Why did women faint so often in the 19th century

(ORDO NEWS) — It seems as if women in the 19th century fainted from any (even slightly) emotional shock. We figured out the reason.

A number of reasons could contribute to frequent fainting, ranging from tight corsets and arsenic poisoning to playing a social role.

According to the most common theory, corsets were the cause of frequent fainting. Too tight lacing of corsets that were fashionable at that time displaced the ribs and squeezed the lungs. Some internal organs were literally pressed against the spine, while others descended into the lower abdomen.

Tight lacing and the shape of the corset not only did not allow normal breathing, but also impeded blood circulation in the body. In addition, it was almost impossible to eat in a corset – food literally did not fit in the intestines.

Such deformations are illustrated by X-rays from the beginning of the 20th century:

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Another popular theory is also related to the fashion of the time : 19th century women wore a huge amount of clothing even in summer. In addition to underwear and a corset, they wore several dresses over skirts. In hot weather, many women could pass out due to overheating.

Another theory that explains frequent fainting is based on poisoning. People in the 19th century knew that arsenic was poisonous, but they probably didn’t realize that its fumes were also poisonous.

Arsenic at that time was often used in the production of almost everything from paints to paper, which wrapped food. By the end of the 1800s, 80% of all wallpaper was arsenic.

One of the main symptoms of arsenic poisoning is headaches and fainting. In addition to arsenic, poisons such as lead and mercury were added to Victorian cosmetics.

Some researchers believe that fainting was caused not by physical causes, but by psychological ones. The social norms of that time forced women to play the role of vulnerable and extremely fragile “persons”, for whom any minor emotional shock ended in loss of consciousness.

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Particularly affluent Victorian era homes even had separate swooning rooms , which had a sofa or couch in the center. In such rooms, home “treatment” of hysteria was carried out with the help of manual massage of the pelvic area, which was done by doctors or obstetricians.

Women were also brought to this room to deliver bad news. It was believed that women were so fragile that they could not handle bad news without passing out.


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