More Medical Contrivances

Ron wrote a medical contrivances post that was published here. In it, he said “A contrivance is an excuse, a way of justifying something that would not normally be acceptable. Pigtails has endeavored to break through this façade and acknowledge that we find images of healthy naked girls (and women) appealing.” Milja Laurila, a Finnish art photographer, has used medical photography as the inspiration for her artistic nude photographs. Laurila wrote, “I look for image material for my works in old books and
archives. During the years, I have seen hundreds and hundreds of medical pictures, mainly from the 1900s. Why do most of them portray young, naked women?” I have not looked at hundreds of books and papers like Laurila has, but I have seen a few dozen. I agree that of those medical photos I have seen, a significant majority are of females. This is especially true of photographs that show the patient with a healthy control subject. An example of such a photo is the following from Dwarfism with Retinal Atrophy and Deafness by E. A. Cockayne, D.M., F.R.C.P. (1935).

E. A. Cockayne – Pearl D with Girl of Same Age (1935)

Was it really necessary to have a normal control posing with the dwarf? We know Pearl’s height because a scale of feet is shown to her right. Shouldn’t a physician know the normal range of height for a girl her age? Is the normal girl on the short end of the normal height distribution, or the tall end?  Perhaps she is somewhere in between; either the mean height, or the median, or the mode. Then again, she may have been chosen not for her height, but simply because she was an attractive girl who volunteered to be photographed. Previously, I had thought that the medical contrivances were contrived by the doctor alone. Now that I have l have seen more of these photos, I believe that both the doctor and the patient or control are responsible for contrivances. Consider the next picture from A Syndrome Resembling Progeria: A Review of Two Cases by Catherine A. Neill, M.D. and Mary M. Dingwall (1949).

Neill and Dingwall – AP and JP Compared with Their Normal Sister (1949)

There were four children in the family at the time the photo was taken; the two brothers with a syndrome resembling progeria were age 15 and 10. They had two siblings who were not afflicted with the syndrome; a brother age 13 and a sister whose age was not given. Although I am not a physician, it seems to me that the most appropriate control for the photo would be the brother of intermediate age.  There is a table in the report that compares the measurements of the two afflicted boys with their normal brother, but not with their sister. Why then did the two female authors (I assume that Catherine and Mary are women) use the sister for the control model in the photo?

My theory is that the authors actually wanted to use the brother as the control model, but he refused to be photographed nude. The sister then volunteered to take his place. This would be consistent with what I remember from my childhood. When I was a child, nudity was one of the strongest taboos. Both boys and girls avoided appearing naked, but I think we did so for different reasons. We boys were taught that our bodies were obscene. We were told we should be ashamed to be naked, and so we were. Girls were taught that they were pretty. They were told if they flaunt their beauty around the wrong kind of boys, they would be in danger. If the wrong kind of boys were not present, they must still avoid being nude because good boys would think the girls were promiscuous, and lose respect for them.

In a situation that is both safe and respectable, such as posing for a medical photo, I believe that boys would still be embarrassed. Girls, on the other hand, may have less qualms about agreeing to pose nude. Could that be the reason that a girl is photographed as the control with the two boys in the photo above, and why females seem to outnumber males in medical photos in general? If this is true, it could explain a strange thing about the following photos from Familial Syndrome Combining Deaf-Mutism, Stippled Epiphyses, Goiter and Abnormally High PBI: Possible Target Organ Refractoriness to Thyroid Hormone by Samuel Refetoff, Loren T. Dewind and Leslie J. Degroot (1966).

Refetoff et al – VG (1966)

Refetoff et al – EG (1966)

Refetoff et al – MG (1966)

In this set of photographs, an 8-year old girl and a 12-year old boy have the syndrome. Their 10-year old sister is the control. Note that the photos of the two girls are clear, but the photos of the boy seem to have the contrast and resolution adjusted to in effect censor his photo. Why did the authors do this?

It may have been because the boy refused to be photographed unless the doctors promised to censor the photos, but the two girls did not request that the photos were censored.   Another possibility is that the doctors may have thought that twelve was too old for an uncensored nude, but it was OK for the girls age eight and ten. This seems less likely because 12-year-olds are not too old for nude photos in other medical works, as shown by the following photos.

The first photograph is of twin 12-year old girls from Grey Turner and the Evolution of Oesophageal Surgery by R. H. Franklin F.R.C.S. (1971). The photo shows the twins cured with only a surgery scar remaining. Did they need to be completely naked to show the scars? The article does not have any photo of the twins before their surgery. The next photo is from The Clinical Study and Treatment of Sick Children by John Thomson (1921). The 12-year old patient is shown before and after treatment. Why is she dressed in the before picture and nude in the after? I can think of no reason why the doctor would want her dressed for the photo taken before treatment. Perhaps the doctor wanted a nude photo, but the girl refused because she was not happy with her appearance. After treatment she lost some weight, became proud of her looks, and volunteered to be nude for the after treatment photo.

