The Urchin Wants to Know
June 22, 2020 5:48 PM   Subscribe

When I was an urchin back in the early 1940s my mother sometimes had me along while visiting her friends. The conversations I remember were about women's health issues. They did not expect the urchin was listening and still wants to know what on earth were they talking about some 75 some odd years ago.

She and her friends talked about something called a “Basel” done by their doctors that would give answers to what their unspecified problems of the moment were. This was maybe sometime about 1943-45. Was Basel Metabolism testing available as part of regular medical examinations at the time? If so, why was it done, what was being looked for, and how did it fit into medicine as practiced at the time?
posted by Raybun to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Basal body temperature, maybe? It can be used to detect ovulation, pregnancy, etc...?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:52 PM on June 22 [6 favorites]

This sounds like temperature method of birth control, more from Planned Parenthood here.
posted by Toddles at 6:34 PM on June 22

"Basal Temperature vs. Basal Metabolism" (detailing the Barnes Basal Temperature Test), published in JAMA in August 1942? Related to hypo- or hyperthyroidism diagnoses, treatment.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:18 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]

posted by Raybun at 7:31 PM on June 22 [2 favorites]

Is there any chance they could have been saying "baseline"?
posted by bunji at 1:50 AM on June 23

Can we ask, how was it pronounced? The first syllable to rhyme with 'base' or to rhyme with 'bars'? Was the middle sound an sss or a zzz?
posted by vincebowdren at 2:48 AM on June 23

Basel not Baseline. Basel as in Base
posted by Raybun at 11:06 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]

sss not zzz
posted by Raybun at 11:07 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]

Could have been basal metabolism or basal temperature? Both are abundant in newspaper health columns of the period. Additionally, a Google Books search for 'basal metabolism women' turns up several early 20th-century medical texts on the relationship between basal metabolism and women's health.

I also came across at least one example of a basal metabolism reading being referred to as just "a basal," but that's the sort of thing that would likely be much more common in speech.
posted by Not A Thing at 12:07 PM on June 23

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