Purity and Truth. Self and Sex Series. WHAT A YOUNG WOMAN OUGHT TO KNOW. Philadelphia: The Vir Publishing Company... Toronto, Canada: The Publishers’ Syndicate, Limited... [Copyright, 1898, by Sylvanus Stall. Registered at Stationers’ Hall, London, England. All rights reserved.]
1898. 8vo, pp. [xiv] ‘Commendations from Eminent persons’ and advertisement, [iii]-264,  advertisements; frontispiece portrait of Wood-Allen; lightly browned throughout, with some occasional minor soiling, and small insignificant ink staining to outer margins between pp. 89-120; in the original plum publisher’s cloth, upper cover lettered in blind, spine lettered in gilt, head and tail of spine a little bumped and worn, light surface wear and rubbing, extremities lightly bumped and worn. First edition, seemingly later issue, of this popular advice manual, the work of the noted educationalist Mary Wood-Allen, and published as part of the ‘Self and Sex Series’ commissioned by Sylvanus Stall (1847-1915), the proprietor of the Vir Publishing Company, and who authored a number of volumes in the series aimed at a male readership.
‘Its Self and Sex series commenced publication in 1897 and included not only Stall’s several contributions to this genre, but the works of such authors as Emma Drake, Mrs. Adolphe Hoffman, Frederick A. Rupp, Hans Wegener and Mary Wood-Allen’ (Atwater 3312).
‘Wood-Allen divides her treatise into three parts. The first is devoted to topics typical of women’s physiologies of the 19th century, i.e., food, sleep, “tight clothing,” exercise, bathing, etc. Part II is devoted to the diseases of women, e.g., those arising from the “artificialities of civilized life”, menstruation disorders, the “solitary vice,”, poor posture, etc. Part III discusses love, courtship, “the gospel of heredity”, etc. What a young woman ought to know is the companion volume to Slyvanus Stall’s What a young man ought to know’ (Atwater 3859).
In her work ‘The diseases of virgins: green sickness, chlorosis and the problems of puberty’, Helen King highlights one particular area of concern for the social purity movement - that of dancing. Wood-Allen notes that it is ‘a pleasant and graceful exercise’ (p. 187), but that it should be done only in the correct social locations and circumstances. ‘If dancing could be conducted in the daytime, out of doors, among well-known home friends and companions, in proper dress, and with no round dances, there would be much to commend, and little to condemn’ (p. 74).
In the present issue, the work begins with a series of commendations for the work by leading social reformers, each accompanied by a portrait. This issue has a more extensive list of commendations, that other variants previously handled. Of the 10 figures cites, eight are leading female commentators: Lady Henry Somerset; Mrs Laura Ormiston Chant; Mrs Mary Lowe Dickinson; Mrs Matilda B. Carse; Mrs Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Mrs May Wright Sewall; Mrs Helen Campbell; and Mrs Lillian M. N. Stevens, and with further testimony given by Margaret Warner Morley and Elisabeth Robinson Scovil. The present issue includes additional advertisements at the end of the work.
Bibliography: Atwater 3859 (variant issue).