Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/548

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of her sex, there can be no doubt that they should not be forgotten, having, as they do, a most important and practical influence on the subject.

From these considerations the conclusion may be drawn that woman is structurally less powerful and vigorous than man, that she is less capable of performing acts of physical exertion, of enduring fatigue and exposure, and of combating against adverse circumstances. That, moreover, the natural functions of her sex, when they do not actually incapacitate her from action, render her specially liable, under disturbing conditions, to deterioration of general health.

The Nervous Conformation of Woman.—The whole nervous system, in common with the other structures of the body, is smaller and less voluminous in the female than in the male. Its function is characterized by comparative weakness, as evidenced by great susceptibility and instability, and also by promptness in responding to all kinds of stimuli. In women there is less nervous capacity and vigor, diminished power of control, and a greater readiness to break down under physical and mental strain. It is notorious that the conditions termed nervous and hysterical are almost entirely confined to the female sex, in which they are extremely common. Every physician at a hospital who treats out-door patients knows that for every hundred men he prescribes for he is called upon to treat at least five hundred women. On the other hand, the male wards are always full, while many of the female beds may be vacant. This simply indicates that serious disease is most common in men, while trifling nervous ailments are almost universal in women. Most women are naturally so predisposed that, when subjected to fright, grief, anxiety, pain, and other such circumstances, they feel (in addition to the direct distressing effects) various remote subjective phenomena in the form of suffocations, spasms, bodily pains, fainting, convulsions, and a general liability to violent and explosive emotional demonstrations. If the causes are permanent their effects may become so, and deteriorate the general health, and there are thousands of women who are hopeless invalids, often for life, from conditions acting on their susceptible and mobile nervous systems, which in the other sex would have produced no appreciable results. There are, of course, in this as in other things, numerous exceptions to the general rule, many women having their natures much modified and approaching the male type, and in the same way there are some men who are of a nervous and hysterical temperament. We may, then, assert as a fact that the nervous system of the average woman is more susceptible and impressionable than that of the average man, that it is in consequence more readily unhinged by mental and physical distress or fatigue, and that when thus disordered it reacts upon the system, so as to cause permanent disease.

The Intellectual Conformation of Woman.—The cranium of woman is smaller than that of man. The weight of the average