R. H. Franklin – Identical Twins Treated for Repair of Hernia (1971)

John Thomson – Juvenile Myxoedema, Before and After Thyroid Treatment, Girl of 12 Years (1921)

Epiphyseal Stapling for Angular Deformity at the Knee by Robert C. Zuege, Thomas G. Kempen, and Walter P. Blount (1979) will be the last paper referenced in this post. Fifty-six patients are covered in this report, of whom 31 are boys and 25 are girls. Only one patient, a girl, was photographed before, during, and after treatment as a child. Another photograph was taken of her at age 20 to show that she was no longer knock-kneed. No photographs of any male patient as a child were included in the report, but one photo of an adult man was included. It is peculiar that the woman was photographed from the waist down and was nude, but the man was photographed only below the hips and wore briefs. There are two possible explanations for this.

  1. Perhaps the doctor told the woman to undress completely, and told the man to leave on his underwear.
  2. Perhaps he just told both to undress so he could photograph their legs. The woman chose to undress completely and the man did not.

I don’t know which is true, but I have the feeling the latter is very likely.

Zuege et al – RE Age Eight Years Five Months (1979)

Zuege et al – RE Three Months After Staples Were Removed (1979)

Zuege et al – RE Age Twenty and Male Patient (1979)

Maiden Voyages: June 2019

It is once again time to visit my friend Graham. Pip and Christian will be holding down the fort in the mean time. I will return on June 21st. Be advised that any comments for Ron or “Administrator” will not be approved or answered until I return.

The Garage Press Site at Long Last: When I first heard about Graham Ovenden’s recent publishing efforts, I searched in earnest for any sign on the internet—all to no avail. I am pleased to announce that the official Garage Press website is now in place. Although the purpose of the publishing enterprise is to provide high end museum-quality books, now serious collectors willing to pay for quality will have a chance to order these books as well. Please note that these books cover a range of artistic and academic subjects and do not just focus on young girls. Also, serious postcard collectors will have the opportunity to contribute in an upcoming project about the multitude of wonderful Victorian and Edwardian postcards. You can visit the site here.

Father-Daughter Bonding: Pip found this charming video of a father who learned to do his daughter’s hair.

The Flying Squirrel: I got this lead a while ago and, for some reason, did not get around to publishing it. This one is about a kind of prodigy surfer. You can get started with this video, but there is plenty more on this amazing athlete.

More Medical Contrivances? Ever since I brought up this concept, Moko has been digging around for more examples. He found an interesting photo of a school medical exam in the Soviet Union in 1932. At first he was not sure if it was a medical contrivance. But a little research revealed that the girls did not actually need to be naked for the procedures shown. However, it is possible that having children disrobe for exams was customary for Russia at the time (perhaps to spot other conditions). It seems that students normally wore underwear for the exams except for during a brief and private session with the doctor. Here’s a link to the Russian exam board that references the photo (Note the post dated 15.08.15 01:27). And here’s an example of the boys’ exam.

The Challenges of Lists: I feel we got a good start on the Pigtails films archive, but I am beginning to realize the challenge of deciding whether or not the girl is a substantive part of a film. Even films centered around a little girl may simply be following a Hollywood formula and hardly worthy of note (unless you just happen to be a fan of that particular actress). In the next year, I am planning to add some small comment to each entry, giving readers a better idea of whether a film is worth watching. I would also like to thank those who have so far offered leads that I have missed.

Medical Contrivances

I have noticed that a lot of readers are coming forward with their most vivid memories of little girls in books and films. One had an interesting theory that, in some cases, medical texts include images of healthy women and girls in the guise of a clinical presentation. He could not help but wonder if they were using the respectability of medicine to justify these images. I told him that his idea was part of a notion I have been exploring I call contrivances.

A contrivance is an excuse, a way of justifying something that would not normally be acceptable. Pigtails has endeavored to break through this facade and acknowledge that we find images of healthy naked girls (and women) appealing. There are different degrees of artistry involved, but the bald truth is that we find ways to view and appreciate these images. Artists are perhaps the most honest in simply acknowledging this beauty, but they often couch it somewhat in symbolism using the feigned metaphor of innocence. The more honest of naturists also admit to the joys of being surrounded by human beauty.

This particular reader remembers the first nude photo he saw: an 11-year-old girl in the book The Thyroid Gland and Clinical Application of Medicinal Thyroid (1945) by The Armour Laboratories. He no longer has the book, but remembers it vividly. The girl had been treated for cretinism using medicine manufactured by the company. After she was completely cured, a nude photo was taken to show her physical condition. According to the book, the symptoms of cretinism include stubby fingers and toes and to show she was normal, it would have been necessary for the girl to remove her shoes. She could have worn a loose, baggy blouse, perhaps exposing the necessary parts of her body, but she really did not need to remove any clothing other than her shoes. The photo in the book, however, showed this girl wearing shoes and socks but nothing else!

