Health Requires Hygiene

Discussing Personal Hygiene Advice in Nineteenth Century Slovenia

  • Andrej Studen
Keywords: Nineteenth century, health, personal hygiene, handbooks and advice on personal hygiene, Dr. Štefan Kočevar


A popular booklet Slovenska mati (The Slovene Mother), published in 1882 by Dr. Štefan Kočevar, a renowned physician and obstetrician, is one of the few Slovene works of this kind in the "hygienic" nineteenth century. In the booklet, the author advised young mothers on how to lead a healthy lifestyle and care for then newborn babies and toddlers up to three years of age. Kočevar's views on personal hygiene are of particular interest. As Dr. Alojzij Valenta, another obstetrician, did before him in the book Porodoslovje za babice (Obstetrics for Midwives) (1860), Kočevar recommends genital washing. The mention of genital washing is something peculiar to the above obstetricians, as seen when compared with the works by other contemporary writers on personal hygiene who recommend only the care of exposed body parts - speaking of the hair, teeth and nail care and the washing of exposed areas of the hands and face. In no case is mention made of the genital area. When warning about the need to keep the body always clean, they speak about exposed areas and clean clothes to cover the unexposed.


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