Dr. Schreber and My Mother’s Corset

Schreber_(1883)_b_372Dr. Moritz Schreber??
(* October, 15th, 1808 in Leipzig;
† November, 10th, 1861 ibidem)

The famous and infamous German educator?

The parent counsellor?

The author of the notorious educations guidebook “Kallipädie” (1858)?

The designer of practical (torture) instruments for improving the posture of the youngest in your family?

Who knows the person who gave the “Schreber Gardens” their name?

After all, after Schreber died in 1864, the Leipzig school director Ernst Innozenz Hauschild established a club and honoured him by naming the club after him.

I first heard about Dr. Schreber in the cabaret. Jörg Hube, whom I very much adore and love, squeezedt himself into constructions made after the drawings by Dr. Schreber in his cabaret “Herzkasperl’s Biograffl”,

And he demonstrated us in a rather cynical way how cruel you can be when educating children – which, at the time, was probably normal. And that parents actually forced children into instruments of torture in order to achieve a virtuous posture.

Here is a Wikipedia citation on Dr. Schreber:

„Geradhalter“ für korrekte Sitzhaltung
”Upright-Posture-Machine” for correct sitting

In the programmatic preface of the educational guidelines “Kallipadie (1858)”, he wrote:

Even if nature dealt you extremely poor cards, you can make up for it to a surprising extent by well-calculated education; the most obvious and most outstanding examples are the ever better results by educational institutions after treating the deaf-mute, the blind, the imbecile, the cretins, morally delinquent children, etc. However, even the most fortunate natural endowment will degenerate if there is no the educational development.

In those days, the term health also included the idea of a “healthy removal of the sexual drive”, which was why Schreiber, among other things, also experimented with mechanical devices to prevent masturbation. Moreover, he recommended using an axe and saw-movements, in hard cases cold sit-baths in the evening, cold-water clysters and rubbing cold water over your private parts.

In order to form healthy bodies, Schreiber also constructed numerous gadgets: orthopaedic chin ribbons as a prophylactic measure against wrong chewing habits, shoulder strips which kept the children on their backs in bed and “upright-posture-machines” for sitting upright.

His own children, too, were made victims of his terrible educational methods.

Here is another Wikipedia citation.

Orthopädisches Kinnband zur Vermeidung eines Fehlbisses
Orthopaedic chin ribbon against wrong chewing habits.

Schreber’s wife Pauline (1815–1907) was the daughter of the medical practitioner Wilhelm Andreas Haase and her uncle was Karl Friedrich Christian Wenck. They had three daughters and two sons.

The oldest son Daniel Gustav (1839–1877) committed suicide. The second son, Daniel Paul Schreber, was a judge in Saxony and served for a short time as Senate President at the Dresden County Court. His autobiographical descriptions of a serious psychological illness were interpreted as specialties of a neurologically sick person (1903) based on psycho-analysis by Sigmund Freud.

Reading about this reminded me of my mother’s corset. We are talking hardly more than 50 years ago. It was also a terrible device. It was supposed to emphasize the female figure and also was a kind of “Body” made of elastic material with flexible, fishbone-like metal rods sewn into it. It was open in the back and then needed to be closed with a series of small hooks.

And whenever, on a Sunday, you went places or visited family, the corset was worn underneath your skirt suit. And getting dressed was a truly monstrous process. After all, naturally, as the years went by, my mother did not get any slimmer, did she? Which made the corset ever more tight and brutal.

Predictably, the mood became bad and we children were subjected to it. And the parents were surprised if mother started feeling sick or suffered from back pains. Well, what nice times we lived in.

This is how Dr. Schreber’s curse survived the world of children to end up in the lives of women.

(Translated by EG)

I took the image and both drawings from the very interesting Wikipedia article on Dr. Moritz Schreiber I cited.

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