1918 “Knitting Nerves”- Women Fight Back!

A few days ago I posted an article about “Knitting Nerves”, where a quack doctor claimed that excessive knitting led to a nervous complaint. You can read the article here. Total rot, and so very Victorian of him to make a pretend malady for women (intended jab, as WWI would have considered themselves a “modern age”… I know it’s not Victorian era!)

The article made the rounds in all the papers across the country, and a little while later articles popped up contradicting the “expert” by other experts in knitting for the war effort.

“Knitting Nerves” is Not Prevalent in the City of Madison

“Knitting Nerves,” now reported prevalent in the east, have not yet made their appearance in Madison. On the contracy, the general opinion seems to be that knitting is restful and soothing to the nerves.

“‘Knitting nerves,’ I’ve never even heard of them,” said Mrs. Joseph Hubbins, chairman of the knitting department of the Red Cross.

“Why, I have always thought knitting was good for the nerves,” was the comment of Mrs. Louis Head.

“The only thing that makes knitting tiring,” said one of the other knitters, “it is sitting in a cramped position, and knitting for far too long at a time. This has the same effect that overdoing any kind of work has.”

“I don’t know anything about knitting nerves,” was the statement of Mrs. R. H. Hess, one of the general chairmen of the Red Cross, “I never even heard of them.”

“We have not heard anything about “knitting nerves” here,” Dr. Frank S Meade said. “There is such a condition that exists in cases of long continued strain, and is common among writers and men employed in certain kinds of work, such as punching holes in paper day after day. It is known as occupational neurosis. However, we have never heard nothing about this in connection with knitting in Madison.”

The Capitol Times, Madison, WI- Jan 2, 1918

“Knitting Nerves” Not Taken Seriously

CHICAGO, Jan 5- The new 1918 style in maladies for women, labeled “knitting nerves,” will not be accepted in Chicago, it was stated by women in a position to know.

The style originated in New York, where Dr. Louis R Welzmiller of the Y.M.C.A. was quoted as having discovered the disease, due to overwork on war knitting.

Dr Julia Strawn said: “Nonsense. We give certain cases knitting in the hospitals to quiet their nerves.”

Miss Ima Taft, director of women’s work, central division, Red Cross, remarked: “Our women are too busy to get ‘knitting nerves.’ Most of them can are now so proficient that they can read and knit at the same time. That doesn’t look like nerves, does it?”

Other women in the work talked in similar strain, from which it appeared that the 1917 style of nerves would remain unchanged in this section of the country.

The Tacoma Daily Ledger, Tacoma, Washington, Sunday, Jan 6, 1918

And there you have it. Just another person’s attempt to get his five minutes of fame and keep women wary of helping out.

The only knitting nerves I’ve gotten was while doing a complicated stitch pattern, dropping a stitch, or just learning. And, I would say, that rage is understandable. All the new knitters of 1918 who had yet to learn to knit suddenly attempting to turn heels and make articles quickly? Let them have their “knitting nerves”, I say. Frustration is part of learning any new skill.

Carry on, nothing to see here.

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