Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Women's Advocacy Collection

The Woman's Era, Volume 1, an electronic edition

by Josephine St. P. Ruffin [Ruffin, Josephine St. P.] and Florida R. Ridley [Ridley, Florida R.]

date: [1894-1897]
source publisher: Woman's Era Club
collections: Abolition, Freedom, and Rights, Women's Advocacy

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Mary P. Evans

Friday, June 1, 1894

Paper No. 2.

The object aimed at in taking physical exercise is a harmonious and symmetrical development of the entire body. The arms, the legs, the neck, the trunk must be proportionately developed. The ability to lift heavy weights, or run fast, or jump high, or perform feats of strength in one direction, if acquired by developing only one set of muscles, is a dangerous power, It is obtained at the expense of other muscles, and is a one-sided development that destroys all harmony and symmetry.

The power to lift, run, or kick or jump well does not always carry with it health. Strong arms are often found with weak muscles of back and abdomen, and all the conditions for spinal, heart and lung diseases. It therefore follows that any exercise which gives a one-sided development, which weakens one set of muscles to build up another set, which pays attention to one part of the body, and neglects all other parts, is to be avoided. While the system which finds the weak spots and strengthens them, which stops the development of one set of muscles at the expense of another set, and builds up all in proportion, which does not neglect the heart, or back, or abdomen, but cares for and builds up all portions of the body so necessary to a good figure, easy, graceful carriage and a strong, healthy body is the system to be adopted.

Physical development is a thing of slow growth. Crooked limbs, weak arms and legs, weak back and abdomen, flabby muscles, and weak lungs and heart, cannot be straightened | | 8 and made strong and cured in a week. The exercises must be taken carefully, regularly and continuously. The rule that practice makes perfect will apply here as elsewhere. No permanent benefit is to be secured by taking the exercise for several days and then neglecting it for several days or a week. Practice must be systematic, at regular intervals, and it must be progressive.

Classic Greece furnishes the highest development of beauty, elegance and grace. Her orators have charmed many ages, and her philosophers have earned the intellectual leadership of the world. The Greeks were the first to learn and apply the truth that mind and hand and heart are mutually dependent; that a well rounded, healthy trained body is the greatest aid to a sound, vigorous and well-equipped mind. They began with the body and the body was trained in the open air.

The Germans and the Swedes have followed their lead and developed the idea. With them legitimate athletic sports, games and pastimes in the open air have been supplimented with systematic gymnastics, and the beneficial results may be seen in the national character. Dr. E.M. Hartwell, in a paper delivered at the "Physical Training Conference" in 1889, in developing this point said:

"Gymnastics have been most popular and general among the most highly trained nations, such as the Greeks of old and the Germans of to-day. The most athletic, and, at the same time, one of the most ill-trained of modern nations, is the British. I mean simply this, that an Englishman believes, and acts upon the belief, that you come to do a thing right by doing it, and not by first learning to do it right, and then doing it, whereas, the Germans leave little or nothing to the rule of thumb, not even in bodily education. German gymnastics embrace three well-marked fields or departments; viz. popular gymnastics, school gymnastics and military gymnastics. The organization of the last two departments is maintained and controlled by the government for strictly educational purposes; while the Turnvereine, as the popular gymnastic societies are called, are voluntary associations of a social and semi-educational, but wholly popular and patriotic character. The fondness of the German people for gymnastics is as marked a national trait as is the liking of the British for athletic sports. The German system of gymnastics has, been most highly developed in Prussia, where not far from a fifth of the population is undergoing systematic physical training at the present time, under the combined agencies of the schools, the army, and the Turnvereine. In Switzerland and in Norway and Sweden, you will find school and military gymnastics, especially in Sweden, quite as fully developed as in Germany, and popular gymnastics not so much so."

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