Read a partial history of the menstrual cup!
First cup? Tassette, Tassaway, The Keeper, Daintette, Foldene
Leona Chalmer's 1937 book with a drawing of a cup.
And read comments from people who have used a cup.
Do cups cause endometriosis? Not enough evidence, says the FDA.
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Leer la versión en español de los siguientes temas: Anticoncepción y religión, Breve reseña - Olor - Religión y menstruación - Seguridad de productos para la menstruación.

A History of the Menstrual Cup

Leona Chalmers possibly produces the first commercial
menstrual cup, around 1937
Ad at bottom of page

 
Illustrations from the Chalmers patent.

Two important innovations in menstrual hygiene occurred in the 1930s: the commercial tampon and the menstrual cup (although a strange predecessor was patented in 1867, as were others later, not only in the U.S.A.). But because of certain characteristics of these devices, neither threatened the reign of the sanitary napkin, essentially meaning Kotex. This remains true (although Kotex is no longer the top-selling pad).

The drawing of the cup from Leona Chalmers's patent (U.S. patent 2,089,113) (far left) shows that it is very similar to the Tassette, Tassaway and The Keeper cups produced later (see photos). Chalmers suggested in the patent that it be made of vulcanized rubber. (She discusses its use and shows a drawing in her book from 1937.)

According to Robert Oreck, the founder and president of Tassette, Inc., a later company started in the late 1950s, this first cup started production just as World War ll began, and stalled because of the shortage of rubber. Women did not like the cup because it was hard, too heavy and, I suspect, simply because they did not want to put things into their vaginas with their fingers. The Tampax tampon, first sold in 1936, met similar resistance from the public and also from doctors, who had some medical objections.

This raises the issue of femininity. Advertisers for menstrual hygiene products use the word to mean daintiness and delicacy and avoidance of unseemly words, actions and things, including those related to sex and the body's secretions. Ladylike and modest might mean the same thing. Especially American women wanted, and many still want, to avoid the reality of menstruation, with its messiness, unpredictability and its undertones of the unclean, sex, and sexual avoidance. Most women must overcome many barriers, some very practical, before they will put their fingers into their vaginas.

The drawing at top right, also from this patent, shows where the cup sits, low in the vagina, just where the three successor cups sat (which includes The Keeper). The most recently developed cup, Instead, rests high in the vagina, near the cervix, which I think even more affronts the feeling of femininity, and also of cleanliness, still held by many women. But Instead is not aiming for a large market.

Mrs. Chalmers, who continued to sell the cup after the war, wrote the undated booklet below (here we see the cover and an interior page; I made the pages different sizes to save a bit of bytes) sometime between the late 1930s and the middle 1950s, probably before she joined with Robert Oreck in 1957 in a second (text continued under the pictures)


 

A booklet expaining her invention, the Tassette menstrual cup, by Leona Chalmers (cover above, reduced, and an interior page). Her book from 1937 has almost the same title and does use the same photo for the dust jacket.

 
Below: An undated ad from an unknown magazine, but before 1963, which is when ZIP codes appeared. Tassette is spelled Tass-ette. It's possible this advertises the cup Chalmers sold in the 1950s before Robert Oreck launched his version of the Tassette based on Mrs. Chalmers's second patent. The American Medical Association made Tampax stop putting the AMA statement you read below because it implied endorsement.
 

attempt to sell the Tassette, this time on a large scale. The style of the photographs suggests the 1930s. It was the late 1950s before the cup reappeared (part 2) on a large scale, and this time Mrs. Chalmers was working with Robert Oreck, but America had hardly changed in its attitudes towards the cup. It still has not.

(Most of the information above about Tassette, Tassaway and Chalmer's patent came from Advertising Age, Barron's, Drug Trade News, Editor and Publisher, Investment Dealer's Digest from the 1960s and 1970s; and from a Stock Prospectus dated 28 August 1961. Mr. Oreck refused my request for an interview, referring me to another company official; I could not find her.)

NEXT (Tassette cup) Tassette, Tassaway, The Keeper, Daintette, Foldene

© 1997-2006 Harry Finley. It is illegal to reproduce or distribute any of the work on this Web site in any manner or medium without written permission of the author. Please report suspected violations to hfinley@mum.org