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Female Adolescence in American Scientific Thought, 1830–1930

Crista DeLuzio

Publication Year: 2007

In this groundbreaking study, Crista DeLuzio asks how scientific experts conceptualized female adolescence in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Revisiting figures like G. Stanley Hall and Margaret Mead and casting her net across the disciplines of biology, psychology, and anthropology, DeLuzio examines the process by which youthful femininity in America became a contested cultural category. Challenging accepted views that professionals "invented" adolescence during this period to understand the typical experiences of white middle-class boys, DeLuzio shows how early attempts to reconcile that conceptual category with "femininity" not only shaped the social science of young women but also forced child development experts and others to reconsider the idea of adolescence itself. DeLuzio’s provocative work permits a fuller understanding of how adolescence emerged as a "crisis" in female development and offers insight into why female adolescence remains a social and cultural preoccupation even today.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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p. v

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pp. vii-ix

I began this project while I was a graduate student in the Department of American Civilization at Brown University, and I am grateful to my advisors for the assistance they provided in its initial stages. I thank Richard Meckel for encouraging my interest in the history of childhood early on in my graduate career ...

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pp. 1-8

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, ‘‘Bernice Bobs Her Hair,’’ the self-proclaimed modern Marjorie flat-out refuses any association with the Victorian conventions of girlhood espoused by the four March sisters in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. ‘‘What modern girl,’’ she impetuously demands of the more reserved Bernice, ‘‘could live like those inane females?"1 ...

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1 ‘‘Laws of Life’’: Developing Youth in Antebellum America

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pp. 9-49

In the entry for ‘‘nubile’’ in the 1854 edition of his Medical Lexicon, Robley Dunglison cautioned fellow physicians against viewing puberty as a sudden transition to maturity for girls or boys. ‘‘Generally, the period of puberty is considered to be the age at which both sexes are nubile,’’ he explained. ...

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2 ‘‘Persistence’’ versus ‘‘Periodicity’’: From Puberty to Adolescence in the Late-Nineteenth-Century Debate over Coeducation

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pp. 50-89

During the last three decades of the nineteenth century, a cultural fervor ensued over the merits and detriments of ‘‘identical coeducation.’’ Coeducation referred to either educating boys and girls together or, if they were educated separately, using the same methods and purposes. It became a lightning rod in the late Victorian era ...

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3 From ‘‘Budding Girl’’ to ‘‘Flapper Americana Novissima’’: G. Stanley Hall’s Psychology of Female Adolescence

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pp. 90-132

In a 1909 article for Appleton’s Magazine entitled ‘‘The Budding Girl,’’ pioneering developmental psychologist G. Stanley Hall rendered his own interpretation of this familiar metaphor. In doing so, he claimed the adolescent girl as a subject worthy of modern science’s attention: ...

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4 ‘‘New Girls for Old’’: Psychology Constructs the Normal Adolescent Girl

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pp. 133-195

Writing in 1916 on the subject of ‘‘girlhood and character’’ for a series of religious education manuals, Mary E. Moxcey registered the wry musings of one father at a southern Sunday school convention on the possibilities for a female adolescence. ‘‘I don’t know much about this ‘adolescence,’ ’’ the man opined, ...

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5 Adolescent Girlhood Comes of Age?: The Emergence of the Culture Concept in American Anthropology

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pp. 196-235

In his Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Havelock Ellis carefully considered the development of the female sexual instinct during puberty. The girl, he concluded, was especially prone to a volatile adolescence because of the manifestation during the teenage years of a sexual instinct that, while rarely spontaneously experienced, ...

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pp. 236-254

Defining and explaining adolescence and reconciling the concepts of adolescence and femininity have engaged biomedical and social scientists from the midtwentieth century to the present. This epilogue will highlight some of the most important contributions to the scientific discourse on adolescence and adolescent girlhood from 1930 onward. ...


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pp. 255-304

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Essay on Sources

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pp. 305-322

The primary sources for this project consist of published writings by scientists and scientifically minded intellectuals working in the fields of medicine, biology, psychology, and anthropology from 1830 to 1930. ...


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pp. 323-330

E-ISBN-13: 9780801895913
E-ISBN-10: 080189591X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801886997
Print-ISBN-10: 0801886996

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 647866957
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Female Adolescence in American Scientific Thought, 1830–1930

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Subject Headings

  • Research -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Research -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Teenage girls -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Teenage girls -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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