The History of Menstruation
Think you know all there is to know about your period? Think again. The history of menstruation is much stranger than you thought. 

Lister's Towels

Lister’s Towels were the first commercial pads to go on sale in 1896. The product, produced by Johnson & Johnson, was a flop on the market. The pads were simply too risky for the prudish times.


Midol came to pharmacy shelves in 1911, and was originally a remedy for headaches and toothaches. Later it developed into a cure for hiccups, claiming to control body spasms. Today, it is the most common over-the-counter pain reliever for menstrual symptoms.


The writer of this Lysol ad had “a sympathetic appreciation of women’s intimate problems.” The suggested cure to those problems was douching with the disinfectant. For years, Lysol was also used as a female contraceptive. The American Medical Association deemed that Lysol does not and never did kill sperm, but it did kill bathroom germs.

Sanitary Apron

Sanitary aprons were rubber shields that hung down over a woman’s backside by shoulder straps. The goal was to protect dresses from menstrual staining. They were not absorbent, so even today’s experts are not sure where the blood actually went. They were available through catalogues, and were advertised as giving every woman who wore one comfort, satisfaction, and the perfect fit. We doubt it.


A new sanitary pad from Kotex in 1923 was the first to be inexpensive enough to throw away after use. An added convenience was avoiding embarrassment, according to this ad. “It is easy to buy without counter conversation by asking not for ‘sanitary pads,’ but for ‘Kotex.’”


In 1931, the Tampax tampon was born through a patent by Dr. Earle Haas, and the design is still used today. Gertrude Tendrich bought the patent for $32,000 and started manufacturing tampons at home on her sewing machine.

Modess Pads

Modess was advertised as the pad of the upper class in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The ads featured high end couture and fashion photography of beautiful women wearing expensive clothes. Nothing adds glamour and hides a period like a fur coat and a fancy hat…

Enovid Pill

In 1960, Envoid, the first birth control pill, was approved by the FDA. While the pill revolutionized contraception and jump-started the sexual revolution, it had very dangerous side effects, like life-threatening blood clots and heart attacks. When it was first released, the dosage of the pill was unknowingly 10 times higher than it needed to be, and as a result, 11 women died and a 100 more suffered from blood clots.


This groovy advertisement from the 1960’s tried to appeal to the flower-power generation introducing pads with no belts or pins, appropriately named ‘New Freedom.’

Always Clean

Always Clean was the first pad packaged with individually wrapped wipes to keep a woman feeling ‘fresh.’ Their ad campaign says women can ‘feel shower clean without the shower.’ That clean feeling is adding unnecessary chemicals on a sensitive area, and adding loads of extra packaging material to landfills.

The History of Menstruation

Think you know all there is to know about your period? Think again. The history of menstruation is much stranger than you thought. 

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