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She Had a Question, 1913

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 09, 2009

Ah, me! The teenage years and the years of young married life are so difficult for the young woman to navigate. Who can we turn to with our urgent questions regarding kid gloves, doilies, and high heels? What about goiter, and soggy pie crust, and thin eyelashes? Who, oh who, can help a young lady?

None other than the “Girl Query” department of the Young Woman’s Journal, of course!  Here are sample questions and answers from 1913:

—oooOooo—

Can you tell me if the father is the sole guardian of the children in Utah? – A Mother.

In most of the states the law makes the father the sole guardian, but fortunately for Utah, at the last legislature, in 1913, a joint guardianship law was passed, which provides that the husband and wife are joint guardians of their minor children, with equal powers, rights, and duties, with respect to the control and custody, and of the services and earnings of their minor children. Neither the husband nor the wife has any right paramount to the other.

—oooOooo—

“Hope.” – There are some cases on record, where two persons have been mutually attracted at first sight, and succeeding acquaintance has ripened into love, that proved enduring; a happy marriage following. More often, however, this love at “first sight” is only a delusion, and girls would do well to avoid such an allurement, fancying it to be fate.

—oooOooo—

“L.C.” and “Minnie.” – No, we do not approve of such a low cut gown.

—oooOooo—

How can I renovate my black kid gloves? – Irma.

Mix the white of an egg with some ink, and go over the gloves. They will look like new.

—oooOooo—

I have such a time burning my arms, when removing pans from the oven. Can you help me? – Young Wife.

Take some old or new bed ticking, and make a long narrow armlet, just large enough to slip over the hand, and up past the elbow. Slip this on whenever you have occasion to put your hand in the oven. Another convenience which you can buy at a five-cent store is a “frog,” a garden tool designed for weeding. It is about ten inches long, made of metal, shaped like a hand, with fingers bent downward, and having a wooden handle. With this you can reach any pan or plate in the back of the oven, without burning yourself.

—oooOooo—

“Miss Virginia.” – A girl’s trousseau depends mainly on her financial circumstances. No girl should embarrass her parents, and incur debts, that will worry them long after she has left the home “nest.” Get only the things that you can pay for. The wise girl will begin in her early teens to prepare and save a few articles each year; then when the “wedding day” approaches, she will be better able to gratify her desires.

—oooOooo—

“Irma Jean.” – Peroxide will spoil the complexion, making the skin dry and coarse-looking. Never use it on the face as a wash.

—oooOooo—

“Beatrice.” – Doilies are used on an otherwise bare dining table, for breakfast and luncheon. Place a center piece, a large doily under each plate, a smaller one to the upper right under the tumbler or cup and saucer, and one to the left under the bread and butter place. One or more for any dish that may be on the table.

—oooOooo—

“P.N.C.”– The “nine hour” law for women in Utah does not include domestic service.

—oooOooo—

“L.C.” – To gain the respect of young men, and other people also, a girl must respect herself. She must be a lady. She must have the love and respect of her family, then the influence of the home-life will tend to inspire pure thoughts and cultivate correct principles and habits, whereby the good, pure and virtuous will be manifested in every action. This will always command respect.

—oooOooo—

“Idella.” – Any depilatory you may use will only remove superfluous hair temporarily. It will grow again.

—oooOooo—

What can I do to protect my hose when wearing low cut shoes? In a few hours a hole appears. – Delilah.

A piece of thin felting or velvet about two inches long and three-quarters of an inch wide, glued in the back of your shoe, one-half inch from the edge, will prevent them from slipping up and down, and wearing your hose at this point. If you will have another piece of felting cut to fit in the heel of the shoe, you will derive much comfort from it, as it does away with the jar in walking.

—oooOooo—

I am so self-conscious that I appear very awkward when in company. How can I correct this? – Rachel.

