“I’ve Kept My Beauty, Despite Motherhood” —Says Ida Schnall (Mar, 1922)

“I’ve Kept My Beauty, Despite Motherhood” —Says Ida Schnall

An Interview by Graham W. Desbrow

ONE of the oldest fables among old wives’ fables is that, after a baby or two, a woman ceases to be a girl. She becomes a “matron”—usually identified by a flabby condition of the breasts, a pendulous abdomen, and a rather luxurious accumulation of embonpoint.

Truth to tell, this description fits a distressingly large number of women who have borne children. This majority loses its slim girlish lines, the buoyancy, the grace, the bright vivacity, and the air of ingeniousness that is bound up with bright youth,—and that is so often smothered to death under a layer of fat.

This majority develops a stolidity, a mental and physical lethargy, and a fatuous resignation to what it is pleased to consider inevitable. It bows to the Mumbo Jumbo of its own mental creation; it accepts meekly the mandates of the Frankenstein it has itself created.

Yet the fact remains that unless a woman is actually swamped with household cares (and with the practice of intelligent birth control there isn’t the slightest necessity for this) there is little or no excuse for her to become fat, flabby and careless.

One of the best proofs of this is furnished by a beautiful young lady, Miss Ida Schnall, who in private live is Mrs. A. W. Schnitzer, of Flatbush,—a very prosperous, populous and progressive suburb of Brooklyn, New York.

Ida Schnall is a champion swimmer, diver, runner, jumper and bowler. Also a champion beauty. And also the most skillful embroider and sock darner in Flatbush.

Miss Ida has won a peck of medals, awarded for proficiency in long distance running, sprinting, jumping, pole vaulting, shot putting, discus throwing, bicycle riding, tennis, dancing, horsemanship, golf, cricket, basket ball, tumbling and ice skating. Also as recognition for a performance of numerous hair-raising stunts.

And yet she shapes and trims her own hats, and could have given cards and spades to Penelope or Arachne in turning out feminine “pretties.” She makes most of her own clothes, and could get a job almost any day as an expert designer of cloaks and suits.

Ida Schnall, be it remembered, is the same young daredevil who dove from the wing of an aeroplane into the ocean in Brighton Beach one fine day last summer, giving the spectators the thrill of their young lives.

During the Liberty Loan campaign, she jumped off the roof of • Borough Hall, Brooklyn into a fireman’s net. This feat she duplicated from the roof of the Stock Exchange in New York.

The crowd “chipped in” fourteen thousand dollars toward the Liberty Loan on the strength of these thrillers, which seems little enough, considering the risk of life and death run by this daring young woman.

However, Miss Schnall did even better when she went “over the top” of the longest aerial ladder the New York Fire Department could bring down to the battle ground of the bulls and bears.

For, crawling over the topmost rung, and hanging by her toes or her knees at this dizzy height, she brought in subscriptions for half a million dollars. Her reckless abandon almost brought on an attack of heart failure to one plump broker, and caused another to rip his silk shirt into shreds on his goose pimples. But Miss Ida brought home the bacon.

A remarkably cool-headed and capable woman is Miss Schnall. And yet thoroughly feminine in appearance, in tastes;—even in her pride in her beautiful blonde hair, and in her avowed antipathy for the “bobbed” head.

Miss Schnall is also an expert in ballplaying, and was the captain, organizer and manager of one of the first woman’s baseball teams formed in New York City.

She can duplicate practically any stunt in diving that can be accomplished by a woman diver, and during the run at the Winter Garden in 1913, she took the place of the renowned Australian diver and professional beauty, Annette Kellermann. She made such a success in her Kellermann role, that following her Winter Garden appearance, Miss Schnall was engaged to play the leading role in Undine,the great realistic feature photo play as “The Answer of the Sea.”

One remarkable characteristic of this unusual young woman is the velvety softness of her muscles when relaxed, contrasted with their sinewy Amazonian development when tensed.

But the most unique fact concerning Mrs. Schnitzer is that she has twice been through the ordeal of motherhood. A splendid boy of eight, and a curly-headed baby boy of twenty-nine months furnish proof of her well-developed maternal instinct.

Yet the contour of Mrs. Schnitzer is such that at a contest recently held in California, she was awarded a huge loving cup, as a tribute to her being the most beautifully formed woman in America!

Many famous stage beauties were entered in this contest. But the judges were unanimous in awarding the prize to her.

Miss Schnall’s breasts are firm and rounded. There is in her figure, not the slightest indication of the fact that she has been a mother.

