(I want to apologize for the NSFW-subject, and for the ones to come. I’d love to show how the 19th century is not just embroidery and flowery wallpaper, and I’m always very surprised to find things like this, hence.)
In 1859, it was claimed that a quarter of all women suffered from hysteria. This number makes sense if you consider that there was a 75-page catalogue with possible symptoms, and this list was seen as incomplete. Some of the symptoms of female hysteria are faintness, nervousness, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, muscle spasms, shortness of breath, irritability and a loss of appetite for food.
The exact cause of hysteria is not clearly defined, except that is was a ‘womb disease.’ According to the Victorians, it had either to do with pent-up fluids in the female body, stress of modern-day life, or the ‘wanderings of the womb.’ It was definately an upper-class disease, an American physician expressed pleasure that the country was ‘catching up’ to Europe in the prevalence of hysteria.
Luckily, there was a temporary solution for hysteria (hysteria was a chronic disease so it could never be fully cured.) The woman suffering from hysteria would go to the doctor for a ‘pelvic massage to the point of hysterical paroxysm.’ The doctors thought this to be a very tedious task indeed, and due to this, the first vibrators were invented: around 1870 the first ones were in use by physicians.
There is a Dutch book which deals with the issue, but I don’t think it has ever been translated. In Frederik van Eeden’s ‘Van de Koele Meren des Doods,’ a young wife gets ill and, after examining her, the physician encourages her husband to engage in the marrital duties more often. This book was written in 1900, and I think may be one of the earliest to show how the lack of physical affections in the Victorian marriage might affect a women’s mood.
I’m not sure if this is authentic or not, but it seems pretty great, doesn’t it?
A vibro-massager from 1902.
An interesting post on the subject.
Unrelated (or is it?) The diary of a Victorian surgeon, one post a day. This seems very promising!