For a long time dancing was thought to be the primal exercise to develop grace of movement and composure of one’s self, but it has been found that the dance only gives a limited training to the muscles, compared to the all round gymnasium work. It is now recommended that all who are “awkward” or deficient in manners, because of self-consciousness, should take a course in physical culture, under a competent teacher, until all the muscles learn their proper office. It is claimed that this training gives self-command, ease of manner, and that serenity of mind and composure naturally follow. If one is well groomed, neatly dressed, and the toilet finished, it will lend an air of repose. Train the hands especially to be reposeful.

—oooOooo—

“Miss R.R.” – Your parents should decide in regard to your marriage. Their consent is necessary before a license can be secured. Under ordinary conditions the age you mention is rather young.

—oooOooo—

“Malinda.” – The best way to reduce flesh is to reduce the amount of food consumed, or to burn it up in the body, through excessive exercise, faster than it can accumulate. Try cutting out the noon or morning meal until it becomes a habit; but do not make up at the next meal what you missed.

Reduce the usual quantity of bread, milk, potatoes, and butter. Avoid eating pork or any fat meats, fat fish, fruits that contain sugar, rich puddings, and sweets of any kind. Drink plenty of water between meals, but do not drink at meal time, as it tends to increase the desire for food. Always eat less than the appetite craves.

Walk briskly three or four miles a day, and do some sort of work energetically until you perspire freely. Turkish baths or hot-water bathing, followed by a cold sponge and vigorous rubbing with a Turkish towel, will also aid you. Do not sleep more than seven or eight hours, and let your bed-clothing be light weight and just enough to keep you comfortably warm.

—oooOooo—

“A.B.” – A girl of sixteen may wear her dresses from five to seven inches from the ground. She must consider her feet when determining the length of her skirt. If she has feet that are large, clumsy, and awkward, she could with propriety wear her dress long enough to hide them. The hair should be arranged in the most becoming manner according to the contour of the face.

—oooOooo—

If a young man takes me into supper at a party or social gathering, should I expect him to take me home, or am I at liberty to let some one else escort me home? – Dorothy.

Customs vary in different parts of the country, or between city and country, so one must be guided somewhat by the customs of their special locality. Still I think that in most places, a young man would not feel bound to escort a lady home just because he took her in to supper.

—oooOooo—

“Young Wife”: To prevent the crust of your custard pie from becoming “soggy,” before pouring in the custard, brush the paste over with the white of an egg that has been well beaten.

—oooOooo—

“Miriam”: Goitre is not contagious. Most cases can be cured by proper treatment.

—oooOooo—

“Diana.” – Clipping the eyelashes is rather a dangerous practice. It may thicken them, but at the same time will cause them to become stiff like bristles.

—oooOooo—

Are high-heeled shoes harmful? – Georgia.

High-heeled shoes often cause pain in the back as well as the feet. Such shoes make one irritable and nervous, because the heel is raised above the ground so far, and the position of the body is strained so that the lungs do not get a sufficient quantity of pure air. Yes, they are harmful.

—oooOooo—

I have a girl just turned twelve years; can you suggest a book or books, for either my daughter or myself, that tells in a proper way the things a girl should know? – Mother.

“Confidences,” by Dr. Lowry is quite suitable for your girl. Price 50c. “How Shall I Tell My Child?” by Mrs. Woodallen Chapman, is a most splendid book to be in the hands of every parent. In this book, Mrs. Chapman makes it possible for every parent to tell to children what they should be told; at what age, how much and why they should be told. Price $1.00. Deseret Sunday School Union, Deseret News Book Store, Salt Lake City.

—oooOooo—

The tips of my kid gloves wear out so quickly; is there any way to prevent this? – Helen.

When the gloves are new, after wearing once or twice, and they have become fitted to your fingers, turn them wrong-side out and apply bits of fine court plaster to the tips. They will wear much longer. Do not pull the gloves off with the teeth.

—oooOooo—

“Alice.” – The perfect measurements you inquire about for a girl weighing 125 pounds, are, height, 64 inches; waist, 26 inches; hips, 38; chest, 33; head, 21.3; and neck, 12.5 inches.

—oooOooo—

“Desmond.” – It is not good form for a lady to sit with crossed knees. Some medical people claim it will impede the circulation.

