The horrible cramps women suffered in Victorian times were thought to be period pain.
However, when fashion changed, not only the cramps went away, but also the shallow breathing and the fainting. The reason for this: not the monthly cycle, but the tight corsetry which narrowed the waistline to less than 50 centimetres and the weight of the heavy skirt hanging from this wasp waist caused the pain.
American gynaecologist avant la lettre dr. Clelia Duel Mosher (1863-1940) discovered this link between the so-called period pain and fashion. Her research debunked the widespread idea that men were physically superior to women. She showed that women who followed the exercise therapy she’d developed after a while had the same fitness level as men. Another advantage: they also suffered less from pains. For her menstruation study (Women’s Physical Freedom, 1923) she gathered data from 2,000 women and 12,000 cycles.
For her most famous study Mosher (pictured here in her Red Cross uniform) mapped out the sex life of 45 Victorian women (The Mosher Survey: Sexual attitudes of 45 Victorian women, 1930). It turned out the Victorian women weren’t as prudish as was always thought. At least, in their own bedrooms. Outside the bedroom, even an unveiled ankle was considered indecent.