In 1912: What Did “The Perfect Woman” Look Like?

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What makes for the perfect woman? That’s up for debate. But about 100 years ago, there was no debate, when a medical examiner declared a 24-year old student at Cornell University to be “the perfect woman.”

Her name was Elsie Scheel, and she was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY.  The student was selected as “the most nearly perfect physical specimen of womanhood.”

Dr Esther Parker, the university medical examiner, chose Scheel out of a group of 400 women.  Of course we doubt that black women were even considered for the prize.   The New York Times described her as “a light-haired, blue-eyed girl whose very presence bespeaks perfect health.”

She was 5’7” tall and 171 pounds.  Also, unlike many of the white women in magazines today, she was shapely, with dimensions of 35-30-40.



“Although taller than the model of antiquity and correspondingly heavier, her proportions are remarkably similar,” the Times said.

Scheel said that she believed in “common sense and sane living.”  She says that she ate what she wanted and when.

What does this say about the way the image of an attractive woman has changed over time?  Maybe this says that black women have had it right all along, since most women of color don’t embrace the anorexic lifestyles that have become so prevalent in pop culture.  But of course we know that there is no such thing as the perfect woman, since we are all special in our own way.