See other underpants - See belts that hold pads - See suspenders that hold pads
What did American and European women use in the past for menstruation?
See the booklets How shall I tell my daughter? (Modess, various dates), Growing up and liking it (Modess, various dates), and Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday (Kotex, 1928).
And read Lynn Peril's series about these and similar booklets!
See more 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
CONTRIBUTE to Humor, Words and expressions about menstruation and Would you stop menstruating if you could?
Some MUM site links:
homepage || 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.

Open-crotch drawers (underpants) and menstruation (late 19th century, U.S.A.)

Although women sometimes wore pants underneath their dresses for riding or to keep warm, pants were a symbol of men's power, and women's underpants as such apparently developed very slowly around 1800 in Europe among the upper classes, partly for concealment of the genitals and legs (Germans called them "Beinkleider," "leg clothes," as "Hose," the German word for pants, referred to men's clothing and was considered indecent when applied to women.) For hundreds of years before this time both men and women of all classes wore the shirt-like chemise, day and night, as their only underclothing.

In the 19th century, cumbersome and sometimes huge dresses and complex underclothing made it practical for women to wear underpants with a permanent opening between the legs, so they wouldn't have to reach under and pull them down when urinating or defecating. (This raises the troubling question of how - or if - they cleaned themselves afterward. Folks did not think bathing was healthy for a large part of that century. I don't want to think about this, actually. That fortress-like clothing could have served as an odor barrier. I'm sorry I brought this up. But, if you're game, or perhaps gamey, check out the odor page.)

Fewer and lighter clothes in the early 20th century made open crotches unnecessary - now pulling underpants down was easy - and underpants could then fulfill their concealment function by covering the genitals. But they were still wide-leg and long (but see this exception for menstruation) until the mid 1930s, when briefs for women appeared in mass markets.

Ultimately underpants functioned to preserve modesty, and in a century when people covered their chair and table legs because of their suggestive nature, it's understandable how long the ones below are. High-top shoes covered the lower leg, and drawers, with lace covering the lower part - in case someone peeked - covered much of the rest, as you see.

(This raises another question: did the can-can dancers in late 19th century Paris expose their vulvas when kicking their legs up, since open underpants were apparently the fashion? If so, no wonder it was scandalous! And I thought it was just because they were showing their undies.)

The museum has this pair, below, made of linen. I will later post a photo of them.

Rear view 
Front view



How a woman could wear menstrual-pad suspenders over her underclothing. (Here's how she wore it under all her clothing.)
Below, left: U.S. patent No. 169, 245, 1875, granted to Stephen Ellis. 
The holders at the bottom attach to the pad or pad holder, often a trough.
The back strap has farther to go and is longer - it must pass over, or between, the buttocks - as the vulva and vaginal entrance are more toward the front of the body (see a drawing). Later, by popular request (read part of the 1927 Gilbreth report), commercial pads for belts often had tabs of unequal length because of this (see a Modess). 




Open-crotch underpants, unbuttoned and opened wide, from the rear.


See other underpants - See belts that hold pads - See suspenders that hold pads

Copyright 2001 Harry Finley