Excerpt from the upcoming translation of Georges Hébert’s book on physical education for women, circa 1919. You can tell the climate of the era. The author chose the approach of trying to save the new, emerging generation of women instead of trying to fight the conventions of the women who already matured into adulthood.
This book is aimed at the growing generation: to the young ladies desirous of ridding their bodies of the ails suffered by their elders, to the young mothers who, having understood the full importance of physical education, wish before all that their own daughters become individuals of health, beauty and strength and not fragile dolls.
Aside from rare exceptions, the women of the current generation have received no physical education; they have not been used to the practice of exercising the body. Thus sacrificed, they suffer from the consequences of the lack of development and the trade-offs of insufficient activity. Their health, their beauty and their resilience feel it that much more as their activity is restricted. Victims of prejudice, of which the most nefarious is the contempt for muscles, slaves to conventions or ridiculous fashions leading to the deforming of their bodies or letting some body parts atrophy, we cannot consider at this time converting many of them to the Physical Education cause or simply letting them take advantage of the benefits that physical activity provides at any age. Their minds are elsewhere. Forced they are to live with their incomplete development, the imperfections of their shape and their specific ails, borne of their muscular inactivity.
The new generation, by contrast, wants health, beauty and strength and the freedom to acquire these precious qualities. Nothing will stop the pursuit of such a healthy ideal, to which the future of the species is linked. This book’s goal is to facilitate this necessary evolution.