Then there are the school-mistresses of all national and other schools throughout the kingdom. How many of children’s epidemics originate in these! Then the proportion of girls in these schools, who become mothers or members among the 64,600 nurses recorded above, or schoolmistresses in their turn. If the laws of health, as far as regards fresh air, cleanliness, light, &c., were taught to these, would this not prevent some children being killed, some evil being perpetuated? On women we must depend, first and last, for personal and household hygiene—for preventing the race from degenerating in as far as these things are concerned. Would not the true way of infusing the art of preserving its own health into the human race be to teach the female part of it in schools and hospitals, both by practical teaching and by simple experiments, in as far as these illustrate what may be called the theory of it?
[Sidenote: Curious deductions from an excessive death rate.]
Upon this fact the most wonderful deductions have been strung. For a long time an announcement something like the following has been going the round of the papers:—“More than 25,000 children die every year in London under 10 years of age; therefore we want a Children’s Hospital.” This spring there was a prospectus issued, and divers other means taken to this effect:—“There is a great want of sanitary knowledge in women; therefore we want a Women’s Hospital.” Now, both the above facts are too sadly true. But what is the deduction? The causes of the enormous child mortality are perfectly well known; they are chiefly want of cleanliness, want of ventilation, want of white-washing; in one word, defective household hygiene. The remedies are just as well known; and among them is certainly not the establishment of a Child’s Hospital. This may be a want; just as there may be a want of hospital room for adults. But the Registrar-General would certainly never think of giving us as a cause for the high rate of child mortality in (say) Liverpool that there was not sufficient hospital room for children; nor would he urge upon us, as a remedy, to found a hospital for them.
Again, women, and the best women, are wofully deficient in sanitary knowledge; although it is to women that we must look, first and last, for its application, as far as household hygiene is concerned. But who would ever think of citing the institution of a Women’s Hospital as the way to cure this want?
We have it, indeed, upon very high authority that there is some fear lest hospitals, as they have been hitherto, may not have generally increased, rather than diminished, the rate of mortality—especially of child mortality.
[Sidenote: Why are uninhabited rooms shut up?]
The common idea as to uninhabited rooms is, that they may safely be left with doors, windows, shutters, and chimney board, all closed—hermetically sealed if possible—to keep out the dust, it is said; and that no harm will happen if the room is but opened a short hour before the inmates are put in. I have often been asked the question for uninhabited rooms—But when ought the windows to be opened? The answer is—When ought they to be shut?