Indeed, many of the surveyed women were decidedly unshrinking.

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He tried to distract Clelia by helping her set up a small florist shop, but she squirreled away tuition money and off she went. In 1889, she entered Wellesley as a 25-year-old freshman but struggled academically and with ill health.

She spent her junior year at the University of Wisconsin, where she conducted her first surveys, and in 1892 transferred to Stanford, enrolling in its second class of students.

But instead, he recalls, "I opened it up and there were these questionnaires"— questionnaires upon which dozens of women, most born before 1870, had inscribed their most intimate thoughts. The Mosher Survey recorded not only women's sexual habits and appetites, but also their thinking about spousal relationships, children and contraception.

Perhaps, it hinted, Victorian women weren't so Victorian after all.

historian Carl Degler was combing the University archives, gathering research for a book on the history of the family. Clelia Duel Mosher, who taught in Stanford's hygiene department around the turn of the 20th century, he came across a mysteriously bound file.

Degler nearly put it aside, figuring it was a manuscript for one of Mosher's published works, mostly statistical treatises on women's height, strength and menstruation. It is the earliest known study of its type, long preceding, for example, the 19 Kinsey Reports, whose oldest female respondents were born in the 1890s.Her master's thesis, for example, showed that women breathe from the diaphragm, as men do, rather than from the chest, as was believed at the time.She concluded that this so-called biological difference was really due to tight corsetry."I remember I was so surprised when I first opened it and saw what was there," recalls Degler, 89, the Margaret Byrne Professor of American History, emeritus."I said to the librarian there, 'Did anyone ever use these papers before? [The subject] was something that was so instantaneously interesting at this point.Yet Mosher never published or drew more than cursory observations from her data.