What Mrs. Schnitzer has done, any woman can do. It requires merely that the woman shall first banish the thought that the loss of her figure is foredoomed. And then, that she follow the simple precepts here laid down for keeping the rounded slenderness of girlhood until the soft gray of the twilight years have merged into the velvet dusk of long night.

How I Bore Two Children—Yet Kept My Girlish Figure By Ida Schnall

I AM twenty-six years of age, and I have borne two beautiful children. The older boy is now eight, the baby twenty-nine months old.

My first baby weighed nine and one-half pounds, the second eight and one-half. And, I felt so strong and well that the day following their birth I could have gotten up, if the doctor had permitted me to do so.

Having these babies and giving them the tenderness of a mother’s care, lias been a wonderful experience for me. But the most wonderful of all is that I had my babies, and gave them everything that the most devoted mother could give of herself—her care, and unremitting attention, yet I have been awarded a prize as the most beautifully formed woman in the world.

I kept my figure despite motherhood. Any woman can do just as I did, if she will only make up her mind to try.

That’s the trouble with most women. They are too lazy to exert themselves. They let themselves become slovenly, untidy and fat. And then they blame it on their blessed babies, when they should be honest enough to blame themselves.

First, I want to tell you that your breasts are bound to be larger, while you are nursing your baby. But they go back to normal size again, if only you exercise the muscles in the way I shall tell you.

I nursed both my children, and with my youngest I had so much milk that I gave the over-supply to the child of a neighbor downstairs, whose baby was dying because the mother had no milk for it, and the doctor couldn’t seem to get a formula that would nourish the child.

The doctors say I saved this child’s life, by giving it the rich milk that my own baby did not need.

I do all my own work nowadays—it’s too hard to get the right kind of a maid. But I want to tell you that making beds, sweeping floors, and doing all kinds of housework is perfectly splendid exercise, bringing into play practically all the muscles in the body.

If you sweep right, and throw a lot of damp scraps of newspaper, or some of that sweeping powder on the floor, you don’t need to raise any dust at all. And really, there are very few exercises a woman can take that tone up the abdominal muscles the way sweeping does.

It is that pendulous condition of the abdomen that is one of the surest “earmarks” of motherhood. I think women bring on this condition themselves by depending on the abdominal bandage— and on corsets.

While it may be good to wear a snug abdominal bandage for a week or so after your baby is born, I believe that mothers bring about a sagging of the walls of the abdomen by wearing the bandage too long, as well as by wearing corsets. I have never worn corsets, and I have never worn a bandage longer than a few days after my babies came.

Nature gave us our muscles for use. And if we don’t use them they become soft and “baggy.”

Now, here is what I do. First thing in the morning, when I get up I drink two glasses of hot water into which I have squeezed the juice of half a lemon. This clears out the mucous which accumulates in the stomach during the night, and tends to stimulate the liver and the bowels to increased activity. I find it one of the very best methods I know of for overcoming constipation and liver torpor. It also gives the stomach glands a chance to do better work and to secrete more pepsin and stomach acid, so that you can better digest your food.

After I drink my two glasses of hot water, I take a bath. I get right into the tub, take a stiff bath brush or bath mit, and rub the skin as hard as I can— especially under the breasts and over the abdomen.

Then I stand upright in the tub and with a bath sponge or a big towel soaked with the cold water from the faucet, I splash myself quickly all over. I then take a heavy crash bath towel and rub myself until my skin is pink with the exercise of rubbing and the friction of the towel.

I lost fifteen pounds in this way inside of a month, after my second baby came. And I can assure you that no matter how tired and sleepy you may be, a bath like this will put new life into you.

After you get accustomed to the routine, it doesn’t take more than five or ten minutes for your bath—and you feel much better all day for it. Also the bath and the brisk rub help in a wonderful way to make your flesh firm, and tone up the muscles of the breast and abdomen, keeping them from getting flabby.

One of the greatest of all health giving measures I have ever tried is the internal bath. I have made a practice for many years of taking an internal bath on an average of once a week. For, no matter how freely the bowels may have seemed to move, I find that there are hardened particles of fecal matter that cling to the bowels and really can only be gotten rid of by the thorough washing out that they get when you take an internal bath.

I have told more than a score of women about this, women who used to be troubled with pimples, bad breath, sallow complexion, and a blotchy skin—and in every single case after they had used the cleansing enema for a month or so their pimples disappeared, their complexions cleared up, and their cheeks became pink and rosy—instead of sallow and blotchy.

