Select Page

Respiration in Women

January 3, 1896 — Second annual meeting, California Science Association, Oakland CA


In my senior year in Stanford University, having come to the study of respiration in the regular order of the course in Experimental Physiology, my attention was attracted particularly to the statements concerning the breathing of women. That I am a woman, lent especial interest to the statement that women breathe costally and men abdominally and to the reasons given in explanation. Watching my own breathing, let me to think that one woman did not breathe costally, and the following study is the outcome of that conclusion.

It is with great reluctance, at the present stage of my work, that I present even a preliminary report. Not only the small number of cases examined distributed in several classes, but the small proportion of the appended bibliography which I have been able to review at first hand, and the limited apparatus available, make it impossible for me to offer more than an outline of the ground covered and suggestions for future study.

Hutchinson, and English physician, the inventor of the spirometer, was referred to in every Physiology and article on respiration, which I consulted, It was only after a diligent search that his work was found to be an article in Todd’s Cyclopedia of Anatomy and Physiology (London, 1835-55; v. 5 in 6 Q.) on the Thorax, which was obtained from the State Library of California, which so far as I can learn is out of print. Since the results of his experiments are still quoted an the rule for the increase of vital capacity fo revery inch of stature from five feet to six feet of the average man, is still used, it would seem desirable to give in some detail his methods and the result of his work. It is to be noted, however, that his work especially emphasized the subject of vital capacity. He examined 2430 cases, distributed as follows:



Source: “Respiration in Women: A Report of Progress in a Study of Respiration in the Roble Gymnasium, Leland Stanford Junior University,” by Clelia Duel Mosher, May 1984,” Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, SC0011, Clelia D. Mosher Papers, Box 3, Volume 1. Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.