Pelvic floor exercises in 1931 were somewhat different to those described today ….but in many ways not much has changed!
I chanced upon a delightful book called “Restoration Exercises for Women” by Ettie A. Hornibrook  (even the name delights!)  published in London in 1931 by William Heinemann.
It is so full of charming quotes and insights into the lack of information available to women about their bodily functions 80 years ago.
However, I had to ask myself – how far have we really come ? Are there lessons we can learn from more genteel times? and …did the native tribal dancers have it right all along?
Reader beware –in the forward by a male MD,  "the information contained within is only for the eyes of married women" It is described as “interesting and brave”

Some quaint quotes on function:
” To strengthen and improve the muscles of the pelvic diaphragm which support and operate the organs of generation and evacuation”

Essentially this hasn’t changed except for wording – today we would say “reproduction and defaecation”

“..but as to the genital organs and their interrelationship with the urinary and anal systems, woman knows nothing. Thus, the physical basis of marriage is genuinely beyond her comprehension and outside her efficient management and control”

Has much has changed here? Are we better educated these days? I would hope so, but judging by the number of women we see in our pelvic floor clinics with pelvic pain and dyspareunia (pain with penetrative sex) I sometimes wonder.

"The physical basis of marriage” translates to sex. And as for genital organs and urinary and anal systems far too many women STILL don’t understand how their bits work or where their wee comes from!

” ….faulty elimination or constipation is one of the commonest conditions of women, and most women entirely fail to realise that, particularly in married life, such a condition is both serious and disgusting”

Well I’m not too thrilled with the wording here “serious and disgusting” but sadly constipation is still one of the commonest conditions of women and it is serious.

” ………no matter what the diet is, women whose musculature is poor and weak cannot carry on, happily and efficiently, either the physical processes of marriage or the physical processes of digestion and evacuation.”

How true is this statement even 80 years later? There is that term “physical processes of marriage ” again!

A wise woman was Ettie E. Hornibrook – language changes but many facts don’t.

What was very interesting as I read was the recognition of exercise being crucial to the maintenance of  bowel health, mainly not getting constipated, (paging Michelle Lyons?!) and strength of the pelvic floor, which in essence when you look at the context she meant , was in fact the co-ordination of the core. Read on :

“No one who has seen the Danse du Derriere or the Danse du Ventre of Northern Africa, watched the genuflexions of the Eastern peoples in their daily worship, observed the frenzied dancing of the Australian aborigines, the New Zealand Maoris, the Fijians, Raraatongans, Tahitians, and many other natives can have any doubt whatever as to the far greater amount of abdominal activity they secure compared with ourselves. There is no doubt whatever that such “dances” of the buttocks, belly and pelvis account very largely for the absence of constipation among these peoples.”

I am sure diet played a contributing role but such an interesting observation from 1931, without the benefit of all the high-tech research we have today, and quite frankly the conclusion is somewhat similar !

So maybe some hula lessons are in order….


Reference: Restoration Exercises for Women by Ettie A. Hornibrook
with set of restoration exercises and appendix on diet and constipation.
                    William Heinemann ( Medical Books) Ltd  London 1931

The material presented here is intended as an information source only. The information is provided solely on the basis that readers will be responsible for making their own assessment of the matters presented herein and are advised to verify all relevant representations, statements and information. The information should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of the advice of a health care provider. Pelvic Floor Exercise does not accept liability to any person for the information or advice provided , or for loss or damages incurred as a result of reliance upon the material contained herein.

© Fiona Rogers, Pelvic Floor Exercise all rights reserved