Document 5B: Mary Sheldon,"Tight Lacing," 7 June 1842, Composition Book, Mary Sheldon Papers, Record group 30, Box 1, Oberlin College Archives.

Tight Lacing,                      June 7, 1842

       Tight lacing, as the term is usually applied, refers only to the compression of the chest. In ancient times, Fashion required her votaries to preserve her according to its original designs. The goddess of beauty, executed by one of the finest artists of Greece, is possessed of a natural waist. But in modern times Fashion seems inclined to exact penance of her followers. No person who cares the least for bon-ton[A] dare to be seen without the appearance of being screwed by means of a vice into an insect. Nor is this mania confined to the ladies as some insinuate; the gentlemen if we may judge from appearances are afflicted too; perhaps not to so great an extent, but may not this be owing to their employments differing so essentially from those of the ladies?

       The practice is not universal but exists only in enlightened countries, and its influence is felt in proportion as the inhabited are considered more or less polite. Though tight lacing is practised much very much in our country yet here in our own little village we are comparatively free from its evil effects. Our occupations are mostly such as require the exertion of all our physical powers. It would be quite impossible for the gentlemen to chop wood or work at stone, with the source of all their strength closely confined.

       In conclusion, I would say to those who have been most active in portraying its evils, We feel deeply our obligations to you, for your kind efforts to draw us back into the path from which we had strayed; we would take it kindly however if you would cease to remind us of this one failing, as too much irritation might produce inflamations.


A. bon-ton: good breeding; the fashionable world.
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