See the museum's Sims' speculum.
Read Dr. Soucasaux on the colposcope, used to examine the vulva, vagina and cervix of the uterus.
CONTRIBUTE to Humor, Words and expressions about menstruation and Would you stop menstruating if you could?
Some MUM site links:
homepage | MUM address & What does MUM mean? | e-mail the museum | privacy on this site | who runs this museum?? |
Amazing women! | the art of menstruation | artists (non-menstrual) | asbestos | belts | bidets | founder bio | Bly, Nellie | MUM board | books: menstruation and menopause (and reviews) | cats | company booklets for girls (mostly) directory | contraception and religion | costumes | menstrual cups | cup usage | dispensers | douches, pain, sprays | essay directory | extraction | facts-of-life booklets for girls | famous women in menstrual hygiene ads | FAQ | founder/director biography | gynecological topics by Dr. Soucasaux | humor | huts | links | masturbation | media coverage of MUM | menarche booklets for girls and parents | miscellaneous | museum future | Norwegian menstruation exhibit | odor | olor | pad directory | patent medicine | poetry directory | products, current | puberty booklets for girls and parents | religion | Religión y menstruación | your remedies for menstrual discomfort | menstrual products safety | science | Seguridad de productos para la menstruación | shame | slapping, menstrual | sponges | synchrony | tampon directory | early tampons | teen ads directory | tour of the former museum (video) | underpants & panties directory | videos, films directory | Words and expressions about menstruation | Would you stop menstruating if you could? | What did women do about menstruation in the past? | washable pads
Leer la versión en español de los siguientes temas: Anticoncepción y religión, Breve reseña - Olor - Religión y menstruación - Seguridad de productos para la menstruación.

Touch but don't look:
"The Touch" and the shame of physical examination

After an Austrian woman living in Norway kindly sent me some images of pages from a 19th-century German popular book of natural medicine, I thought it would be interesting to touch - touch! - on the subject of doctors' examining women, a - sorry! - touchy subject. During part of the 19th-century in America, one such technique was in fact called The Touch.

Outside of nudist camps and beaches, almost the only people allowed to see living naked people today are lovers, mothers and medical personnel, but the medical profession's permission is only recent in much of the world.

For centuries in China, for example, doctors carried palm-sized examination dolls (below) to give to the servant or relative of an ailing woman of high social status. The sick woman would point out the place that hurt on the doll and the intermediary would relay the information to the doctor. The feet of the doll would be covered, just as the woman's would be; the feet of the woman herself were never revealed to anyone, not even her husband. 

The Chinese doll is probably from the early 19th century and is at
and a narrative at

Until roughly the mid-19th century, American medical progress slowed partly because of the impossibility of viewing a living woman's genitals. Only the lowest class of poor woman would sometimes allow doctors to see her body and in exchange for medical treatment; this also occurred in Europe. A famous French illustration, below left, used in various forms in the U.S.A., illustrated the only acceptable way for a doctor to examine the genitals of a woman of higher social status. Called The Touch, the doctor examined a clothed pregnant woman (for example) with a lubricated finger directed into the opening of the vagina; according to his training, he must not touch the mons pubis, on her lower abdomen. And he must not look her in the eye - or, according to other advice, he MUST look at her steadily in the eye. The point was to avoid any indication that he was interested in her in any but a doctorly fashion. Sometimes the doctor discussed the weather or other neutral subject while examining her.


"The Touch"
From Lying-In: A History of Childbirth in America, by Wertz and Wertz, Yale, 1989
"Method of examination of a standing woman according to Thure Brandt." From Friedrich Eduard Bilz's Das Neue Naturheilverfahren, about 1890

In the 1890s a popular German "natural health" book (Friedrich Eduard Bilz's "Das Neue Naturheilverfahren") showed a similar way to examine a woman, but this time by another woman (above right). He explains this and the picture below as follows (my translation of the German text that lies right beneath it):

In the following figures 93 and 94 are pictured the examination techniques by Thure Brandt in both standing and lying positions [next page]. Because this kind of examination and massage as well as physical therapy can only be carried out by a trained hand, it would be beyond the scope of this book to list all the rules and techniques. It suffices to say that it takes a lot of knowledge and experience to carry this out.


 Next: Examination lying down and the breakthrough of Marion Sims

©2004 Harry Finley. It is illegal to reproduce or
distribute work on this Web site in any manner
or medium without written permission of the author.
Please report suspected violations to