The Perfect Girl

For the most part, we here at Forgotten Stories shy away from more salacious material, but today we’re going to break with tradition and give you some full frontal nudity of the perfect girl.

The story of Margaret Edwards is almost inseparable from that of her mother, Edyth Edwards of Berkley California. There’s no telling what happened to Edwards pere, but Edyth made her living as a physical culture instructor for young ladies at local California schools beginning around 1905. Jobs as a physical culture instructor were hard to come by in an era when physical exercise for females was almost unheard of, and they were made all the harder to find by Edyth’s personality; one school claimed “she created much discord, and would not accept that she was a subordinate in the department.”


So Edyth hit upon a plan, exhibiting her daughter Margaret on stage as the “Perfect Girl.” Only 16 at the time, Margaret began appearing in local theatrical productions as a nymph, dressed in loose fitting tunics which demonstrated her “beautiful limbs,”  wrote the San Francisco Call’s theater critic in 1911, “…shown in all their natural loveliness, while her curls hung over her bare shoulders. With a beautiful woodland setting about her, leaves on the ground, trees and flowers about her, she seemed made for the environment, and there was nothing in the picture at which the least offense could be taken.”


Edyth stood on stage as her Margaret traipsed around looking perfect, and then gave a little speech about her daughter, starting with her physical characteristics; 5 feet 2 and 1/8 inches tall, and 112 and ½ pounds of weight, and then even got more specific: Neck, 11 ½ inches; arm 9 inches; forearm 8 and ¾ inches; wrist, 6 inches, elbow 8 and ¾ inches; chest normal, 31 inches;  chest, contracted 27 inches; chest, expanded 32 and ½; bust, 33; waist, 23 inches; hips, 32 inches; thigh, 19 inches; calf, 13 inches (for comparison purposes, we went out and asked several attractive women on the street today how big their hips and got ourselves slapped. Research is painful.).

Edwards 5

Margaret ate what the “stomach ordered” and eschewed cake, candy, and corsets.. Her physical perfection was not due only to a proper diet, but also stemmed from paying attention to muscles. “Learn to walk with your muscles; sit with your muscles, breath with your muscles; as your Creator designed you should do. That’s why Margaret’s muscles are round and full. There is no reason why every woman cannot be as perfect as Margaret.”

Mrs. Edwards outlined Margaret’s exercise regimen which centered on developing the core. “She first developed flexibility of the chest, forcing in the lower chest with hands while exhaling through the mouth, and inhaling through the nostrils, always exhaling before inhaling. With the thumbs under the armpits, she forces the upper chest in and breathes as in the former case. Her final exercise is “simply to lock the thumbs above the head and touch the toes without bending at the knees.”

By about 1915, and following a name-change from Margaret to the more exotic Marguerite, the Perfect Girl’s career began to peter out, but not before she appeared in a few films in the still nascent Hollywood. One of these early pictures, a morality film known as Hypocrites[1], debuted at about the same time as Birth of a Nation, and Marguerite played “The Naked Truth.” Now here’s the full frontal nudity we promised, from Marguerite’s brief performance. We encourage you to watch the whole 4 minutes, but jump to 1:20 if you want to see Marguerite:

The movie was banned in Boston due to the nudity (at least until the movie studio painted some clothes on Marguerite), but critics in most other cities lauded the performance. Another bit role  followed, and a season headlining the Pantages vaudeville circuit, but by about 1920 Marguerite was out of show business. Marguerite died in 1929. No word on what happened to Edyth.

Special thanks to Lisa P., who provided some insight on waist sizes, but refused to let us measure her calf.

[1] We believe the IMDB entry for Marguerite is wrong, as being born in 1877 would make her 38 in 1915. She doesn’t look 38.


