A Woman to Know: Alice Bunker Stockham

I solemnly believe that in weakness and deterioration of health and moral principle, the corset has more to answer for than intoxicating drinks. — Alice Bunker Stockham

(image via Wikimedia Commons)


Alice Bunker Stockham's greatest enemy was the corset.

She joined several other leading women of the 19th century — including feminist thinkers like Lucretia Mott and Harriet Beecher Stowe — in advocating for "dress reform." As one of the first female doctors in America, Alice saw first-hand how the "bones" of girdles and corsets had ruined women's bodies.

As one of the first practicing gynecologists in America, Alice pioneered some pretty radical recommendations for women's health. She advised female patients to (ahem) get acquainted with their own bodies, and she prescribed "Karen's," or non-sexual caressing, for distressed married couples.

In 1886 she published "Tokology," her guidebook for women's health. She printed it privately, so censors couldn't ban it, and she distributed it door-to-door in poorer neighborhoods throughout Chicago. Each book came with a certificate: good for one free gynecological exam at Alice's office.

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