ON CLEANLINESS.by@catharinebeecher


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The importance of cleanliness, in person and dress, can never be fully realized, by persons who are ignorant of the construction of the skin, and of the influence which its treatment has on the health of the body. Persons deficient in such knowledge, frequently sneer at what they deem the foolish and fidgety particularity of others, whose frequent ablutions and changes of clothing, exceed their own measure of importance. The popular maxim, that "dirt is healthy," has probably arisen from the fact, that playing in the open air is very beneficial to the health of children, who thus get dirt on their persons and clothes. But it is the fresh air and exercise, and not the dirt, which promotes the health. In a previous article, it was shown, that the lungs, bowels, kidneys, and skin, were the organs employed in throwing off those waste and noxious parts of the food not employed in nourishing the body. Of this, the skin has the largest duty to perform; throwing off, at least, twenty ounces every twenty-four hours, by means of insensible perspiration. When exercise sets the blood in quicker motion, it ministers its supplies faster, and there is consequently a greater residuum to be thrown off by the skin; and then the perspiration becomes so abundant as to be perceptible. In this state, if a sudden chill take place, the blood-vessels of the skin contract, the blood is driven from the surface, and the internal organs are taxed with a double duty. If the constitution be a strong one, these organs march on and perform the labor exacted. But if any of these organs be debilitated, the weakest one generally gives way, and some disease ensues. One of the most frequent illustrations of this reciprocated action, is afforded by a convivial meeting in cold weather. The heat of the room, the food, and the excitement, quicken the circulation, and perspiration is evolved. When the company passes into the cold air, a sudden revulsion takes place. The increased circulation continues, for some time after; but the skin being cooled, the blood retreats, and the internal organs are obliged to perform the duties of the skin as well as their own. Then, in case the lungs are the weakest organ, the mucous secretion becomes excessive; so that it would fill up the cells, and stop the breathing, were it not for the spasmodic effort called coughing, by which this substance is thrown out. In case the nerves are the weakest part of the system, such an exposure would result in pains in the head or teeth, or in some other nervous ailment. If the muscles be the weakest part, rheumatic affections will ensue; and if the bowels or kidneys be weakest, some disorder in their functions will result.
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Catharine Esther Beecher

Trailblazing American educator, advocated female education and kindergarten integration.

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