Wellesley gets a his­tory les­son in deal­ing with per­sonal hy­giene

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - VERON­ICA REINER

IS­SUES OF PER­SONAL HY­GIENE are a boon for mar­keters to­day promis­ing so­lu­tions for ev­ery ill, from flaky scalp to ath­letic food and ev­ery other sus­pect spot in between.

While so­ci­ety hasn’t al­ways made such a fuss about things bod­ily, those of us around to­day have the ben­e­fit of a rather rocky his­tor­i­cal road to the cur­rent state of per­sonal hy­giene and as­so­ci­ated con­ve­niences. That jour­ney was the topic of dis­cus­sion Wed­nes­day at pre­sen­ta­tion ar­ranged by the Wellesley Town­ship Her­itage and His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety.

Kevin Thomas, a pub­lic pro­grams spe­cial­ist of the Wa­ter­loo Re­gion Mu­seum, gave a his­tory les­son about per­sonal hy­giene.

“It’s just ba­si­cally try­ing to start from the idea of every­body – re­gard­less of where and when you have lived – have cer­tain needs,” he said of the topic.

The pre­sen­ta­tion looked at the last 200 years, fo­cus­ing on the many var­i­ous at­ti­tudes the pub­lic has had to­wards per­sonal hy­giene to get to where we are now. This ranges from a lux­ury to an un­com­mon prac­tice. It also ex­am­ined the many dif­fer­ent ways that the need has been ad­dressed.

“Needs in­clude food, shel­ter, heat, light, and cloth­ing; also com­mu­ni­ca­tion or en­ter­tain­ment, that sort of thing,” said Thomas. “So start­ing from that very ba­sic point of view – say­ing ‘OK, we all have this ba­sic need to go to

to the wash­room or clean our­selves.’ Re­gard­less of whether you were around in early Egyp­tian times, or an­cient Greece or Rome, or when­ever, you still have that need – but how you ad­dress those needs has changed through the years. That is what I find in­ter­est­ing. Espe­cially with per­sonal hy­giene. It just builds suc­cess upon suc­cess, and it’s this long tra­jec­tory up­wards, but it turns out, no it isn’t. It’s more of a rocky road to where we are now.”

Thomas noted how the at­ti­tudes to­wards hy­giene changed based on the un­der­stand­ing of how dis­eases and germs spread. Also, there were plenty of mea­sures taken to com­bat poor clean­li­ness habits, some of which were not al­ways ef­fec­tive.

“As well as some tech­nol­ogy to ac­com­mo­date this shift­ing per­spec­tive,” said Thomas. “So soap, for ex­am­ple. They started us­ing veg­etable oil – palm oil, cot­ton­seed, olive oil, var­i­ous things like that. Then we view the at­ti­tude shift as mar­keters get their hands on stuff.”

Other mea­sures in­cluded the in­ven­tion of Lysol, which we know to­day as a clean­ing agent. How­ever, back in the 1920s, it was sold as a hy­giene prod­uct. It has cer­tainly been a long road of trial-and-er­ror, mak­ing us lucky to be born in this day and age.

Wed­nes­day’s pre­sen­ta­tion was the lat­est from the his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety. Past events have cov­ered a va­ri­ety of top­ics, such as “Find- ing Your Roots” and “Fam­ily Trea­sures.” The top­ics all re­late to their man­date of pre­serv­ing in­for­ma­tion and ob­jects as­so­ci­ated with the his­tory of Wellesley Town­ship, as well as bet­ter ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic about the town they live in.

“We just had a pub­lic meet­ing a cou­ple of weeks ago about the his­tory of fire­fight­ing in Wellesley town­ship,” said Nancy Mait­land, WTHHP’s cu­ra­tor. “That was well-at­tended. We had an­other meet­ing maybe two years ago show­ing ex­am­ples of our col­lec­tion and how we can help peo­ple with their fam­ily his­tory. So it fo­cused on our fam­ily his­tory re­sources that we have. We’re re­ally try­ing to get peo­ple in­ter­ested in his­tory.”

Wellesley Town­ship Her­itage and His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety is a com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tion that has been around since 2007.

“It’s part of our man­date to try to find ways to in­clude all res­i­dents of Wellesley Town­ship,” said Mait­land. “We’d like them to be in­ter­ested and see if they’d be in­ter­ested in join­ing the his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety or do­nat­ing any fam­ily doc­u­ments or pho­tos that they may have. That’s not the point of it, but we do want to ed­u­cate peo­ple on what we’re do­ing and why, and maybe they’d like to get in­volved.”

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.welles­ley­his­tory.org.


Us­ing im­ages from the past, the Wellesley Town­ship Her­itage and His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety this week pre­sented an ed­u­ca­tional in­sight into the de­vel­op­ment of per­sonal hy­giene as an is­sue, par­tic­u­larly in the hands of mar­keters.

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