The Hanlon’s Domestic Squabbles Exposed

New York Sun, January 20, 1885


Mrs. Hanlon Supports the Family and Proposes to Choose its Acquaintances

                Edward Hanlon, now of 102 Charlton street, was run over by a railroad train several years ago and his left leg was cut off at the knee. His wife bought him a wooden leg and since the incident has supported him. Edward has made friends whom Mrs. Hanlon does not like. On Sunday Edward said he was going to call on these people. His wife said he wasn’t. He had not yet screwed on his wooden leg, and when he was not looking Mrs. Hanlon hid it on the top shelf of the closet among the dishes.

“Where’s that leg” Edward asked later.

“You ought to know where you put it,” his wife answered. Edward hoppled around the room, and looked under the bed, in the bureau drawers, and in all the corners.

“You’ve hid it,” he finally said to his wife. She says he threatened to kill her, but on one leg and a half he couldn’t catch her. As he chased her about the room, she screamed and a policemen came in and took Edward to the station house, after the wooden leg had been found and screwed on.

Edward looked sheepish yesterday as he was led in front of Justice Welde and heard his wife say that she not only supported him but allowed him forty cents a day for tobacco, drinks, and other luxuries. Justice Welde held Edward in default of $300 bail for his good behavior for three months.

“I love a ballad in print o’life, for then we are sure they are true.”

According to the Spokane Press, “Spokane’s climate is growing milder; its winters are less severe and during its summers there is more rain than there was in the early days when the city was first founded.” Old timers recalled cattle dying from the bitter winter cold, until a local Indian taught them to send out horses to break through the ice crust and expose the grass, and grizzled residents who’d been in the area for years recalled that the valleys used to be sunburned deserts, but were now lush and green due increased rain.

Up in Minnesota too winter weather seemed warmer. “Is Minnesota’s climate changing? With the middle of December already here and winter caps, earmuffs and fur-lined gloves hardly used at all as yet, this question, for years the subject of heated and cold argument in Minnesota, has leaped to the fore and is again a common topic of discussion.”

Astute weather observer Charles P. Lovell noted the change. “Why, thirty years ago,” said Mr. Lovell in the Minneapolis Journal, “people were wont to go sleigh riding in the afternoon, but almost invariably they were compelled to seek their firesides by 4 o’clock because it began to get cold at that hour. Now you see them starting out at noon and riding until midnight. They had fur robes then and were bundled up just as tightly as they are now, but it got too cold for them before the afternoon was well spent.”

Lovell had his own theories as to why the climate was changing. “I have pondered long on this question and have reached the conclusion that railroad rails and telegraph and telephone wires played an import role in making this once frost-bitten, barren country a veritable Eden. These rails and wires seem to absorb electricity from the air.” More plausible was Lovell’s argument regarding re-forestation, “Timber, given a chance to grow after the settlers stopped the prairie fires that formerly kept it razed, has also contributed by breaking the force of the wind and dissipating storms that originate in far-off regions.”

It wasn’t just in the western portion of the country that folks were concerned about climate change. “People in the northeastern sections of the country, in particular are saying that something has happened to the winter;” wrote the New York Tribune, “that when they were children there was always deep snow at Christmas and the sleighing lasted for weeks.” Theories were advanced as to the cause; the Gulf Stream had shifted, as civilization pushed westward the growth of farming and land clearing had changed the topography and with it the weather, or that rising urbanization was to blame.

Robert De Courcy Ward, Professor of Climatology at Harvard University, weighed the scientific evidence regarding climate change. He consulted records from the Roman Republic, three centuries worth of grain harvest dates from France, obscure meteorological data regarding English farming, rainfall in Greece, Syria, and North Africa, the high water marks from the Caspian Sea and temperature surveys taken throughout North America over a period of thirty years.

Finally, De Courcy Ward announced the results of years of work. “The idea that the agency of man in cutting down forests and in cultivating new soil has resulted in a change in the climate of the United States finds no support in the recorded instrumental data…”  Professor Ward announced emphatically, “The answer to the question ‘Is the climate changing?’ is a negative one.”

So my friends, there lies the story of how Robert De Courcy Ward, Professor of Climatology at Harvard University, and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science, resolved the debate about global warming…in 1906. Aren’t you glad we got that one resolved?

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