I am in the know

A couple of years ago Alie sent me What Every Married Woman Should Know, a 1951 book by one Dr. R. Martin (an Australian, I think – though his consistent abuse of commas leads me to suspect Tam ancestry somewhere) that is dedicated to “all those unhappy people who do not know”.

It’s actually rather lovely. Dr. Martin reminds us all in his foreword that science is the dominant factor in our lives whether we realise it or not, and insists that in providing facts about the human body (with very good diagrams too) he is not being vulgar.

Chapter one deals with evolution, which Dr.Martin thinks everyone must understand if they wish to have a successful marriage.

Evolution teaches us that all living things, both animal and botanical, had common ancestors which gradually climbed up the ladder of time, on every step becoming more perfect, until they culminated in man – the Lord of Creation.


When it gets to the sex (after a long discussion of things like amoebas and the romantic life of, for some reason, the stickleback), the book is really almost impressive. The diagrams, as I said, are excellent. The location of the clitoris (something people still seem to have difficulties with) is given clearly. The idea that sex is something that women can actually enjoy is also put forward. This should go without saying, but I spent part of this morning getting a pedicure and reading the advice columns in some of the more regressive women’s mags, and…trust me. It doesn’t.

In chapter 6, the chapter summary thing under the title promises us “a masterly summary of menstruation”. Why be modest, Dr. Martin? Personally I prefer this 1946 Disney movie in which women do not have feet. (Via) But.

The youngest age at which the author of this book has seen a woman delivered of a child was 13 years old… the child mother certainly looked much older than her 13 years, and had her child without much trouble to herself or the attendants, but the thought of that poor girl (and she was a nice, well-spoken girl, too) being saddled with the care of a child…left an impression upon my mind that only death can wipe away.*


The changes , at puberty, come on very gradually as already mentioned, and it is not until the age of about 19 or 20 that the girl becomes a fully developed woman – beautiful to behold (if she comes of good stock) capable of not only having children, but also of looking after them and her household as well.

Chapter eight condemns masturbation…I think. At least, it condemns “gazing at lustful pictures, and reading novels, etc., the sole purpose of which lies in their sexual appeal” because it will lead to “habits of the worse sort”.

Chapter eleven, according to the summary, “deals almost exclusively with varicose veins”

Chapter twelve, however, takes up “the vital subject of childless marriages”. It is necessary to quote.

Had the populace maintained the rate of 1881 during the period from then to now, we would have a native-born population of over eleven million people rather than the seven and one half million that we boasted of having!
The Government, through its Ministers, decries the low population figures and insists that we must populate and develop the land if we are going to hold this fair country from the expanding races of Asia.

On childless couples:

To these unhappy people we can only extend sympathy as they face advancing years without offspring to brighten their path. And also the yellow peril. They are not to be envied, but our deepest sympathy should be extended to them.

On pregnancy:

It goes without saying that the utmost care must be taken lest any impurity should find its way into the internal organs. If this should occur, septic mischief with its attendant danger will follow as night the day.

(The rest of the pregnancy chapter deals with practical things like not wearing corsets, hardening the nipples against breast feeding and avoiding constipation. I will not go into these, though the nipple-hardening thing seems like it might be useful)

Chapter fourteen warns against inter-religious and inter-racial marriages (“not considering the problems of the half-caste child, with its social ostracism”. Most of his reasoning against these marriages seems to be related to the raising of children. Theoretically the couples could just not have children, but then the Asians would take over.

And finally, here’s Dr. Martin on menopause:

Some women exhibit the change more than others, but generally profound nervous conditions take place. The patient becomes very nervy, gets headaches, hot flushes, blushes easily and also shows sexual excitement. In very bad cases the victim sometimes becomes temporarily mentally deranged.

*Question – who does Dr. Martin sound like here? Email me your answers!

3 Comments to “I am in the know”

  1. hmmmm… Rudyard Kipling is the name that came to my mind even before i saw the foot note.

  2. Arthi – Not who I was thinking of!

  3. As far as I have heard, the youngest woman delivering a baby is eight years old…shes chinese…the father is nine years old.
    Thought you should know…

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