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Harriet N. Austin, M.D.: Excerpts

Natural Hygiene Handbook

“Pioneers of Natural Hygiene” Pg 21

Some of the most prominent among these physicians were: Isaac Jennings, M.D. (1788-1874); William Alcott, M.D. (1798-1859) (cousin of Louisa May Alcott); James Caleb Jackson, M.D. (1811-1895); Russell Thacker Trall, M.D.(1812-1877); Thomas Low Nichols, M.D. (1815-1901); George H. Taylor, M.D. (1821-1896); Harriet Austin, M.D. (1826-1891); Susanna Way Dodds, M.D. (1830-1911); Emmett Densmore, M.D. (1837-1911); Robert Walter, M.D. (1841-1921); Felix Oswald, M.D. (1845-1906); John Tilden, M.D. (1851-1940); George S. Weger, M.D. (1874-1935); and Herbert M. Shelton, N.D. (1895-1985).

Pg 22

“Women in Hygiene

Women were vital to the Hygienic Movement. In 1852, Russell Trall, M.D., established a school based on Hygienic principles, the New York Hygeio-Therapeutic College, in New York City. Men and women were admitted on an equal basis. The first women physicians in America graduated from this school, including Harriet Austin, M.D., a close friend of Clara Barton, and Mary Walker, M.D. (1832-1919). Dr. Walker, a champion of women’s causes, served in the Civil War and was the first (and only) woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The first women physicians!

Mary Gove (1810-1884) and Susanna Way Dodds, M.D., also founded colleges that taught Hygiene and admitted both men and women. Gove and her husband, Thomas Low Nichols, M.D., established the American Hydropathic Institute in New York City in 1851. Dr. Dodds, together with her sister-in-law, Mary Dodds, M.D., founded the Hygienic College of Physicians and Surgeons in St. Louis, Mo., in 1887. Harriot Austin, M.D.

Pg 24

“The people need to learn that the natural condition of human beings is one of health; and that every instance of sickness and suffering, unless caused by accident, is caused by some wrongdoing, either on the part of the sufferer or others.”

Harriet Austin, M.D. (1826-1891)”


Science and Fine Art of Natural Hygiene

Pg 326

“Other men and women of the past, deserving of mention, but who cannot be considered in detail at this place, are Harriet Austin, M.D., long associated with Dr. Jackson; Augusta Fairchild, M.D., a graduate of Trall’s college; Russell Trall, Jr. M.D., who practiced in Philadelphia; his sister, Rebecca Trall, M.D., who practiced in Brooklyn, and Helen and Emmet Densmore, M.D., Edward Hooker Dewey, M.D., who greatly added to our knowledge of fasting, although he was not a Hygienist. Dr. Dodds says of him: “He was certainly not a Hygienist.” She enumerates the following practices of his that excluded him from Hygienic ranks: he “drank coffee, ate meat, white bread … indulged in hearty suppers … and some of his ideas on bathing seem to be very extreme … he discarded fruits, especially the acid varieties, almost entirely.” I may add that he never entirely discarded drugs.”

Excerpt From

The Science and Fine Art of Natural Hygiene


The Greatest Health Discovery

Pg 17 – Quote & Photo

“HARRIET AUSTIN, M.D.(1826-1891)

Men, women, and children eat, drink, work, sleep, dress and think after modes which defy all nature. When the system yields to their daily outrages, instead of checking themselves to see what may be done to remove ill health, taking ownership, and getting to the root cause, they immediately place themselves in the hands of a doctor. 

Excerpt From

The Greatest Health Discovery

Sylvester Graham, Russell T. Trall, and Herbert M. Shelton

Pg 27

“Harriet Austin, who is mentioned later in this section, recounts a case of this kind who was a friend of hers. He was in a hotel among strangers. “He knew he was expected to die; he was tormented with thirst day and night, and not a drop of water could he obtain. To aggravate his suffering, he constantly heard running a stream of water at the corner of the building. He watched his opportunity and crawled out of bed, down the stairs, round the house, till he found a large watering trough into which the water was falling. Into this he managed to get, and there he lay and drank all he wanted. The panic was terrible when he was discovered. He was placed in bed, clothes heaped upon him and a messenger sent in haste to bring the doctor to see him die. Before he arrived, however, he was sleeping sweetly, and from that moment he recovered.”

“There were, at this time, groups of people who called themselves Grahamites, physiological reformers, Hygienists, orthopatists, hydropaths, etc. who boldly affirmed that God or nature or whatever was responsible for man’s existence, knew better than the most learned physicians what drink was best for man, sick or well, and that all the cold water demanded by thirst will not harm a fever patient.

It was due almost entirely to the work of these people that the medical profession ultimately consented to let their fever patients have water to drink.”

“In addition to being deprived of water, this was a time, also, when the sick were denied the benefits of fresh air. Physicians would give strict orders to keep the room closed and to keep the air from the room. If it were necessary to enter the room, the door had to be opened as little as possible and closed quickly. The weather may have been hot, the patient may have had a high fever, the room may have reeked with the odors of the patient—it was still necessary to keep the room closed. No breath of fresh air was to be admitted. Patients were made to struggle in the confined air of their sick chambers. It would be impossible to estimate the number of deaths that were caused by this denial of fresh air.”

