“Modern” Health

Modern Health coverModern Health
Otto, Cloyd, and Tether

Submitter: I work in an academic library and, while weeding through the Rs, found this treasure trove of bad information. As a health textbook from 1955, what’s not awful about this book? Shock therapy is the primary treatment for most mental illnesses; those with low IQs are matched with corresponding scientific labels such as “moron,” “imbecile,” or “idiot;” consideration of minority groups and people in poverty is nonexistent; and grown women are all depicted wearing aprons. All of this is delivered to the reader in a relentlessly condescending tone that so many 1950s instructional texts specialized in.  This particular library, before now, had not been weeded in a very long, time.

Holly: Clearly.  I mean, even the laziest non-weeders should have caught this one!  Even hoarders must be able to let go of it.  Even…ok, you get the point. A basic report, sorted by publication date, would red flag this title easily.  The irony of the title “Modern Health” is hilarious.

Mary: I totally want to read this.

mental patients

The Holt Science Program

Danger area for pimples

alcohol test

shock therapy


  1. I should note, they still do use ECT. At least they aren’t advocating lobotomies. I would weed it more for its complete lack of discussion of things like obesity, STIs/STDs and tons of other conditions that have come up since then.

  2. Apparently it’s also dangerous to remove unibrows in that area too. Yesh, man, invest in some No Tweeze! There’s no excuse for one single eyebrow unless you’re a cyclops!

  3. I love the warning about the serious brain infection! We all need at least one warning about possible brain infections once a day.

  4. I want to read this one too! I love old health/decorum/housewifery books, mostly because it’s so entertaining to read the outmoded, and often truly baffling instructions and cures they espoused. It’s also a really good reminder of how swiftly society and medical understanding evolves, and that in fifty years, our grandchildren will be equally horrified by what they find in our textbooks.

    Also, the illustrations (ususally) rock.

  5. I hate to tell you this, but it really is dangerous to squeeze pimples in that area.

    “Blood from the nose (to be precise, from a triangular region of the face centered on the nose) drains to the rear of the head, where it joins various other veins, including the ones that drain blood out of your brain. If a nasal infection were to travel downstream and block this junction point, a condition known as intracranial thrombophlebitis, you’d have big problems. Not only would blood circulation be impaired, but any sort of surgical treatment might well result in disfigurement. Hence the high school injunction not to pick yer zits. Words to live by, Leo.”


  6. If people could die from zit-picking, teenagers would be dropping dead every year and no one would need to read about it in a book. I don’t know how I could have survived adolescence myself.

  7. The kid in the yellow shirt seems pretty healthy. He’s seems to be taking advantage of the view in front of him.

  8. The Holt health book was updated — I am sure I encountered it in 1967 with only minor changes to the illustrations. Health class was mandatory in the Jr. High I went to, and was segregated by sex, due to the ONE DIFFERENT CHAPTER in the girls’ book vs the boys’ book. That chapter was mostly about personal daintiness. 🙂

  9. I have extracted pimples since their first appearance, still do – and not only am very much alive but always had clear skin… That said, the idea of the fatal infections from touching a pimple reminded me of the book Mildred Pierce (which differs in various ways from Joan Crawford’s film version.) Her daughter Moire dies from a pimple on her upper lip!

  10. Back in 2000-2001 when I worked as an adult reference librarian and did a lot of weeding in the adult nonfiction collection, I found that nearly every book which included the word “Modern” in the title was too dated to retain. “Modern Health” is evidently no exception to this guieline.

  11. Lurker is right, they do still use ECT, but most doctors in the US use an updated “safer” form of it (physically safer, mentally…debatable). You can tell they’re using the old one here (year aside) because of the tongue depressor. It’s also not the go-to form of treatment anymore, more of a last resort usually. So it’s still outdated.

    I really want to look at this book.

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