Sue Young Histories

Diocletian Lewis 1823 - 1886

December 11, 2007

diocletian lewisDiocletian Lewis 1823 - 1886

studied at the Harvard medical school and at the Homeopathic Hospital College of Cleveland, Ohio, and he practiced for several years in Buffalo, New York, where he also edited and published a medical magazine in which he deprecated the use of drugs and advocated physical exercise as a part of public education.

In 1841 at the age of 19, he worked at a school in Freemont, and so impressed the townsfolk when he extended the curriculum to include algebra, geometry and Latin, they named the school the Diocletian Institute in his honour

Lewis produced, a magazine the Genius of Christianity, at this time… Lewis admitted that he prescribed orthodox medicaments early in his career until he also studied homeopathy with Lewis McCarthy when he became convinced this was an error when he saw what homeopathy could do…

he produced the magazine the Homeopathist outlining ideas on fresh air, pure water, rest and exercise… his wife Helen became ill with tuberculosis (her two sisters had already died of this)…

Lewis used homeopathy to cure Helen’s TB, and from that day his Consumption Cure became famous. Helen worked with Lewis on his publications, writing her own column on dress reform and woman’s health.

Lewis sought to liberate women from restrictive corsets and he forever changed the basic dialogue concerning women’s bodies, freeing women and allowing them to discover they were ultimately in charge of their own physical destiny.

Catharine Beecher, Mary Lyons, and Diocletian Lewis thus argued for the physical education of women, started schools, and laid out regimens of calisthenics, domestic exercises (e.g., sweeping), and traditional activities such as walking and riding. The movement to return women to physically active pursuits had begun, albeit in their private, domestic sphere.

Lewis also opened a school for women in Lexington, a hotel in Boston and:

From 1852 till 1863 he was engaged in lecturing on hygiene and physiology, and at the latter date he settled in Boston and founded the Boston Normal Physical Training School, at which, in seven years, five hundred pupils were graduated. His influence had much to do with the establishment of the present system of physical culture in most of the institutions of learning in the United States.

Lewis lectured at the home of Clemence Lozier’s mother.

Lewis, a professional lecturer, gave a public address on his fall tour through Ohio called ”Our Girls,” that advocated physical exercise and an active life for women. On Sundays he spoke on ”The Duty of Christian Women in the Cause of Temperance.

In these lectures he instructed women to ask local dispensers of alcoholic beverages to sign pledges that they would cease to sell. Upon refusal, the women should begin prayer and song services in these establishments. He urged women to be the sole participants in these acts, in order to aggrandize the emotional force of the movement.

Women took to the snowy streets, and within three months of their first march, women had driven the liquor business out of 250 towns. By the time the marches ended, over 912 communities in 31 states and territories had experienced the crusades.

It was and is still the largest mass movement of women to date… Frances Willard, the second national president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, wrote later in her memoirs, that the crusade “was like the fires we used to kindle on the western prairies, a match and a wisp of grass were all that was needed, and behold the spectacle of a prairie on fire sweeping across the landscape, swift as a thousand untrained steeds and no more to be captured than a hurricane.” continue reading:

In 1873, Dr. Diocletian Lewis, a reform lecturer, spoke about his mother, Dilecta Barbour Lewis, who addressed the liquor traffic head-on in a novel way: She pleaded with a hardened publican to stop selling to little Dio’s drunken father; the saloon keeper refused; and, in desperation, Dilecta Lewis led a band of women into the bar to pray, a tactic that melted the publican’s heart and prompted him to take the pledge and forsake his evil ways… continue reading:

Lewis, who, with his mother Delecta, formed the Visitation Bands, which gathered outside barrooms ‘communicating their displeasure to the heavens.’

Eliza Jane Trimble Thompson had attended a speech given by Dr. Diocletian Lewis in 1873. Dr. Lewis had suggested that women should organize to protest against saloons and to pray for the bars’ closing. Thompson took Lewis’s advice. She and seventy-five other women in the community marched on the saloons, demanding that they pledge to no longer serve alcohol.

Ultimately, Thompson and her followers were successful in closing the town’s saloons. As a result of their success, women in more than one hundred other Ohio towns held their own protest marches. Many of these women later became involved in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

Lewis lectured widely on temperance and some of these WCTU marches could turn violent. Carrie Nation was known for attacking bars with her hatchet!

Lewis claimed that, as a result of them, more than 17,000 drinking establishments were abandoned in Ohio alone in a period of two months. Most of the saloons that closed as a result of prayer vigils opened again a few days later.

Lewis edited “Today,” “Dio Lewis’s Monthly,” “Dio Lewis Nuggets,” and the “Dio Lewis Treasury,” the latter being put to press immediately before his death. He also published numerous pamphlets and papers in magazines

And the Prohibition a Failure Or, the True Solution of the Temperance Question, Gypsies: Or Why We Went Gypsying in the Sierras, Chastity: Our Secret Sins (Sex, Marriage and Society), Chats with Young Women, In a Nutshell: Suggestions to American College Students, Talks about People’s Stomachs, Introduction to the Laplace Transform, Weak Lungs and How to Make Them Strong Or, Diseases of the Organs of the Chest, with Their Home Treatment by the Movement Cure, The New Gymnastics for Men, Women and Children: With a Translation of Prof. Kloss’s Dumb-Bell Instructor and Prof. Schreber’s Pangymnastikon, Our Girls (Women in American Series), and Our Digestion; Or, My Jolly Friend’s Secret.

Lewis also wrote three other books that were not published, Longevity, My Two Husbands and The Medfields

The Biography of Dio Lewis … Prepared … with the co-operation of Mrs. Dio Lewis


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