[Those curious about the history of the Victorian Web (which began before the WWW in another hypermedia environment) might be interested to learn that this document was one of the very first contributed by someone outside Brown University.]

decorated initial 'R' ecent studies show that low nutritional standards increase the risk of premature births (which were. . . one of the principal causes of infant mortality), or make childbirth hazardous. In Maryland, in the United States, a study of women who subsisted on a diet deficient in milk, butter, eggs, green vegetables, and fruit — on a diet, that is, remarkably similar in its omission of vital foodstuffs to that of the Victorian urban working classes — has revealed that seventy per cent of the women were seriously anaemic and that many had contracted pelvises. Similarly, the nutritional inadequacies of the Victorian working-class diet often led to rickets which could cause contracted pelvises, making childbirth difficult. In Aberdeen in the 1940s it was discovered that the fetal mortality rate of underweight and small (5'1" and under) women was twice that of women over 5'4", and that short women had more still-births and underweight babies. In this connection it becomes extremely significant that anthropometric studies done in the Edwardian period indicated that working-class women were seriously underweight and small in stature. In Manchester just before the First World War thirteen-year-old girls from working-class families were three inches shorter and eight pounds lighter than girls of a 'good class'; they stood seven inches shorter and weighed twenty-three pounds less than girls of a similar age living in the 1950s.

Link to related material


Loudon, Irvine. Death in Childbirth. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992.

Wohl, Anthony S. Endangered Lives: Public Health in Victorian Britain. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1983. pp. 12-13.

Created 1998

Bibliographical item added 26 August 2017