I remember being shocked when I heard that pads used to be safety pinned into underwear. I guess I just assumed that the sticky, adhesive bottom on a maxi pad was always, well, a thing. I don’t know about you, but if I had to rely on pins every time I needed to change a pad, I’d be the grumpiest chick the 1950s has ever seen. I’d be the meanest girl at the sock hop and I’d probably always have stains on my poodle skirt. Seriously, who has the time or patience for that?
Well, besides our moms and grandmothers and great-grandmothers, I guess.
Have you ever wondered how women dealt with their time of the month before our modern menstrual conveniences? Well, women are a pretty creative and resilient lot and had some fascinating and uncomfortable ways of taking care of their Aunt Flow. Check out these 10 menstrual products and techniques used throughout history and be thankful that you aren’t sticking moss up your vagina.
Ancient Means To Manage The FlowResearchers believe that Ancient Egyptians used papyrus and grasses to produce the earliest tampons. Romans used cotton and wool. Moss and animal skins were also used across the world to absorb menstrual blood. Source: Shutterstock
Free Bleeding BabesMenstruation didn't happen as frequently for women around the world prior to the 20th century. Women began menstruating later, they had a lot less to eat, they had more children which meant longer spans of time without menstruation and people, frankly, died earlier. So when they did get their monthly visitor, many women just used any old rag to absorb their blood. Source: Shutterstock
Little Black Undies On The PrairieMany women, especially in rural and impoverished backgrounds, simply bled into their clothes when they were on their period. Written records of prairie women in the 1800s suggest that black underwear was worn during a woman's monthly, but nothing else particularly absorbent. Basically, these gals were all about the free bleeding. Source: Shutterstock
Menstrual SpongesYeah, they're as weird as they sound. These sponges were also used as a contraception tool and a douche when filled with spermicide or Lysol. Yikes. But they were also used to absorb menstrual blood. Honestly, I just think of Spongebob. Source: MUM.org
Early Menstrual CupsMenstrual cups have a small but vocal following and this fact hasn't changed since the early 20th century. The first patented menstrual cup was developed by Leona Chambers in 1937. Despite ad campaign after ad campaign, these cups were believed to be too messy and failed to gather much popularity until the '90s. Source: MUM.org
Mass Marketed TamponsTampax kick-started the original, mass produced tampon in the '30s. By the '50s and '60s, teenage girls were a huge part of campaign ads for Tampax and other tampon manufacturers such as O.B. and Pursette. They all emphasized how discreet their product was, which isn't very different than the tampon ads we see today. Source: MUM.org
Mass Marketed Period UnderwearTampons back in the day weren't as good at preventing leaks as they were today. That's why Pursette came out with some undies with an absorbent crotch. We all have our "period underwear" but this kind wasn't an accident. Source: MUM.org
Belts To Hold Pads In PlaceWhen disposable pads began to sell in the 20th century, they were usually pinned into women's underwear. Later, sanitary napkin belts were sold, which helped hold pads in place. Source: [What]
Pads With Adhesive StripsPads didn't come with an adhesive until the late 1960s! This was revolutionary. Imagine not having to rely on safety pins and belts every time you had to change your pad. I'm sure this was a life saver for girls who just started their period and didn't want to bother with all that nonsense. Source: SkateAndAnnoy.com
Feminine Hygiene Made EasyToday, pads and tampons still dominate the feminine hygiene marketplace, but now companies are becoming more creative with how they're getting their products to customers. Online retailers such as Hello Flo send their subscribers a monthly supply of their preferred feminine hygiene products. Just when you thought you couldn't possibly be lazier about your period... Source: Hello Flo
Have you heard of any other interesting ways that women handled their period? What would you use to handle your flow if you didn’t have tampons, pads or menstrual cups? Tell us in the comments!