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MENSTRUATION:

The first appearance of the menses is known to depend on various factors—climate, occupation, residence in towns, etc.—of which racial affinities are the most important. Climate is of unquestionable influence, the earliest age varying from eleven in hot to fifteen years in cold climates. Oppenheim, from an investigation of the time of the first menstruation in Bulgarian, Turkish, Armenian, and Jewish girls, concluded that race is the most important factor; and Lebrun states that among 100 girls of Jewish and Slavonian extraction, the majority of the Jewish girls menstruated at thirteen, while only one Slavonian girl menstruated at that age. Weissenberg presents statistics for Jewesses in South Russia from which it is seen that the first onset of menstruation was on the average at the age of fourteen; the earliest appearance was in one girl at the age of ten; and in one it was as late as eighteen (Weissenberg, "Die Südrussischen Juden," p. 77).

F. Weber investigated the subject in St. Petersburg and found the following percentages, "early appearance" representing cases of fifteen years of age, and "late appearance" those of seventeen years:

Russians. Jewesses. Germans. Poles. Finns.
Early appearance48.554.547.152.719.0
Late appearance6.363.72.92.919.25

Considering as "premature" those who had their first menstruation at the age of twelve, and as "delayed" those at eighteen years, Weber found the following percentages:

Russians. Jewesses. Germans. Poles. Finns.
Premature10.612.58.211.72.75
Delayed2.861.23.82.90.0

It appears from this that the first appearance of menstruation is much earlier in the Jewish and in the Slavonian girls than in the others.

Joachim's statistics for Hungary show that the first menstruation takes place there as follows:

Magyar peasant girls15to16years.
Jewish girls14"15"
Slovak girls16"17"

Stober ("Topographie et Histoire Médicale de Strassbourg," p. 266, Paris, 1864) found that in Strasburg the first onset of menstruation was at about the same age in Jewish girls as in the non-Jewesses. In no case did he observe it to occur before the twelfth year, and most had begun to menstruate between fourteen and seventeen. But he based his opinion on only a few observations. Raciborski ("Traité de la Menstruation," p. 630, Paris, 1868) found that the first menstruation appeared in Jewesses at the average age of 14 years, 3 months, 25 days, as against 15 years, 3 months, 9 days in Slavonian girls.

From the investigations of M. Fishberg in New York it appears that the first menstruation appears in Jewish girls of that city at the average age of 12 years, 7 months. Of the 483 girls thus investigated 390 were immigrants mostly from eastern Europe, and 93 were natives, of foreign parentage. In the American-born girls the first menstruation appeared at the average age of 12 years, 1 month; and among the foreign-born girls the average age was 13 years, 2 months. The earlier onset of menstruation in the daughters of immigrants as compared with their mothers has been observed by Engelman in other immigrant peoples in the United States (see "Age of First Menstruation on the North American Continent" in "New York Medical Journal," lxxv. 221-228, 270-277). After a careful study of statistical evidence he concludes that as regards the time of functional development the American girls are very much more precocious than those of other continents in the same region of the temperate zone, and more precocious than the peoples from whom they have sprung. It appears that the Jewish girls in the United States show similar characteristics when compared with their sisters in Europe. The cause of this precocity is to be looked for in the social and educational conditions surrounding Jewesses in the United States.

For laws concerning menstruation see Niddah.

Bibliography:
  • H. Ploss and Max Bartels, Das Weib, 7th ed., pp. 364-380;
  • Weber, Ueber Menstrualverhältnisse der Frauen in St. Petersburg, in St. Petersburger Medicinische Wochenschrift, 1883, Nos. 41, 42, 43;
  • Joachim, Ungarische Zeitschrift, iv., Nos. 20-28;
  • A. Corre, La Mère et l'Enfant dans les Races Humaines, Paris, 1882.
J. M. Fi.
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