[July 1, 2010: I have just discovered that I must have mixed up pages in my file, because many of these bits actually come from the 1915 Young Woman’s Journal.]



14 Comments »

  1. I’m always surprised at how well informed the answers are. Now they say that crossing your knees will give you vericose veins. And the diet given is still good advice today. I love the very terse answer “we do NOT approve of such a low cut gown”. Made me giggle to myself…It sounds like my mother.

    Comment by Amanda — July 9, 2009 @ 8:44 am

  2. More gems. I know high-heeled shoes always make me irritable and nervous.

    Comment by Tamary — July 9, 2009 @ 8:45 am

  3. it’s interesting to me that healthy, wholesome, well-groomed women are seen as the ideal (which is, of course, true), but that at the same time they would suggest a hemline to cover “large, clumsy, and awkward” feet and provide “perfect measurements” for a girl of 125 pounds. like amanda says in #1, the health information is still quite valid.

    Comment by ellen — July 9, 2009 @ 9:21 am

  4. About those “perfect measurements,” I’ve never in my life wondered about the size of my neck or head. Perhaps I should go find a tape measure so I know how I am sufficient or deficient in those regards. (I already know I’m short!)

    Oh my goodness, that Confidences book is a real joy to read (or something!). But you don’t have to take my word for it; here it is in its glorious entirety on google books.

    Comment by Researcher — July 9, 2009 @ 9:29 am

  5. I’ve heard that high-heeled shoes can be bad for the foot, as well as for the posture, but I’ve never heard that high-heels strain the body “so that the lungs do not get a sufficient quantity of pure air.” Wow – the lungs? Who knew?

    Otherwise, the health advice here seems to comport with most of our own contemporary notions of good health.

    Thanks for these.

    Comment by Hunter — July 9, 2009 @ 9:54 am

  6. I’m not sure if anyone’s commented on this before, but a couple of these (LC/Minne, Miss RR) and some on others posts seem like some standards were provided to the girls from parents, church leaders, etc., and they write to the YW Journal hoping that they would get approval there to lower their standards.

    I just get a kick out of that, as if a church magazine is the place to go for a second opinion. I would think a fashion magazine would be more likely to approve of low cut dresses.

    Comment by Lurker — July 9, 2009 @ 12:36 pm

  7. Ardis, I love all the stuff you dig up.

    I gotta say, the responses seemed pretty rational. I’ll bet we’d have more time-period quirkiness in an equivalent forum today.

    Comment by Martin — July 9, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

  8. Priceless, as always, and great advice to boot.

    No, we do not approve of such a low cut gown.

    Yeah, as the father of six (now grown) daughters, plus a few semi-adopted ones, I’ve said things that pretty much parallel this. Repeatedly. Sigh….

    Comment by bfwebster — July 9, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

  9. I love the word “reposeful”!

    Comment by Alison — July 9, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

  10. Great stuff. I don’t know how you dig it up, or researcher finding the link to “Confidences,” either.

    Comment by Clark — July 9, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

  11. I’d tell you how we do it, Clark, but Researcher and I are both women of mystery.

    Thank you all for sharing you reaction to these clips. When I checked today, it looks like I’ve skipped over a couple of years, so there may well be additional entries in this series to come.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 9, 2009 @ 7:51 pm

  12. I had the same thoughts as Ellen (#3) about the perfect body or the hiding of not-so-perfect parts of a normal woman’s (or girl’s) body. I also found myself wondering what brought about the question about guardianship, especially because it was written by a mother.

    Comment by Maurine — July 11, 2009 @ 12:07 am

  13. Hooray! New entries will be most welcome!

    Off to read Researcher’s link. I love this stuff.

    Comment by Tracy M — July 11, 2009 @ 12:41 am

  14. I just read that whole book- and honestly, I found it kind of charming, with quite a lot of good advice. I mean, there were a few dated things, of course, but I liked how she was teaching her daughter about caring for her whole body, not just about sex (which she never actually got around to).

    Comment by Tracy M — July 11, 2009 @ 1:10 am

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