The Disease of Virgins: Green Sickness, Chlorosis, and the Problems of Puberty

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Psychology Press, 2004 - Fiction - 196 pages
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When does a young girl's behaviour become a disease? In sixteenth-century Europe, the disease of virgins, or green sickness, was seen as a common disorder affecting young unmarried girls. Its symptoms included weakness, dietary disturbance, lack of menstruation and most significantly, a change in skin colour. Understanding of the condition turned puberty and virginity into medical problems, and proposed to cure them by bloodletting, diet, exercise, and marriage. Helen King examines the origins and history of the disease, from its roots in the classical tradition to its extraordinary survival into the 1920s, despite changes in how the mechanisms of puberty and menstruation were understood, and enormous shifts in medical theories and technologies. From menstrual disturbance to eating disorders, from liver disease to blood disorder, the disease of virgins has been adjusted throughout its history to fit medical fashions. However, little changed in the underlying ideas about the female body, and the need to regulate the sexuality of young women. This compelling study poses a number of questions about the nature of disease itself and the relationship between illness, body image and what
 

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Contents

1 THE NATURE OF GREEN SICKNESS
15
2 A NEW DISEASE?
36
3 THE MENSTRUATING VIRGIN
57
4 DIETARY FACTORS
80
5 THE LABORATORY CAME TO THE RESCUE
99
CONCLUSION
119
APPENDIX
122
NOTES
124
BIBLIOGRAPHY
146
INDEX
195
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Page 190 - THE CHANGE OF LIFE IN HEALTH AND DISEASE: a Practical Treatise on the Nervous and other Affections incidental to Women at the Decline of Life. Second Edition. 8vo. cloth, 6s.
Page 171 - Chiefely gathered for the comfort of students, and consequently of all those that have a care of their health ... Hereunto is added, a preservation from the pestilence, with a short censure of the late sicknesse in Oxford.

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