How did women deal with menstruation before all the modern conveniences? Today, we’re exploring the history of periods.
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From the beginning, little was known about periods – either because early cultures didn’t talk about them or because most scribes were men. Figures.
During ancient times, the Romans thought menstruation meant that a woman was a dark witch. According to Pliny the Elder, an ancient author and philosopher, menstruating women or witches, could stop hailstorms, drive dogs crazy, kill crops and bees and dull weapons just by looking at them.
In Mali and Nepal, women were sent to menstrual huts. The French thought sex during ones period would cause monsters to be born. Others thought it would just corrode the penis. Corrode? What is it? A steel pipe? Medieval Europeans thought period blood cured leprosy, while others thought drinking period blood would cause leprosy– drinking it? When?
The women of Egypt wore softened papyrus as tampons. In Ancient Greece, tampons were made from bits of wood with lint wrapped around them. Wood? Sounds like a vaginal campfire. The Romans made their pads and tampons from wool, and we all know how comfy wool is. Many women just wore rags or free flowed into their clothing. They’d wear herbs around their necks or waists to hide the scent. Because free flowing was considered unsanitary, sanitary napkins began to make more appearances in the late 19th century.
It took an actual war to come to this discovery. In World War I, French nurses realized that the cellulose bandages they used on wounded soldiers could also work on period blood. Shot wounds and periods had a lot more in common than we ever realized!
In 1921, the first commercial brand was invented — Kotex! Unfortunately, there was no sticky adhesive on the pads until 1970, so before that women wore belts that they pinned the pads onto. This menstrual belt was called the Hosier Sanitary Belt.
In 1929, Dr. Earle Haas created a catamenial device, or monthly device, where a plug of cotton was inserted using two cardboard tubes, which he patented. The device, what we know as a tampon, was made with sewing and compression machines and it probably took about a month to make them.
Today, we have all kinds of feminine products from period underwear to cervix cups. We also know we’re not witches, unless we want to be, and unfortunately can’t change the weather by just looking at it. We’ve come a long way, but only a few states include feminine products as a tax-exempt item of necessity. I guess we still have a ways to go.
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