Thursday, June 22, 2017

Women's Concerns in 1912

Another Royal Oak Flea Market find is The Coates Sewing and Dress Making Manual, published by Lydia Trattles Coates of  L. T. Coates & Company, Cleveland, Ohio, in 1912.

The introduction begins,

"Many women go without as complete a wardrobe as they would like to have or pay out more money than they feel that they should spare to get their garments made or are forced to wear unbecoming, non-individual clothes simply because they do not know exactly how to cut and fit and make and finish the articles of their apparel and without complete instructions before them do not feel like risking the time and the material in experimenting."

Beginning with that very long sentence, the Introduction continues on to explain that this "simple and comprehensible set of Sewing and Dress Making Lessons have been compiled--without waste of words or unnecessary repetitions."

The booklet of 96 pages consists of a multitude of advertisements and illustrated 'lessons' on "Plain and Fancy Stitches," "Working Instructions," "Necessary Sewing and Dressmaking Accessories," "Complete Instructions for Specific Work," "Sponging, Shrinking, and Pressing," "Cutting," "Fitting and Alterations," "The Well Groomed Woman," "Milady's Wardrobe," "Maternity Outfit," "School Girl Supplies," Children's Clothes," "Infant's Outfits," and Cleaning, Dyeing, and Laundering.

The Lessons look like this:

 There are diagrams of clothing patterns.
 We can see 1912 style trends in the illustrations.
Suit Jacket

Shirt Waist

Dressing Saque

 "Aprons are the simplest of all garments to make," Lesson 87 begins.
 The Kimona, a traditional Filipino style, looks quite easy as well.

 The essential corset covers and 'drawers'.
Maternity Gown

"Have plenty of white petticoats plain or elaborate to match your
other lingerie of our outfit, but have them made the proper length to wear with your
hose and evening gowns. For your street, business, and traveling gowns,
silk, heatherbloom or even a good quality of sateen is preferable."
The advertisements tell us about women's concerns a hundred years ago.

"Laxative Bran Biscuits - do the work "The samples you gave me were delicious"" reads the Battle Creek Sanitarium Food Co. ad. They were considered part of a good diet and a health food.

Now that Milady is regular, it is time to deal with that sagging skin. Luckily, Ganesh has come out of India with treatments for tired eyes, frown lines, and radiant skin.

Ganesh for Loveliness

What was Oxydonor was exactly? The drawing shows a tank and a contact disk that attached to the ankle. The ad reads, "This wonderful little appliance, invented by Dr. H. Ache for the purpose of healing the sick, performs cures, which border on miracles," thus writes Edward Rigby of Lisbon, OH." The Oxydonor was invented by Dr Hercules Sanche of Detroit and patented June, 24, 1890.


A little research on the patent shows that the disk was strapped to Milady's ankle! The tank was filled with ice water! Imagine the miracles that ensued from cold ankles.

Perhaps Milady is intrigued by Ackerman's Patent Ideal Faucet Syringe and Bath Spray, "The most wonderful improvement ever made in a syringe. Can be used for everything a fountain syringe is used for." Now, that is vague. Dare we think the 'uses' were not to be named in polite society? Wait, it is suggested "A lady, in washing dirt from the porch, will use the lawn hose with such force as to drive everything before it."


But it also has "The Ideal Patent Cup Attachment which has a sponge in it, and when it is desired to use an antiseptic or sanitive treatment in connection with a douche, all that is required is to drop your medicine onto the Sponge in the cup, screw on the cap and attach to end of rubber tube before putting on the spray and then screw on the vaginal pipe whose stream of water is medicated with the medicine."

I am baffled to think Milady would want a vaginal douche that had the same force necessary to "drive everything before it" when cleaning her porch!


What would Milady put onto her Faucet Syringe sponge? "Sanar, the Wonderful Cleansing, Healing and Soothing Antiseptic Ever Used for a Douche for Practically All Female Weaknesses." Female weaknesses? "Sanar can be used without fear of injuring the most delicate" tissues and won't burn. Every married lady needed Sanar.

The Coates people admonished Milady that "There is one small article that no woman should be without and that is a Sanitary Belt, but there are many makeshifts on the market, but they are most unsatisfactory, as unless they are properly constructed they either will not stay clasped or will not hold the napkins in place, but a well made belt can not only be worn with comfort but can be easily adjusted and will prove secure."

Ladies are warned against the "ruinous habit" of employing safety pins instead purchasing Improved Sanitary Belts with a no-slip clasp.

Improved Sanitary Belt
In case the Improved Sanitary Belt fails, best to have "an article every woman will welcome," a waterproof skirt shield.
The AMA
When Milady is properly appareled and protected, her thoughts turn to her household obligations. "Dirt and Dust are a Constant Menace to Your Home," Milady is warned, but The Domestic is there to save the day.

After Milady's work is done, she must use her free time to beautiful the home. Embroidery is just the activity. Just buy six skeins of Richardson's Grand Prize Wash Embroidery Silk and receive a "fully illustrated lesson" for a pillow outfit for 25 cents.

I have a collection ot Richardson's Grecian Silk Floss stored in a vintage magazine, a gift from a lady. I wrote about it here.

Most important of all maternal concernts was the health of growing girls. You know how 'nervous, sickly, and weak' they can be. Zoa-Phora is just what is needed. This was another Kalamazoo, Michigan invention. The Coates booklet on page 95 notes that the product had been around for 50 years, was made of a vegetable compound, "does not make drug fiends," and the formula is available upon request. "Zoa-Phora begins at the seat of your trouble and builds up every part of your body, especially the sexual organism." 


No alcohol, opiates, narcotics or dangerous or harmful drugs! What a rarity! But what was in Zoa-phora? According to the National Museum of American History:

  • Mandrake root is hallucinogenic and narcotic. In sufficient quantities, it induces a state of unconsciousness and was used as an anaesthetic for surgery in ancient times. 
  • Black cohosh has been used to treat symptoms of menopause, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), painful menstruation, acne, weakened bones (osteoporosis), and for starting labor in pregnant women.
  • Blue cohosh is used for starting labor, menstruation, inflammation of the uterus and also for muscle spasms, colic, cramps, and hysteria
  • Life root has been used as a traditional medicine to hasten labor and relieve labor pains. Use is not recommended; the plant is toxic and possibly carcinogenic.
  • Roman chamomile is used for digestive disorders, morning sickness, and painful menstrual periods.
  • False unicorn is used for treating ovarian cysts, menstrual problems, menopausal symptoms, vomiting from pregnancy, and infertility. 
  • Cramp bark is used for relieving menstrual cramps and cramps during pregnancy.
The Kalamazoo Antique Bottle Club article tells us that Zoa-phora contained as much alcohol as a bottle of whiskey! It was invented by a Methodist minister turned homeopathic physician, Dr. Richard Pengelly, whose wife, Mary was the leader of the local Women's Christian Temperance Union and a champion of women's rights. Apparently, The Dr. kept Mary in the dark about what was in Zoa-Phora.

Mary Elizabeth House Pengelly

So many changes over a hundred years!