Godey’s Lady’s Book, alternatively known as Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book, was a United States magazine which was published in Philadelphia and popular among women during most the 19th century. In the 1860s Godey’s considered itself the “queen of monthlies”.
The magazine is best known for the hand-tinted fashion plate that appeared at the start of each issue, which provide a record of the progression of women’s fashions over the years, but it was also beloved for its household hints, cooking tips, and health advice.
This item appeared in the March, 1891 issue and espoused the value of regular bathing, good hygiene, and the partaking of regular exercise, sun, and fresh air in keeping Americans healthy and attractive.
The Toilet by Olivia Phillips
THE BATH AND EXERCISE.
THE first duty of a young girl is to be in health.
I should say the first duty of everyone is to follow such courses in living, that the greatest and best health may be enjoyed.
To be perfectly well, and in the fullest enjoyment of all our faculties,both mental and physical,one must have an abundance of pure air and water, articles cheap and plentiful, and to be had for the asking.
In starting out to build a house, one begins, of course, at the foundation—in attempting to make oneself healthy and beautiful, we must follow the builder’s example.
It is a conceded fact that paper and paint, although for a season they might beautify an old building, could never give strength or comeliness to its foundation.
All the cosmetics in the land applied to an unclean or uncared-for body, only make the imperfections greater and the wearer an object of ridicule.
Let us then begin at the foundation of health and beauty, and knowing that “cleanliness is next to godliness”—let us purify ourselves, if need be.
“How often shall I bathe?” seems to some a useless and unnecessary question, yet many there be who need instruction concerning the bath.
Bathe every day, the body needs the rest and refreshment of water, as much as the face and hands. There would be fewer colds and less sickness, during our winter months even, if the daily bath were more popular.
A clear and pure complexion, even in the plainest women, is one of her greatest charms, and to insure a clear complexion the blood must be carefully cleansed, and water and out-door exercise are the two greatest purifiers.
In the cold weather a warm sponge bath, followed by careful rubbing and sure drying, just before retiring, is refreshing and in many instances a cure for insomnia. If one is careful there is no danger of taking cold.
In the warm summer days, the morning bath is one of the delights of living.
In the morning or at night, try which suits you best—use your own commonsense—a hot bath for some, a cold bath for others, whichever you can stand, but let your bath be as regular as the sun’s rising, if you desire a clear and beautiful skin.
Turkish baths, if convenient, do much toward purifying the skin, and starting the blood in strong currents through all the smaller veins.
So many fancy soaps are thrown upon the market that one is bewildered which of them to choose.
A friend’s experience amused me greatly, on being asked which was her favorite soap, she replied:
“Oh! I haven’t any. I bought a box of Pear’s soap and used that, then I tried cashmere bouquet, then Coudray’s lettuce soap—after that Colgate’s turtle oil, and almond soap. Now, I’m using white rose. I don’t see any difference. I like them all, but nothing will make my face white.”
Poor girl! Her face must have had a marvelous constitution to stand the wear and tear of such treatment.
I agree with my friend. They are all excellent soaps, but it is best to choose one kind, which agrees with your skin,and stick to that kind, for many changes are very injurious.
Some may ask “are the scented soaps pure and desirable for the bath—is not Castile better?”
The soaps made by reliable houses areas pure as they can be.
Our own American soaps are very fine, and compare favorably with the imported soaps, and are less expensive.
Castile is a desirable soap to have on hand, but for my part I prefer the scented soaps, of the best makes. They leave a pleasant and refreshing oder, which is by no means unpleasant.
But in this, as in many respects, one must follow her own taste.
In using soap, be sure that every bit of the lather is carefully rinsed off.
A little ammonia in the daily bath, about a gill to a pailful, makes a pleasant solution, and has a beneficial effect.
Rose water and glycerine, too, has a tendency to soften, and still give tone and smoothness to the skin.
A spoonful of ammonia in a bowl of water, and used every morning to bathe the arm-pits and the feet, will destroy the disagreeable oder which is so annoying.
Towels should receive our attention and care. A fine, soft, damask towel for the face is best, and the face should be dried by patting it, and not scrubbing it as you would other parts of the body.
It is a good plan to buy Turkish toweling by the yards and make them into towels almost as large as small sheets.
The women of Constantinople have immense towels which envelop the body, and dry it at once, so preventing any possible cold.
Next in importance to the bath is out-door exercise, sunlight and air—pure air.
The young need physical movement, plenty of laughing and good times, and all the innocent jollities of life tend to make the blood flow faster through each vein and artery, and keep the wrinkles from our faces.
An English woman is more beautiful than a French woman, and why?
Because of her out-door life. The English children are constantly in the open air—they do not dine with their parents, they eat no sweetmeats.
We Americans might learn much from the English if we would.
Taine, in his English notes, says:
“In spite of the perpetual fogs—rain nearly every day and the most execrable walking—the English ladies walk. Look at the foot-covering of the ladies! Their boots are as large as the men’s, their feet like water-men—their gait is in keeping.”
The American girl must walk—if she would be healthy and beautiful too, she must not dress herself in stylish array and promenade the crowded and fashionable thoroughfares, filled with rattling carts and the rasping cry of the street venders.
Seek out some quiet and beautiful street, as far from noise and confusion as you can get; and with head erect, shoulders back, feet encased in comfortable common-sense shoes, give yourself up to the beauties of the hour—take God’s pure air into your lungs, and gather health and beauty with every breathing.
Don’t be afraid of the sun and sunlight—when obliged to stay in-doors, take your sewing, your reading or whatever you must do to the sunniest window, let its warm rays fall full upon you and give you strength and beauty.
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- Lucy Brand: The First Woman Voter of New York
- Godey’s Presidential Profiles: John Quincy Adams
- New Treatment of Criminals (1868)