See Australian belts and pads, about 1900, and Chinese belts and pad holders. Chinese pad and panty pad, Japanese pad, older.
Actual belts in the museum Underpants (directory of all on this site):
Early 20th-century Japanese ads from publications - open-crotch drawers, 1890s (U.S.A., from MUM collection) - Modess "Sanitary Shield" (two-band pad holder in crotch; 1970s; U.S.A.) - SheShells bikini (snap open at sides; no special crotch; possibly for menstrual pads or tampons, 1970s, U.S.A.)
See Kotex ad with a man and no woman from the Netherlands
Compare the American "Modess, because . . ." ads, a French Modess ad, a French ad featuring just a man!, and ads for teens.
See Kotex items: First ad (1921) - ad 1928 (Sears and Roebuck catalog) - Lee Miller ads (first real person in amenstrual hygiene ad, 1928) - Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday (booklet for girls, 1928, Australian edition; there are many links here to Kotex items) - Preparing for Womanhood (1920s, booklet for girls; Australian edition) - 1920s booklet in Spanish showing disposal method - box from about 1969 - "Are you in the know?" ads (Kotex) (1949)(1953)(1964)(booklet, 1956) - See more ads on the Ads for Teenagers main page
Ads for the Kotex stick tampon (U.S.A., 1970s) - a Japanese stick tampon from the 1970s.
Early commercial tampons - Rely tampon - Meds tampon (Modess)
DIRECTORY of all topics (See also the SEARCH ENGINE, bottom of page.)
CONTRIBUTE to Humor, Words and expressions about menstruation and Would you stop menstruating if you could?
Some MUM site links:
homepage | LIST OF ALL TOPICS | MUM address & What does MUM mean? | e-mail the museum | privacy on this site | who runs this museum?? |
Amazing women! | the art of menstruation | artists (non-menstrual) | asbestos | belts | bidets | founder bio | Bly, Nellie | MUM board | books: menstruation and menopause (and reviews) | cats | company booklets for girls (mostly) directory | contraception and religion | costumes | menstrual cups | cup usage | dispensers | douches, pain, sprays | essay directory | extraction | facts-of-life booklets for girls | famous women in menstrual hygiene ads | FAQ | founder/director biography | gynecological topics by Dr. Soucasaux | humor | huts | links | masturbation | media coverage of MUM | menarche booklets for girls and parents | miscellaneous | museum future | Norwegian menstruation exhibit | odor | olor | pad directory | patent medicine | poetry directory | products, current | puberty booklets for girls and parents | religion | Religión y menstruación | your remedies for menstrual discomfort | menstrual products safety | science | Seguridad de productos para la menstruación | shame | slapping, menstrual | sponges | synchrony | tampon directory | early tampons | teen ads directory | tour of the former museum (video) | underpants & panties directory | videos, films directory | Words and expressions about menstruation | Would you stop menstruating if you could? | What did women do about menstruation in the past? | washable pads
Leer la versión en español de los siguientes temas: Anticoncepción y religión, Breve reseña - Olor - Religión y menstruación - Seguridad de productos para la menstruación.

Menstrual napkin belts and pads from the 1902 and 1908 Sears, Roebuck catalogs (U.S.A.)

In America, women could buy commercial menstrual belts at least by 1891 (see the Jordan, Marsh & Co. catalog). Before that time, women probably made their own menstrual gear based on patterns handed down from mother to daughter or from the many books advising women how to run a household (see a German pattern), the chief occupation of middle-class women. Or they simply used old rags or other absorbent material - or used nothing at all, but bled into their clothing.

Sears offered the belts and washable pads below through its 1908 catalog. See a 1902 belt below this section.


As the ad states, above, women could wear a belt over some underpants (drawers) because one style, the older one, had an open crotch, allowing the pad to pass through the opening and press against the vulva (see drawings). Open-crotch underpants would soon disappear as fashion made sitting on a toilet less trouble, what with less cumbersome dresses (picture of girl at left) (this is my theory).
Not to put too fine a point on it, but women wearing the huge dresses of the time - see the drawing, at right, from the catalog in question - found it much easier just to sit, thereby widening the already wide crotch opening and putting the lady into firing position, if you will (or even if you won't). No need to reach under the dress and pull her underpants down.
(I don't know how or if women wiped themselves afterward; the dress itself would easily trap odors, so maybe it was not considered to be important. And people bathed much less in 1908; everyone itched and scratched and hurt much more than today. I did not see toilet paper or holders for it in the bathroom pictures or listings in this catalog).
And there was little danger that anyone could peek up her dress (see her foot), so an open crotch was safe, although the lower part of the drawers was often decorated, maybe for the chance glimpse. Just one guy's opinion.
Drawing of lady in dress, at right, from the catalog:
A nicely dressed woman in 1908 had a lot to fuss with when she sat on a toilet. And can you imagine changing a pad, one she would save in order to wash, attached to the pad holders on this page? Inserting and removing a tampon would have been even more difficult, maybe impossible without undressing, requiring a good aim while spreading the vulva. This style of clothing may have helped delay the appearance of the commercial tampon, which probably surfaced in the U.S.A. in the early 1930s. (The 1908 Sears catalog called this dress "AN EXTREMELY STYLISH SHIRT WAIST SUIT OF CHIFFON TAFFETA SILK," and I know it's not correct to say so, but it's beautiful, as is the model and her hair.)
Two examples of pads bending to fashion are the panty pad for thongs and stick-in pads for tight-fitting underpants, which apparently appeared in the mid-1930s. And read the 1927 report of Dr. Lillian Gilbreth to Johnson & Johnson to see how women wanted pads to fit current fashion.


See an interesting chart from 1923 showing a proposed relationship between dress length, etc., and painful menstruation, in Woman's Physical Freedom, a book by Clelia Duel Mosher, M.D.








The ads continue below.


The ad below - I broke it in two because of its size  - came from the 1902 Sears, Roebuck catalog. Remember that the first successful disposable menstrual pad, Kotex, appeared in advertising in 1921, so women in 1902 had to wash their homemade or store-bought pads, often first letting them soak overnight, perhaps in a bucket under a sink, to loosen the dried blood. (You can do that today, too, with modern washable pads.) Sears sold ready-made washable cotton pads, as you read at the bottom of the ad text.
Readers could also buy a douche liquid, "sanitive wash," for cleaning out the vagina after menstruation (Mrs. Pinkham sold a "sanative" wash - note the difference in spelling in the list of her products - also a douche liquid. See more douche liquids.) Sears sold many varieties of douching apparatus for decades, sometimes probably intended for killing sperm after intercourse, since the U.S.A. tightly restricted abortion and contraception. (Read about and see a later douche bulb, and read why it's not good to douche.)
Customers in 1902 knew their Roman mythology better than most of us, and Venus and Diana, which Sears called another style of belt, were goddesses chosen to appeal to the ladies, Diana being associated with the moon and thus menstruation. And who wouldn't want to be linked with Venus, secretly anyway?
The ad calls this "the only practical protector," also in the similar ad above; this is odd, since Sears sold others, although significantly not on the same page. Ah, the world of marketing!

See Australian belts and pads, about 1900, and Chinese belts and pad holders. Chinese pad and panty pad, Japanese pad, older. See how women wore a belt (and in a Swedish ad) - many real modern American belts.

© 2001 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