addressed the management of servants directly and integrated other related issues and concerns into her instructions as well (e.g., 196-207, 227-28).

110. Perhaps significant to this inquiry, although purely conjectural with regard to its relevance at this juncture, may be the fact that, by the century's end, benevolent institutions such as the YWCA, began to offer gymnastics classes for the women whom they were educating for household service. See Business and Employment Bureau, 1887-98, "Our Servant Girls," 4, Boston Young Women's Christian Association (hereafter cited as Boston YWCA), Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Training School for Domestics, Scrapbook, 1888-1906, 18, Boston YWCA.

111. Foucault, Discipline, 221.

112. Boydston, 104.

113. Motz and Brown, 37-38.

114. Mary Beth Norton, Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women 1750-1800 (Ithaca, N.Y., 1980), 274; Linda Kerber, "The Republican Mother and the Woman Citizen Contradictions and Choices in Revolutionary America," in Women's America: Refocusing the Past, 5th edition, ed. Linda Kerber and Jane Sherron De Hart (New York, 2000), 118.

115. Boydston, 150.

116. Susan Phinney Conrad, Perish the Thought: Intellectual Women in Romantic America, 1830-1860 (New York, 1976), 27; Cott, 108, 117-18; Barbara Miller Solomon, In the Company of Educated Women: A History of Higher Education in America (New Haven, CT, 1985), 15.

117. Dudden, 156-57; Motz and Brown, 37. With regard to the true woman's sovereign domain, see Ryan, 3, 18; McHugh, 45.

118. McHugh, 50.

119. McHugh, 50.

120. McHugh, 50.

121. McHugh, 51.

122. McHugh, 41.

123. Stearns, 76.

By Ann Chisholm

California State University, Northridge

Department of Communication Studies

Northridge, CA 91330
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