Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the original bossladies of the American women’s rights movement. She not only fought for a woman’s right to vote, but also divorce rights, property rights, and employment rights. In the mid-1800s, she was advocating that every woman be educated and trained to support herself financially — a big deal at the time.
I was reading an 1880 speech recently, and was struck by Stanton’s beauty advice:
I will give you a recipe, dear girls, for nothing that will prove far more serviceable in preserving your beauty than Hagan’s Magnolia Balm at 75 cts a bottle.
For the hair, complexion, and clear bright expression of the eye, there is nothing you can do like preserving your health by exercising regularly, breathing pure air in all your sleeping and waking hours, eating nutritious food, and bathing every day in cold water… Eat rare roast beef and vegetable, good bread and fruits, do not munch chalk, clay, cloves, india rubber, pea-nuts, gum, and slate pencils, always chewing, chewing, chewing, like a cow with her cud.
I’ve got to say, a beauty philosophy that is focused on fresh air, long walks, and bread and roast beef is something I can really get behind.
Her entire critique of beauty products is a great read. For example: “a few ideas on any subject, dear girls, will make your eyes brighter and clearer, than a dozen bottles of Balm”.
But mostly, she was a passionate believer that women need to be in charge of their own destinies. And to do that, they need intelligent minds and healthy bodies. Not necessarily thin bodies, but bodies that are nourished enough to do challenging work in the world.
Isn't that true now, as well? Don't we need to be nourished properly, to do the work that we're here to do?
And anyway: who isn’t more attractive after eating good bread, taking a walk, and focusing on ideas that make their eyes bright and clear?
p.s. Thanks to Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s The Body Project, for first bringing this speech to my attention.
p.p.s. I can’t promise that I’ll take more cold showers, but I am willing to eat more roast beef in the name of beauty.