Meet 1912's Perfect Woman: Pear-Shaped, 171 Lbs, Doesn't Know Fear

Illustration for article titled Meet 1912's Perfect Woman: Pear-Shaped, 171 Lbs, Doesn't Know Fear

100 years ago, the New York Times declared Elsie Scheel of Brooklyn the "most nearly perfect specimen of womanhood."


The premise behind that assertion is kind of gross — a doctor at Cornell (Elsie's alma mater) examined hundreds of female students to find the one who had the closest proportions to the Venus de Milo, which is creepy — but the old newspaper clippings themselves are delightful; headlines include "BEEFSTEAK HER MAINSTAY" (caps necessary!) and "Is Very Strong, Weighs 171 Pounds, and is 5 Feet 7 Inches Tall — Means to Grow Vegetables."

Some fun facts about Elsie, who did not have a "single physical defect":

  • She was an "ardent suffragette."
  • "She says she has never been ill and doesn't know what fear is." !!!!!
  • "The girls at Sage College, she thinks, work too hard at their studies and too late at night." Elsie is so chill.
  • She studied horticulture, but "if she were a man she would study mechanical engineering." If Elsie was around today, I'm pretty sure she'd be the CEO of Google. Or President.
  • She has never had tea or coffee in her life!
  • "She knows many of the industrial conditions at first hand, such as the cotton mills and the oyster canneries. Welfare work is a subject of vital importance to her."
  • Her mother, who studied medicine after her children grew up, is her "ideal woman."

  • Ok, we concur: Elsie is the best.
  • [Gothamist]



I am suspicious of those measurements. I am three inches taller, with the same waist but significantly larger bust and hips, but I weight less than she does. Is she gilded or something?