Tampons and pads

History Lesson! 100 Years of Menstrual Products

Laylah Funk

Quick, mark your calendars—International Women’s Day is March 8th! 

International Women’s Day is a global day to celebrate the big achievements and little victories of all the inspiring, bad*ss, tour-de-force, wanna-be-just-like-you-when-I-grow-up women in our lives—‘cause let’s be honest, they haven’t exactly had it easy. 

On top of all the bullsh*t they’ve had to put up with over the years, most women have had to deal with the daunting task of maintaining their menstrual cycle every single month. Before the days of tampons and Midol, women had to get a little creative to find some comfort on their periods… which is reason enough to have a global holiday dedicated to them. Here’s how it went down:

The First-Ever Period

Honestly, there’s not a lot of information out there about how the earliest civilizations managed their periods. (I guess the goings-on of the menstrual cycle wasn’t a huge topic of interest to the scribes of that time.) But if there’s one thing that—unfortunately—has stood the test of time, it’s the idea that menstruating makes you “unclean.” If you’re reading this, I’m sure it goes without saying that that’s just not true—but that definitely hasn’t always been the case. That being said, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do—which often meant wearing dark clothing to conceal any stains.

The Makeshift Pad

Before the days of disposable menstruation products, women would line their undergarments with homemade rags—acting pretty much the same way a modern-day pad would. These homemade menstrual cloths were made out of pretty much whatever woven fabrics women could get their hands on, which I’d have to assume were neither comfortable nor all that effective. If you’ve ever heard the term “on the rag,” now you know where it comes from. 

The Sanitary Belt

Despite the HIGH demand for commercial period products, a lot of the early attempts to put them on the shelves were failures. The shame and stigma that was attached to period products was so prevalent stores were denying the opportunity to put the products on their shelves. Up until the mid 1900s (yeah, not that long ago), if women were able to get their hands on a commercial sanitary pad, they usually kept it in place with a sanitary belt, because the pads of that time didn’t come with a sticky adhesive. 

The Modern-Day Pad & Tampon

Disposable period products as we know it are innovations waaay more recent than I ever thought they were. The disposable adhesive pad (sans sanitary belt) wasn’t introduced until 1969, when the age of peace & love demanded more realistic solutions to menstrual hygiene.

Then, in 1975, Procter & Gamble introduced a tampon that could be worn throughout the entirety of your period—without taking it out. No, this product didn’t end up staying on the shelves. Yes, this is the reason why there are warnings about the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome on every single box of tampons you will ever find.

Luckily, new-and-improved tampons have since been put on the shelves—and now we get to live in the age of Playtex Sport and Organic Cotton. All my applause goes to the women that had to go through the trial and error of disposable period products.

The Rise of Reusable, Earth-friendly Period Products

If you haven’t heard, we’re kind of in the midst of an environmental crisis—and disposable period products aren’t exactly helping. With sustainable life solutions becoming more and more of a necessity, we’ve found ourselves reverting back to reusable period products (but like, more comfortable and effective than the rags of the medieval ages).

Enter, the washable & reusable period panty. Period panties are such an easy way to feel comfortable on your period without adding to the landfills—and at Joyja, we want them to be accessible to women everywhere. That’s why, in honor of all the women who came before us—and all the women who are still here teaching us—we donate a pair of period panties to I Support The Girls with every single purchase made on our website. 

Oh, and if you’re ever on the hunt for some leak-proof layers yourself, you know where to go.