Pg 57

“Others of the past who should be mentioned are Harriet Austin, M.D., long associated with Dr. Jackson, Augusta Fairchild, M.D. a graduate of Trall’s college, Russell Trall, Jr. M.D. who practiced in Philadelphia, his sister Rebecca Trall, M.D., who practiced in Brooklyn, and Helen and Emmet Densmore, M.D. Edward Hooker Dewey, M.D. greatly added to our knowledge of fasting. More detail on the women of the Hygienic Movement will be found later if this section.

Dr. George H. Taylor was born in 1821. He specialized in the Ling System, or the Movement Cure as it was called, which he and his brother, also Dr. Taylor, helped to introduce into America; in extending its development they discovered that hernia, visceroptosis, and similar conditions may be corrected by exercise. Dr. Taylor died in 1896.

Pg 73

“Almost as active in the demand for women’s rights and in the dress reform movement as Mary Gove, was Harriet Austin, M.D., adopted daughter and associate of Dr. James C. Jackson, who was born in Connecticut in 1826. Dr. Austin, who edited The Laws of Life for a number of years, was one of the early graduates of the American Physiological and Hydropathic College. She was among the first women in the world to receive the degree Doctor of medicine, having received it a few years before the women’s medical college was established.

Dr. Austin was a close personal friend of Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, who left in her own handwriting, a stirring tribute to the sterling qualities and professional abilities of the doctor. Dr. Austin retired from active practice in 1822 and died in North Adams, Mass. in 1891.

“Hygienists espoused many causes, but the Hygienic Movement was no mere loose collection of reform movements and measures, such as vegetarianism, temperance, clothing reform, sex education of the young, the teaching of physiology and Hygiene in the public schools, etc. These elements were espoused only to the extent that they could be integrated with the more fundamental problem of creating a radically different and total way of life.”

“The part played by Mrs. Gove, Harriet Austin, M.D., Susannah W. Dodds, M.D., and other women Hygienists in the dress reform movement, though important, must be viewed against a background of the total Hygienic movement. Dr. Austin and Dodds discarded the regular female attire and wore pants, a daring thing for a woman to do in those days, but it took daring to be a Hygienist of any kind.”


Natural Hygiene: The Pristine Way of Life

Pg 26

“Harriet Austin thus recounts a case of this kind which was that of a friend of hers. He was in a hotel among strangers. She says: “He knew he was expected to die. He was tormented with thirst day and night, and not a drop of water could he obtain. To aggravate his suffering, he constantly heard running a stream of water at the corner of the house. He watched his opportunity and crawled out of bed, down the stairs, round the house, till he found a large watering trough into which the water was falling. Into this he managed to get, and there he lay and drank all he wanted. The panic was terrible when he was discovered. He was placed in bed, clothes heaped upon him and a messenger sent in haste to bring the doctor to see him die. Before he arrived, however, he was sleeping sweetly, and from that moment he recovered.”

Strange! isn’t it, that had this patient stolen to the medicine cabinet and taken a dose of some forbidden drug and recovered, the physicians of the neighborhood would have gotten together to discuss the possible curative virtues of the drug in such a case, but did not come together, upon hearing of this recovery, to discuss the possible need of the fever patient for water! The world would have heard of the wonderful cure wrought by the drug; the world was not appraised of the office of water in enabling this patient to restore his health. Physicians continued to forbid water to their fever patients.”

“The recuperative and remedial effects of supplying the living organism with the normal needs of life, in keeping with its current need and power to use, is too simple for the scientific mind to comprehend. It is even too simple for the lay mind to grasp. We are so determined to have something mysterious and incomprehensible that we refuse to consider the simple and necessary requirements of life. The healthy body needs and can use water, so, also, can the sick body; but we prefer poisons for the sick.

There arose groups of people who called themselves Grahamites, physiological reformers, Hygienists, orthopathists, hydropaths, etc., who boldly affirmed that God or nature or whoever was responsible for man’s existence, knew better than the most learned physician what drink was best for man, sick or well, and that all the cold water demanded by thirst will not harm a fever patient. It was due almost entirely to the work of these people that the medical profession ultimately consented to let their fever patients have water to drink.”

Pg 229

“Let us take the case of James Caleb Jackson, M.D., who founded the institution in Dansville, N.Y., and who made an international name for himself–was he a hydropath or a Hygienist? He called himself both; he employed both systems; he arrived at the point where he called his plan of care Psycho-Hygiene. In spite of this, I have never been certain where to place him.

He was an admirer of Graham and Jennings, a warm friend of Trall; his adopted daughter, Harriet Austin, graduated from Trall’s college and he had many praises for Trall–but classifying him is still difficult. I have always given him the benefit of the doubt, because he claimed to be a Hygienist and because others recognized the validity of his claim. But it is still a fact that he gave predominance to hydropathy and regarded Hygienic means as secondary and subsidiary factors in the care of the sick, while crediting “water cure” with powers that belong only to the living organism.”

“Writing in 1857 and addressing his remarks to allopathic physicians, he said: “I have never used any other substance as a specific remedy for disease but water. All the hygienic agencies I use–air, light, heat, food, etc., etc.–I use, but I have never made use of any of them as specialties … I produce results with water which no man has produced by any other means … as far as I have strength, the people of this land shall be led to feel and believe, and act upon the belief, that in all cases of disease which do not involve surgery, water is the best medicamentum that man can possibly have. I have said in all diseases, and I repeat it. I want you … to understand me, and I repeat the statement, that in no case of disease can you apply anything else as broadly, as successfully, as water can be applied.”

Excerpt From

Natural Hygiene: The Pristine Way of Life

Herbert M. Shelton

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