Ladies’ Handbook

Last weekend I had the sad task of helping to clean out my Nanna’s house. She died in March and all of her possessions needed to be divided amongst family, sold or given to charity. I went through her books and she mostly had recent novels by her favourite authors, plus a bunch of biographies, but I did find a couple of gems as well.

There is something marvelous about books printed in the early twentieth century. There’s a sturdiness about them with their hard covers and thin pages, and then there’s the smell… that paper muskiness that should be bottled for perpetuity.

There’s also that wonderful glimpse into what life was like at the time. The Ladies’ Handbook of Home Treatment by Eulalia S Richards, published by Signs Publishing Company in 1946 states in the preface:

It is the right of every child to be well born, therefore it is the duty of each prospective mother to train herself to such a degree of health and strength as will enable her to bestow upon her child the blessing of a sound body.

It then has the most comprehensive guide to everything related to women’s health and raising children and has some amazing images in it.

I particularly like the section on choosing a life partner, but it also covers subjects like sex, pregnancy, labour, care of the infant, and then goes into all the possible diseases a child or woman can have, and includes simple treatments and first aid. It’s over a thousand pages of knowledge for those who lived in the days before the internet, and when it wasn’t the done thing to talk about such things openly.

I wonder whether perhaps she was given the book as a wedding present, in lieu of her own mother having to explain the birds and the bees to her, as she was married the year after the book was published. I can imagine my Nanna flicking through the pages and learning what she could, trying to figure out what could be wrong with her child and how to make it better. She lived on a farm outside a small town and so medical assistance wasn’t readily available.
It makes me smile to think of her reading this book, and I know that every time I look at it, I’ll think of her.

She may be gone, but she is not forgotten. xx