There is no duty of those persons having control of a family where principle and practice are more at variance than in regulating the dress of young girls, especially at the most important and critical period of life. It is a difficult duty for parents and teachers to contend with the power of fashion, which at this time of a young girl's life is frequently the ruling thought, and when to be out of the fashion, to be odd and not dress as all her companions do, is a mortification and grief that no argument or instructions can relieve. The mother is often so overborne that, in spite of her better wishes, the daughter adopts modes of dress alike ruinous to health and to beauty.
The greatest protection against such an emergency is to train a child to understand the construction of her own body, and to impress upon her, in early days, her obligations to the invisible Friend and Guardian of her life, the "Former of her body and the Father of her spirit," who has committed to her care so precious and beautiful a casket. And the more she can be made to realize the skill and beauty of construction shown in her earthly frame, the more will she feel the obligation to protect it from injury and abuse.
It is a singular fact that the war of fashion has attacked most fatally what seems to be the strongest foundation and defense of the body, the bones. For this reason, the construction and functions of this part of the body will now receive attention.
The bones are composed of two substances, one animal, and the other mineral. The animal part is a very fine network. In this are deposited the harder mineral substances, which are composed principally of carbonate and phosphate of lime. In very early life, the bones consist chiefly of the animal part, and are then soft and pliant. As the child advarices in age, the bones grow harder, by the gradual deposition of the phosphate of lime, which is supplied by the food, and carried to the bones by the blood. In old age, the hardest material preponderates; making the bones more brittle than in earlier life.
The bones are covered with a thin skin or membrane, filled with small blood-vessels which convey nourishment to them.
Where the bones unite with others to form joints, they are covered with cartilage, which is a smooth, white, elastic substance. This enables the joints to move smoothly, while its elasticity prevents injuries from sudden jars.
The joints are bound together by strong, elastic bands called ligaments, which hold them firmly and prevent dislocation.
Between the ends of the bones that unite to form joints are small sacks or bags, that contain a soft lubricating fluid. This answers the same purpose for the joints as oil in making machinery work smoothly, while the supply is constant and always in exact proportion to the demand.
If you will examine the leg of some fowl, you can see the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones at the joints, and the strong white ligaments that bind the joints together.
The health of the bones depends on the proper nourishment and exercise of the body as much as that of any other part. When a child is feeble and unhealthy, or when it grows up without exercise, the bones do not become firm and hard as they are when the body is healthfully developed by exercise. The size as well as the strength of the bones, to a certain extent, also depend upon exercise and good health. So also they depend on the food, for fine flour is deprived of the materials that form bone, and growing children often have weak bones from having this for common food.
The chief supporter of the body is the spine, which consists of twenty-four small bones, interlocked or hooked into each other, while between them are elastic cushions of cartilage which aid in preserving the upright, natural position. Fig. 59 shows three of the spinal bones, hooked into each other, the dark spaces showing the disks or flat circular plates of cartilage between them.
The spine is held in its proper position, partly by the ribs, partly by muscles, partly by aid of the elastic disks, and partly by the close packing of the intestines in front of it.
The upper part of the spine is often thrown out of its proper position by constant stooping of the head over books or work. This affects the elastic disks so that they grow thick at the back side and thinner at the front side by such constant pressure. The result is the awkward projection of the head forward which is often seen in schools and colleges.
Another distortion of the spine is produced by tight dress around the waist. The liver occupies the right side of the body and is a solid mass, while on the other side is the larger part of the stomach, which is often empty. The consequence of tight dress around the waist is a constant pressure of the spine toward the unsupported part where the stomach lies. Thus the elastic disks again are compressed, till they become thinner on one side than the other, and harden into that condition. This produces what is called the lateral curvature of the spine, making one shoulder higher than the other.
The evils consequent on modes of dress can never be remedied until the process of breathing is understood and its influence in preserving the position and healthful action of the pelvic organs in both sexes, but especially those of woman. And this has never been explained in any of our popular works on physiology.
In the diagram, Figs. 60, 61, D represents the diaphragm, which resembles an inverted bowl. Above it are the heart and lungs, marked H and L, and these are held up by bloodvessels and other supports above them. In this position of the diaphragm the air-vessels of the lungs are only partially filled with air, and there are two modes of increasing this supply. One is by chest breathing, when the ribs are lifted upward and outward, making a vacuum in the air-vessels of the lungs. At the same time, the diaphragm is flattened by this expansion of the chest, as shown by the dotted lines. Then the air presses in through the nose and windpipe and fills the air-vessels, giving up its oxygen to the blood, and receiving carbonic acid and water, which are expired when the ribs and diaphragm return to their natural position.