1841: “Shame to every novel-reading woman!”


Orson Squire Fowler was probably America’s most famous phrenologist, running a New York phrenological practice for six decades. He also published several books on a range of subjects – from education to matrimony. Dr Fowler even dabbled in his own form of feng shui, singing the praises of octagonal houses and their aesthetic, spiritual and practical advantages for the 19th century family. In one of his early books Fowler warned that children must be protected from shows of intimacy within the home, however playful. He urged parents not to kiss, hug or stroke their children, or allow other relatives or visitors to do the same.

Likewise, Fowler cautioned parents against kissing, touching or using terms of affection in the presence of their children. To do so was to “fill their [children’s] heads with those impurities which fill their own”. Children exposed to “wanton intimacy”, writes Fowler, will later:

“…burst forth into inextinguishable flames of premature love, self pollution or unbridled licentiousness.”

Fowler also warned of the risks to young women who read family newspapers, periodicals and, worst of all, the novel:

“Shame to every novel-reading woman! They cannot have pure minds and unsullied feelings. Cupid… and waking dreams of love are fast consuming their health and morals.”

Source: Orson Fowler, Fowler on Matrimony, or Phrenology and Physiology applied to the selection of Suitable Companions for Life, &c., 1841. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.