Women in agrarian society typically menstruate less than women in modern, industrialized societies. That is because women weight more than they did in the past, start their periods at younger ages, and stop at older ages. (fat cells produce more estrogen). Also modern food have lead to earlier menstruation.
Prior to the 20th. Century, European and American women menstruate infrequently compared with today.
Some of the most common forms of protection were grass, rabbit skin, sponges, rags, menstrual aprons, homemade knitted pads, or other kind of absorbents.
Menstrual huts were common features in premodern cultures. They were a place where women were separated from the community during their menses for various reasons ranging from fear to respect.Probably since the tenth century, women often used tips of cloth or rags to provide menstrual protection which they would wash and reuse. That is why the term. “on the rag” is used to free from menstruation.
A turning point in the 20th Century.
The changes and progress in feminine hygiene products that we see today are made around the twentieth century. In the United States, progressive value began to shape beliefs and values in the early 20th. Century. After the Civil war and the onset of industrialization, men moved in large number from farms to factories. Women joined them in increasing numbers entering sales and clerical work.
Modern menstrual management was made possible by the modern American movement. Sex education program, menstrual products advertisement and promotion in drugstores, and free, menstrual pamphlets broadly distributed modern approaches to menstruation.Equally important were newly emphasized value of efficiency, convenience, and consistent, carefully monitored self-presentation, which in turn supported new roles for women in school and in the workplace.
Disposable pads owe their origin to nurses who first came up with the idea of holding the flow of menstruation blood, with the help of available wood pulp bandages in the hospital. Nurses in France used these bandages for menstrual pads, which they liked because they were very absorbent, and they were cheap enough to throw anyway.The manufacturers of bandages borrowed the idea and produced pads made from handy products that were inexpensive enough to be disposed.
The Kimberly-Clark Company made bandages from wood pulp for American soldiers in the First World War. The first of the disposable pads were generally in the form of cotton, wool, or similar fibrous rectangle covered with an absorben liner. The liner ends were extended front and back so as to fit thorough loops in a special girdle of belt worn beneath undergarments. This design was notorious for slipping either forward or behind the intended position.
Johnson & Johnson’s sanitary napkins were said to be the first commercially available disposable sanitary protection products for women in the United States. The earliest ones the Company sold were called “Sanitary Napkins for Ladies” and “Lister’s Towels” (introduced in 1896).
The advertisements said “Lister’s Towels, Sanitary for Ladies,” but the problem was that women didn’t want to be seen buying sanitary towels for ladies. So, in the 1920s, the Company came out with Nupak—a brand name that could be safely asked for without being descriptive of what the product did. The box had a label on one side with just the brand name and the company name. The other sides of the box were plain so that it could be carried or stored without embarrassment.
Kotex, first called Cellucotton and Cellu-naps, was put on the market around 1920/1921. These didn’t begin to be accepted until about 1926 when Montgomery Ward actually advertised the product in its catalogue.
Even after disposable pads were commercially available, for several years they were too expensive for many women to afford. When they could be afforded, women were allowed to place money in a box so that they would not have to speak to the clerk and take a box of Kotex pads from the counter themselves. It took several years for disposable menstrual pads to become commonplace.
Apparently women did not wear underpants until the upper classes started doing so in the nineteenth century. It was probably originally developed in England so children could shield their legs and genitals from view when playing at school.
The first ones were essentially two long leg tubes joined at the waist, leaving a large gap in the crotch, enabling the woman to perform bodily functions without lowering them. Later in the century the gap was closed, and the legs became shorter. Sears sold a form of children’s diapers early in the century, which actually looked like today’s briefs, for both sexes. In 1922 Sears advertised “sanitary bloomers” for night wear which look like the briefs we know.It wasn’t until 1935 that Sears sold what we would call briefs for women to wear in non-menstrual situations.
In 1928, Johnson & Johnson started including silent purchase coupons in magazine ads for Modess. These could be cut out of the advertisements and silently presented to a salesperson, without the customer ever having to utter the name of the product. The product, still in a plain box so as not to cause undue embarrassment, could then be wrapped up in brown paper and taken home. A Ladies Home Journal ad stated, “In order that Modess may be obtained in a crowded store without embarrassment or discussion,
Johnson & Johnson devised the Silent Purchase Coupon presented below. Simply cut it out and hand it to the sales person. You will receive one box of Modess. Could anything be easier?” (Ladies Home Journal ad for Modess, June, 1928.)