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Brooklyn Venus

In 1912 The New York Times reported that 24-year-old Cornell “co-ed” Elsie Scheel of Brooklyn Heights was the “perfect woman” whose “very presence bespeaks perfect health.”

How standards of beauty have changed, the Times noted Jan.1: “At 5-foot-7 and 171 pounds, she would, by today’s medical standards, be clearly overweight. (Her body mass index was 27; 25 to 29.9 is overweight.)” (Scheel was invoked in connection with a new study that finds those at the lowest obesity level of 30 to 34.9 were not more likely to die than normal-weight people.)

Scheel “was a person who valued being active and athletic, had a strong and confident attitude, and, as a daughter of a doctor and a mother of a doctor, may have been steeped in healthy habits that were much more relevant to her survival than her weight,” the Times reports.

“I have eaten only what I want and when I wanted it,” Scheel told one newspaper.

Whether or not she was perfect, Elsie Scheel was hardy: she died three days before her 91st birthday in 1979.


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