Just as soon as possible after your baby comes you should take up some form of exercise—especially some kind that will keep you in the open air. The trouble with most women is that they sit around, eat, and get other people to do their work. They don’t take a bit of interest in getting themselves back into shape. In fact, the most active exercise many women take is to play cards, go to a matinee, or have their nails manicured.

One of the best of all the exercises I know to strengthen the muscles of the breast and abdomen, as well as to tone up the womb itself, is to “bend the crab.” You may not be able to bend backward until you can touch the floor with your hands. But you can stand a few feet from the wall, and, putting your hands over your head, bend back until they touch the wall. Then let your hands “crawl” down the wall—a little lower each day. This is the most wonderful exercise you can take for stretching the spine and limbering up the backbone, as well as for toning up the body muscles, ”lifting” up the stomach, and helping to keep your figure slim.

I need hardly say that women should always be careful not to overeat. It is so easy for mothers to get into this habit. But overeating combined with under-exercising, puts on more fat in a day than you can take off in a week.

My own meals are very simple, consisting of milk, eggs, meat and plenty of green vegetables and fruit. I never, if I can avoid it, eat “demineralized” food of any kind; 110 white bread, crackers, uncoated rice, pearled barley, or any of the lifeless breakfast foods so generally eaten nowadays. Nor do I let my children have any of these “robbed foods.”

Also, I very seldom eat pastry, candy or any sugary foods. No woman, who has any tendency to put on fat, can eat this sort of food and not pay for it with the loss of her figure.

In short, I live hygienically. I follow the laws of health, set forth in this magazine. If every woman would do the same, there would be more happy families in the land. There would be more contented husbands. And there would be none of that loss of charm and beauty, that women have wrongly blamed on their motherhood.

5 comments
  1. Toronto says: February 2, 20113:06 pm

    I love that phrase – “a rather luxurious accumulation of embonpoint.”

  2. Andrew L. Ayers says: February 3, 20111:49 pm

    I like the line about “…and with the practice of intelligent birth control there isn’t the slightest necessity for this…” – 1922, and a magazine promoting birth control in a rational manner. Seems incongruous, except I recall reading other articles from Physical Culture here that seem to suggest that it was a very progressive magazine for its time (and to an extent, even for today – which is just a sad commentary on today’s society).

  3. ladrbill says: July 23, 20128:44 pm

    In 1963, Ida Schnall lived in Beverly Hills, near the corners of Wilshire and Robertson Boulevards, when she came upon a group of 14 year-old boys named Larry Cohen, Bruce Newmann and Bill Josephs who had then frequented Whelan’s Drug Store, now long gone. She was a somewhat diminutive, lively, eccentric character, who was full of quick to engage boys and to call their attention to her past accomplishments as a foremost athlete. When we did not believe her and were dismissive, she told us to return the following day for proof of her accomplishments. Sure enough the following day, she returned with a copy of a Ripley’s Believe it or Not! that detailed her accomplishments of the teens and 20’s, noting that she was accomplished in many fields. I remembered wondering about who else was in her life but did not have the self-possession to ask her if she had a family or where they were.

  4. ladrbill says: July 23, 20128:46 pm

    In 1963, Ida Schnall lived in Beverly Hills, near the corners of Wilshire and Robertson Boulevards, when she came upon a group of 14 year-old boys named Larry Cohen, Bruce Newmann and Bill Josephs who had then frequented Whelan’s Drug Store, now long gone. She was a somewhat diminutive, lively, eccentric character, who was quick to engage the boys and call their attention to her past accomplishments as a foremost athlete. When we did not believe her and were dismissive, she told us to return the following day for proof of her accomplishments. Sure enough the following day, she returned with a copy of a “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” that detailed her accomplishments of the teens and 20’s, noting that she was highly in many sports. I remembered wondering about who else was in her life but did not have the self-possession to ask her if she had a family or where they were.

  5. ladrbill says: July 23, 20128:52 pm

    In 1963, Ida Schnall lived in Beverly Hills, near the corners of Wilshire and Robertson Boulevards, when she came upon a group of 14 year-old boys named Larry Cohen, Bruce Newmann and Bill Josephs who had then frequented Whelan’s Drug Store, now long gone. She was a somewhat diminutive, lively, eccentric character, who was quick to engage the boys and call their attention to her past accomplishments as a foremost athlete. When we did not believe her and were dismissive, she told us to return the following day for proof of her accomplishments. Sure enough the following day, she returned with a copy of a “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” that detailed her accomplishments of the teens and 20’s, noting that she was highly in many sports. I remembered wondering about who else was in her life but did not have the self-possession to ask her if she had a family or where they were. Perhaps Marianne is her granddaughter.

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