The War Against Kissing

Back in 1911, Imogene Rechtin led a campaign against kissing, as leader of the World's Health Organization (which, to clarify, had nothing to do with the UN's World Health Organization, founded in 1948). Her followers wore buttons that read, "Kiss Not." One newspaper at the time remarked, "Judging by the facial features of the presidentess of the cult appearing in the public prints, she is immune without wearing the button."

Cincinnati, Feb. 18 — The World's Health Organization is waging a bitter war against kissing, arguing that the practice is a menace to health. The president of the organization, Mrs. Imogene Rechtin, says that, for instance, the germs of consumption are spread by kissing. The organization has had buttons with the words "Kiss not" imprinted therein, which signify that the wearer is a member of the organization and absolutely refuses to impress his lips against another's. Mrs. Rechtin says: "The work of the World's Health Organization is to show the people that the health of our nation demands that we protect ourselves. Do not kiss sick people. In the case of smallpox the disease shows quickly after infection has taken place, but in consumption it does not, therefore do not kiss any one. You are not sure by looking at a person whether he has consumption or not. He may not know it himself. Sometimes he is able to attend to his regular duties till the last. If with the expenditure of $30,000,000, as was spent last year to conquer consumption, to say nothing of the heartaches for the loved ones gone forever, we could say we are now rid of the disease then the crusade against it would die a natural death, but with all this expenditure we are still in the midst of it. We must be more active, more earnest, go to the source of the supply and stop passing the disease from one to another with our mouths." The pledge of the organization reads as follows: "In order to encourage good health and lessen the spread of consumption I desire to join the World's Health Organization and hereby pledge myself to discourage the custom of kissing on the lips whenever it is in my power."
     Posted By: Alex - Mon Feb 02, 2015
     Category: Hygiene | 1910s

I believe her name should be spelled 'I Retchin".
Posted by BMN on 02/02/15 at 10:05 AM
I would have bet against her ever being married. Granted that consumption (tuberculosis) is a pretty serious ailment (my grandfather died of it during the 1930's), kissing is not the only method of transmission. Her concern is well placed but her method of prevention is deeply flawed.
Posted by KDP on 02/02/15 at 10:20 AM
I got super-infectious mononucleosis from my girl friend back in the day. Better known as 'the kissing disease'. (No, I don't know who she got it from.)
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 02/02/15 at 10:49 AM
You can get mono from a shared glass too. As far as TB, it issue air borne anyway.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 02/02/15 at 04:00 PM
KDP, since she's given the honorific "Mrs." she was presumably married at one time.
Posted by ges on 02/02/15 at 08:31 PM
"Mrs." didn't always mean married to a man.

Particularly in England, housekeepers were often called Mrs. even when they were single. In large homes the housekeeper was in a sense married to the house and the staff (maids, cooks, etc.) were her 'children,' having to obey her and subject to her discipline. (Check out the movie "Rebecca" (1940) -- it's doubtful any man could ever have been so desperate as to marry "Mrs." Danvers.)

In bachelor residences, it was less scandalous for a seemingly-married woman to be alone in the house with him and tending to his undies, water closet, and similar personal items.

Nannies were also sometimes called "Mrs." because it was more appropriate for a seemingly-married woman to be tending children. She would, stereotypically, be more emotionally mature than a flighty young girl and her maternal instincts more developed than a sour old maid's.

I've read that, in at least one particular time, in one particular place, all nuns were considered "Mrs." because they're married to Christ.
Posted by Phideaux on 02/03/15 at 01:50 AM
Yes, nuns wear a wedding band to signify that they are married to the Lord.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 02/03/15 at 07:36 AM
Mrs Hughes in "Downton Abbey" has never been married. She explained to a would-be suitor who knew her from years ago that the Mrs was accorded to all housekeepers, and I'm sure for the exact reasons Phideaux points out.

That having been said, Google leads to a record in the 1920 US Census for an Imogene Rechtin, aged 60, and married to Louis Rechtin.
Posted by TheCannyScot in Atlanta, GA on 02/03/15 at 09:31 AM
I wonder which has higher odds- catching TB or smallpox by kissing a random person in 1911 or catching measles by being in the same room with a random unvaccinated child in 2015?
Posted by RobK on 02/04/15 at 11:22 AM
@patty -- I'd forgotten about the wedding rings. Thanks.

I knew they were married in that sense. What I don't know was how widely they're referred to as "Mrs." which is why the one reference I found which listed their names that way stuck in my mind.

@TheCannyScot -- Great Googling! I guess standards of beauty were different back then.
Posted by Phideaux on 02/04/15 at 12:26 PM
Nuns are always addressed as Sister (except for the Mother Superior)
as in Sister Mary Knucklebuster. :lol:
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 02/04/15 at 02:27 PM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.