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JAMA 100 Years Ago
May 1, 2002


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2002;287(17):2190. doi:10.1001/jama.287.17.2190

To the physician with a family practice, especially in the town or city, the effects of school life upon the health of girls is always a subject of great interest. Every year he is called on to combat the evil results of too much study and too little recreation. In children under nine or ten years of age, boys and girls have about equal endurance and there is no reason for employing different methods in their education. There is but little danger of overstudy at this time and the children usually exercise freely out of doors and obtain sufficient sleep. From about the tenth year, with the beginning of puberty, until development is complete at perhaps the eighteenth to twentieth year, boys and girls should be dealt with educationally on quite different plans. During this period when the girl is finishing grammar school and is in high school, the most important thing is not to develop her brain to an extreme degree, but to develop her muscular system, her heart and lungs and to give her as nearly perfect digestion as possible. During this time of growth and development physical culture should be sought and given the first place in every consideration. The degree of physical perfection which is attained while the girl is passing through this period of physical growth will determine in a large measure her future health and usefulness. The mind can be cultivated later, and, since the mind matures later than the body, this is the natural sequence. Dr. Jane Kelly Sabine points out that menstrual irregularities are present in 75 per cent. of the women in finishing schools and colleges. These defects date to the time when menstruation first takes place, when habit neuroses are most easily formed, and the reconstruction in the girl's education must be made in the preparatory school. William H. Byford, in speaking of this matter many years ago, very aptly said: "Six hours' study and two hours' play should be reversed; it should rather be eight hours' unrestrained exercise and two hours' study." Laws have been enacted in many states to regulate the hours of labor for minors. If we calculate the hours spent in study in and out of school by many of the pupils in high school, the time would be far in excess of that allowed by law for the labor of minors; moreover, the work is more trying and fatiguing than mere physical labor.