Arnold S. Jackson, MD - From The Throid Gland and Clinical Application of Medicinal Thyroid (1930;1938)

Arnold S. Jackson, MD – From The Thyroid Gland and Clinical Application of Medicinal Thyroid (1930;1938)

Being a young boy interested in photos of nude girls, he looked for other medical books in libraries and book stores, and discovered that this book was not typical. Doctors are expected to know what a healthy person looks like and photos in other medical books showed nudity only when needed and the face was usually censored. Thus, he came to the conclusion that these images were published for the sake of art, disguised as medicine.

Years later, he did find another artistic medical photo of a nude girl about 12 years old. It was in Medical Infrared Photography (Kodak Publication No. N-1, 1973) by Eastman Kodak Company. The photo in question was not infrared and it was an example of photography for which infrared is not suitable.

Börger Nillson - From Medical Infrared Photography (1973)

Börger Nillson – From Medical Infrared Photography (1973)

Though evenly distributed, the contrast would not be suitable for infrared photography.  -Caption, Figure 35, Medical Infrared Photography, Eastman Kodak Company, 1973

Another example of a contrived anatomy book is Dr. C. H. Stratz’ Der Körper des Kindes (The Body of the Child). In this case, the images were clearly artistic as they came from known photographers of children of the time. There will be a dedicated post on Stratz at a later date but you can go here for a sample of his work.

Our contributor also found other online material dealing with this notion of contrivances. It is another medical textbook, The Anatomical Basis of Medical Practice (1971) by Becker, Wilson, and Gehweiler described on the StreetAnatomy site. The age of the subjects are not appropriate for Pigtails in Paint, but you can read the description and some of the quotes are relevant to the point this man was making. People may assume—and this may be a matter of psychological comfort—that physicians are so accustomed to nudity that they no longer appreciate the aesthetics, In this case, the authors admit that physicians enjoy seeing attractive naked females, and that they included artistic nude photos in a serious medical text for that reason.

There is also an account of Amy Lyon (aka Emma Hamilton) at age 15 acting as a model in Dr. Graham’s health lectures in 1780. The sources agree that the so-called health lectures were actually nude shows. Thomas Rowlandson made a drawing circa 1800 titled The Future Lady Hamilton Posing as Hygeia, Goddess of Health when she was in her 20s. So, though the contrivances may change form over the centuries, their roots run deep.

Food for Thought

Pip and I cannot have eyes and ears everywhere, so it is gratifying to know that our fans make the effort of letting us know about artists and interesting portrayals of little girls we may not have noticed. A few months ago, an artist friend of mine tipped me off about an interesting story of a little girl who has never eaten a morsel of food. As I was about to issue a short post on this story, he sent me a lead about another little girl who cannot eat normally either, but there is an interesting twist.

The first tale is of a girl named Tia McCarthy born with a congenital defect: she did not have an esophagus and so could not take in food. Although rare, there were specialists who performed the necessary surgery to reconnect her throat to the stomach so she (and others like her) could eat normally. In due course, most babies with this defect eat normally after a short time, but Tia was a special case. Despite repeated efforts, no one has been able to compel her to eat and at age 7, no food or drink has yet to enter her mouth. In desperation, her mother Sue got media attention about her desperate situation and was informed of specialists in Austria with a radical approach.

The special clinic has dealt with Tia’s issue before, but never before have they worked with someone this old and they could not be sure if their approach would be successful. In addition to her surgery scar and the special attachment which allows her to feed, you will notice that she is still in diapers—also not a typical development with such children and an intriguing clue to why Tia has been such a stubborn case. What I especially like about all this is that after all the advanced medicine being applied to help this little girl, the final solution turns out to be a low-tech one. You can watch this intriguing documentary called The Girl Who Never Ate here.

Dominick French and Bruce Goodison - The Girl Who Never Ate (2012)

Dominick French and Bruce Goodison – The Girl Who Never Ate (2012)

The other story concerns 10-year-old Chelsea Wheeler with a different disorder, one that has lately caused her intestinal tract to shut down. She can now only take in nutrients through a special backpack-like system to feed her intravenously during most of the day. The remarkable thing is she, perhaps as a kind of compensation for her deprivation, is fascinated by food and wants to become a chef—preparing delicious food for others! You can read her story here.

On one level, this is just more sensationalist journalism, but what interests me about these cases is that it gives us clues to how complex living systems really work—revealed clearly only when something major goes wrong. Many of our systems work together in concert but most people, even scientists, assume that they are more directly connected than they really are. Our rational minds cannot help seeing some beautiful design and imagine that all the parts arose together simultaneously. This kind of error also contributes to the peculiar development in our society that automatically suspects those of us moved by the presence of little girls.