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Tampons and Napkins and Belts, Oh My!

Tampons and Napkins and Belts, Oh My!

Ah, the menses. That beautiful fact of life that has terrified mankind and pubescent girls alike since the beginning of time. But a period just isn't a period without all of the delicate, discreet, and cozy trappings. Really, what would your monthly gift be without a box of Super Plus Pearls in your backpack? We're lucky we live in the times that we do, Lady Sparklers, because this is what women of yore had to look forward to during their moon phases:

The Red Tent. In Biblical times, a woman's moon time was considered so special and necessary to the continuation of the human race horrific that she was exiled to a separate tent for one week out of every month. As long as that tent had unlimited supplies of Ben & Jerry's, heating pads, and a library of Nicholas Sparks movies, we see no problem with it.

Rags. When ancient women were on the rag, they were literally on a rag. Women used to make cloth pads with strips of fabric, sometimes knitted. (If you're enamored with these, we're pretty sure you can find some on Etsy today.) It's said that Hypatia, a philosopher and mathematician living in Roman Egypt, threw one of her used rags at an unwanted admirer. That's one way to say, "I'm just not that into you."

Towelettes. Eventually, rags were replaced with towelettes made from the stuff they used to bandage wounded soldiers in war. Because every woman wants to be treated like she has a gaping, festering wound between her legs.

Sanitary Napkins. Kotex revolutionized period paraphernalia when they invented disposable, hygienic pads made from wood pulp in 1921. Comfy! Readers of Good Housekeeping magazine were offended by the first advertisements for the product. (See how OFFENSIVE they were!) As a bonus, these pads could be used as flotation devices in the case of a flash flood. Later versions with wings could not fly but could keep you from wearing your gym sweatshirt as a skirt for half the day.

Menstrual Belts. Before adhesive strips were added to pads in the 1970s, those giant cotton rafts had to be held in place by something. Witness the awkward hybrid of suspenders, garter, and jock strap that was the menstrual (or much less icky-sounding "sanitary") belt. Judy Blume immortalized the apparatus in her book, Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. In later editions, so as not to scar readers who grew up in a world without belts, it was changed to a normal pad.

Menstrual Cup. Patents for menstrual cups have existed at least since 1867 (warning, the drawings in this link may cause you to temporarily lose consciousness and/or your lunch) but weren't commercially available until the 1930s. Basically a rubber thimble that goes in your hooha. Party in your pants!

Tampons. Women and doctors have probably used tampons for hundreds, even thousands, of years, but Tampax sold the first commercial tampon with applicator in the U.S. in the 1930s. While early tampons were made of cotton, today most are made from a blend of rayon, cotton, and fairy dust. These fun new accessories finally allowed women on their periods to swim, play tennis, do yoga in white spandex, and, apparently, gossip.

For realsies, having access to feminine hygiene products can make a world of difference to a girl living in a developing country, like the difference between going to school and not going to school. If you want a more just world in which every woman can ride the cotton pony, support the she28 campaign.

Now, who's excited for her next period? Raise your hand!

Related post: The Splogger Ladies Present Our Most Embarrassing Period Stories

Topics: Life
Tags: history, awkward situations, awkward things, periods

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About the Author

Kathryn Williams is the author of three YA novels but only one with an Oxford comma in the title. She is a Taurus and hates writing bios. Check out her website,, and follow her on Twitter @kathrynwauthor.

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