Eve, once she ate fruit from the tree of life and experienced menstruation, how did she deal with it? Use leaves? Now we can choose from a variety of sanitary napkins and tampons. But what about before these were out there? What was a woman to do when visited each month by Aunt Flo?
There is a story in the Bible that illustrates how women took care of the problem in those days - they wore no protection, but would spend a days sitting on something to absorb the flow. In Genesis 31:35, Rachel tells her father that she cannot stand up because it is that time of month.
So, when were sanitary pads and tampons first used? Women first had to make their own pads. During Elizabethan and Victorian times, women either pinned rags in place to absorb the flow or used nothing, allowing the fluids to run down their legs. Yuck! Hospital nurses were the first ones to come up with the idea of disposable pads.
Manufacturers grabbed a hold of this idea and began to mass produce sanitary pads for women. These pads were so expensive that only rich women could afford to buy them.
Listerís Towels were the first affordable commercial sanitary pads available to women. Johnson & Johnson came up with these in 1896, but they soon failed because it wasn't considered proper to advertise for such a product. Most women didnít even realize they were available. It was also a challenge to persuade women to pay for something that before they had made themselves for free.
Kotex, first called Cellucotton and Cellu-naps, was put on the market around 1920 0r 1921. These didnít begin to be accepted until about 1926 when Montgomery Ward actually advertised the product in its catalogue. Finally women began to accept the use of sanitary napkins as a way of life.
World War I, when women began to help with the war, really helped commercial sanitary napkins to grow in popularity because of their convenience and ease of use.
Up until 1970, when Stayfree and New Freedom pads were put on the market, all sanitary napkins required the use of a belt to keep them in place.
Before commercial protection for menstruation was introduced, a wide variety of materials were used down through the years to absorb menstrual fluids -animal pelts, mosses, sea sponges, seaweed, as well as cotton, wool, lint, and vegetable fibers.
Ancient Egyptian women made their own tampons using softened papyrus. In 17th century Europe, women used cotton wadding and sponges. Ancient Japanese women would fashion tampons out of paper to be held in place with bandages. Of course, these had to be changed just about every hour of the day. In Hawaii, women would use the furry part of a native fern. Still today, women in remote parts of Africa and Asia use grasses, mosses, and other plants.
The writings of Hippocrates tell of women making their own tampons by wrapping pieces of lint around a small piece of wood. That sounds painful.
In 1929, Dr. Earle Haas invented the first modern tampon with an applicator. After seeing the discomfort caused by the bulky external pads worn by his wife and female patients, he wanted to invent a tampon that could be produced for all women. He patented his invention and called it Tampax.
Women had to learn that a tampon would absorb the flow, not block it. Another fear was that it would make a young lady lose her virginity or that it would be too sexually stimulating. These myths didn't disappear until 1945 when tampons were given their approval by the American Medical Association.
Tampons have been associated with a systemic illness, which is an illness that affects the entire body, toxic shock syndrome. In the late 1970s there were cases of toxic shock syndrome that were related to the use of super absorbent tampons. Research since that time has produced better and safer tampons(so we are told), along with updated guidelines for using them. Toxic shock syndrome is also brought on by using the contraceptive sponge and the diaphragm.
Iím not saying that commercial tampons and/or sanitary napkins are completely safe to use. My next article will discuss the dangers of using them and will suggest other, more natural and less expensive ways to deal with our monthly visitor.