What did the ‘perfect woman’ look like in 1912? (LOOK)
From the NY Times (View larger version)
In 1912 Miss Elsie Scheel of Brooklyn was deemed the “most nearly perfect specimen of womanhood” out of 400 other coeds at Cornell that year. The 24-year-old Scheel had come to Cornell from Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights—she enjoyed horticulture, outdoor sports, and was an ardent suffragette. One paper declared that she was “taller than Venus de Milo,” standing five feet seven inches tall, weighing in “at a healthy 171 pounds, and possessing a decidedly pear-shaped figure (it measured 35-30-40).” Isn’t that refreshing? According to the NY Times report, Scheel did not have “a single defect.”
On her eating habits, the paper reported that she did not like candy or delicacies, but preferred beefsteak [note: as a woman, she wouldn’t be able to attend the famous beefsteak dinners until the 1920s]. She rarely ate breakfast, and never drank tea or coffee. And here’s an interesting fact they dropped in: “She has never been ill and doesn’t know what fear is“—in fact, she told women that they would “be happier if they got over the fear of things.”
December 21, 1912 edition of The Sun
Sadly, we cannot track down any photographs of Miss Scheel… but one woman brought her to life through society’s more harsh modern day standards: “Miss Elsie Scheel’s BMI would have been 26.8, placing her squarely in today’s dreaded ‘overweight’ category… [and] at Banana Republic she would wear a size 8 top, a 12/14 bottom, and probably a 12 dress with the bust taken in.” Go ahead and have that extra glass of egg nog next week, and toast Miss Scheer and a time when women weren’t held to impossible standards.
UPDATE: Here she is! You can read more about Scheer right here, where she says she achieved her perfection by “Sane living… I have eaten only what I wanted and when I wanted it.”: