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JAMA 100 Years Ago
June 16, 2004


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(23):2887. doi:10.1001/jama.291.23.2887-b

An interesting article on childbearing among college-bred women is contributed to a current magazine1 by one who claims to be a college woman herself and intimately acquainted with the views of college women and with their conditions. Recent discussions with regard to the decreasing number of children in native American families has brought out the fact that the group of college graduates has a lower birth rate in proportion to number than any other selected group of women. Statistics in Massachusetts, at least, seem to show that the average number of children of a college-educated wife is less than two; to be exact, just 1.8 children on the average are born to each such mother. As a large proportion of college women—in the eastern states considerably more than 50 per cent.—do not marry, it is easy to understand that the race of college women would soon die out unless supplied by accessions from other social strata. The writer of the article referred to gives a vivid account of some personal knowledge as to the reasons for this low birth rate. They may all be summed up in two, actual infertility and the great danger involved in child-bearing for women evidently not intended by Nature to be mothers. She thinks that the real reason for the smallness of the college woman's family is not that they will not, but because they can not, have children, and she tells the story of the experience of various of her classmates. The writer goes so far as to assert that, to her personal knowledge, many women who are prominent in quasi-public life are really desirous of children, but they know that they can not have them or that their having them would entail so much risk of life that child-bearing is out of the question. To the ordinary family physician these claims will doubtless seem exaggerated. There are weak, delicate women, incapable of childbearing, but this is surely not generally true. At the present time the athletic woman is more than ever in evidence, and the physical development of the American girl—the main element of which is composed of college women—is the admiration of the world. On the other hand, it is admitted that conditions of incomplete development of the genital organs in women are much more frequent than used to be the case. It would seem as though the intense mental application so freely encouraged by our modern educational system during the precious years between twelve and sixteen, when the maid stands where the brook of girlhood and the river of womanhood meet, may very well serve to divert Nature's purpose of developing the sexual side of the being. Even though not so many cases of lack of family or small families are attributable to this fact, as this writer claims, it still behooves physicians to raise their voice in protest once more against the unnatural conditions that have developed and are unfortunately developing still more in our present-day educational system.

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