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From the Archives: ‘A Straight Spine Usually Indicates a Straight Personality’

From The Archives: ‘A Straight Spine Usually Indicates A Straight Personality’

Advice on posture from an undated Program for Postulants, “The Social Graces” booklet: “A straight spine usually indicates a straight personality. It indicates ordinary courage, perseverance, honesty, dependability. Good posture can aid your physical well-being and stiffen your soul, too, against weariness and discouragement.”

Edited by Jean Byrne, BVM
BVM Center News, April 2004

“If you have any fear or question about serving, remember SIMPLICITY in setting, CHARITY in serving, and HUMILITY in graciously smoothing over mistakes . . . yours and those of others.”

From the earliest days of the congregation, the formation personnel attempted to establish uniformity in the successive groups of young women presenting themselves as prospective BVMs.

Those who dealt with postulants and novices tried hard, with varying degrees of success, to remedy some of the external differences that diverged from the ideal of the always soft-spoken, reserved, and very proper person.

One way in which the BVM congregation attempted to achieve the ideal in the 1950s and 60s was the use of specially prepared booklets and instructions. One of the booklets, “Social Graces,” is the work of Xavier Coens; it is illustrated with the “how to” or “how not to” stick figure drawings, some of which are reproduced here. Both booklets cover a multitude of topics including posture, the art of conversation, stance, and personal grooming.

There were 23 directives on the page dedicated to correct posture and walking. It seems certain that a person who studied and implemented them would indeed be very graceful and impressive. Some of the directions for stance include what to do with one’s hands and positioning one’s feet. Sitting correctly, rising gracefully, and moving away are all covered, as are voice quality, diction, timing, pausing, and phrasing.

It seems certain that a person who studied and implemented them would indeed be very graceful and impressive.

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