See covers of other Growing Up and Liking It booklets - ads for teenagers
Read most of a 1928 Australian edition of Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday. Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday (1935) - Facts About Menstruation that every Woman should know (1936) - Marjorie May, introductory page, 1935 main page
Read Lynn Peril's series about these and similar booklets! And see the covers of the booklets How shall I tell my daughter?, Growing up and liking it, and Personal Digest; read the whole booklet As One Girl to Another (Kotex, 1940).
Marjorie May, three booklets, 1935 main page
Read Lynn Peril's series about these and similar booklets! And see the covers of the booklets How shall I tell my daughter? and Personal Digest; read the whole booklet As One Girl to Another (Kotex, 1940).
See a Kotex ad advertising this booklet.
See Kotex items: First ad (1921; scroll to bottom of page) - ad 1928 (Sears and Roebuck catalog) - Lee Miller ads (first real person in a menstrual 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.



Growing Up and Liking It

A Primer of Period Pedagogy, 1868 - 1996

by Lynn Peril (bio at bottom of page)

(click for Part 2 or Final Part), (©1997 Lynn Peril)
From Mystery Date (more at the bottom of this page)















©1946, revised 1981, Kimberly-Clark Corp.

It was a small booklet, its aqua cover brightened with splashes of feminine pink. My best friend Ruth's older sister kept it in her sock drawer, a hiding place that was no match for two prying ten-year-olds. Ruth was the one who found it. At first, I feigned polite interest in her discovery. But disinterest soon gave way to disbelief and then to outright foreboding as I listened to the information she imparted, barely believing that such a thing could be true. For years afterwards, even the booklet's title, Very Personally Yours, was guaranteed to give me the willies [see two covers].

For those of you not in the know - males, or females whose grade schools used materials provided by a different manufacturer of feminine hygiene products - Very Personally Yours was a pamphlet published by the caring capitalists at Kimberly-Clark, manufacturers of Kotex, designed to teach girls all about menstruation. Relentlessly cheerful, it glorified the "miracle" that was about to befall our young bodies, and peddled a particular vision of womanhood along with a certain brand of sanitary napkin. In fact, it wasn't the cold, hard facts of menstruation that upset me so much (although those were something of a shock to say the least) as the idea that I was turning into this thing they called a "woman."

Of course, from the safe distance of adulthood, all bodily functions, no matter how messy, are really quite fascinating, and those associated with reproduction even more so. But at the time, it seemed as if my body was betraying me. One day, everything was fine, and I ran around in my underwear, boxing and wrestling with my dad and my brother.

The next day, we wormed our way through Ruth's sister's bureau and discovered that our future was filled with breasts, hips, pubic hair and - blood! And, as if this weren't disconcerting enough, according to VPY, one was actually supposed to be happy about these absurd bodily changes:

From your earliest chalk-and-blackboard days, you've looked forward to your graduation - dreamed of it, with stars in your eyes. It's as though all your young life, you've been waiting on tiptoe for the very special day that would mark the commencement of a wonderful adventure: your debut into the adult world.

So, too, your physical self has been preparing for another momentous adventure: your graduation from"little girl" to grown-up. This slow body process has been at work so quietly you were scarcely aware of it. Then, one day, you knew. You began to menstruate.

The VPY pamphlet was but one prong of a Kimberly-Clark juggernaut aimed at instilling brand loyalty in soon-to-be-consumers of their sanitary products. If you are of a certain age, you remember the day in the fifth grade when the boys went out to play kickball, while the girls stayed in to watch a special film presentation. It wasn't Hemo the Magnificent - but it wasn't entirely unrelated, either. Segregated in a darkened classroom, the girls were treated to The Story of Menstruation (here), a Walt Disney Production originally released in the 1950s but still being shown at least as late as the early 1970s, when I saw it. My memory is rather sketchy as to what the film was actually like - I was much too overcome by guilt and shame to pay adequate attention. Thank goodness there wasn't a quiz afterward.

Luckily for us all, Janice Delany, Mary Jane Lupton and Emily Toth provided the following synopsis in their wonderful book, The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, revised edition, 1988):

In the Disney world, the menstrual flow is not blood red but snow white. The vaginal drawings look more like a cross section of a kitchen sink than the outside and inside of a woman's body. There are no hymen, no clitoris, no labia; all focus is on the little nest and its potentially lush lining. Although Disney and Kimberly-Clark advise exercise during the period, the exercising cartoon girls (who look like Disney's Cinderella) are drawn without feet; bicycles magically propel themselves down the street without any muscular or mental direction from the cyclist. The film ends happily ever after, with a shot of a lipsticked bride followed immediately by a shot of a lipsticked mother and baby.

In fact, it was just this connection between menstruation, marriage and motherhood that left me confused at best, and horrified at worst. I mean, I was ten years old! At that age, fed on a diet of Bewitched (where Darrin didn't let Samantha use her powers) and I Love Lucy (where Ricky treated Lucy like some sort of imbecile child), getting married didn't look like any fun at all. And having a baby? I didn't even like baby dolls (see note 1). But historically, this is the connection that has been used in teaching girls about menstruation.

Not that science even knew how the menstrual cycle worked until relatively recently. Dr. George Napheys, a 19th-century authority whose The Physical Life of Woman: Advice to the Maiden, Wife and Mother was published in 1870, offered the following explanation of why women menstruated:

Perhaps it is a wise provision that she is thus reminded of her lowly duty, lest man should make her the sole object of his worship or lest the pride of beauty should obscure the sense of shame. But this question concerns rather the moralist than the physician, and we cease asking why it is, and shall only inquire what it is.

Another medical man of the time, Burt Green Wilder, threw up his hands and admitted in What Young People Should Know: The Reproductive Function in Men and Lower Animals (Boston: Estes & Lauriat, 1875) that "no satisfactory explanation has, as yet, been offered" as to the purpose of menstruation.

Of course, this lack of knowledge didn't keep medical and advice writers from offering myriad behavioral restrictions to menstruating women. Authorities stressed that women needed to avoid bathing (except for the "afflicted part"), as well as strenuous exercise, such as dancing or long walks. More ominously, at least according to James Ashton in his 1865 tome The Book of Nature (note 2), young wives, innocent though they might be, could "give [their] husband[s] the disease called gonorrhea" through sexual contact during their period. Dr. Napheys even related the tragic tale of a young man who, after contracting "gonorrhea" from his apparently virginal bride on their wedding trip, committed suicide.

But is our old friend Pye Henry Chavasse (see MD #4), who used language astonishingly similar to that found in Very Personally Yours and The Story of Menstruation in his 1878 Advice to a Wife. The italics, by the way, appear in the original:

Menstruation - "the periods" - the appearance of the catamenia or the menses - is then one of the most important epochs of a girl's life. It is the boundary-line, the landmark between childhood and womanhood; it is the threshold, so to speak, of awoman's life. Her body now develops and expands, her mental capacity enlarges and improves. She then ceases to be a child and becomes a woman. She is now, for the first time, able to conceive.

Just because many books discussed menstruation didn't mean that mothers shared them with their daughters. In fact, many of these texts remarked upon the necessity of young women being given truthful explanations of the menstrual and reproductive processes, which suggests that most girls weren't getting the information they needed. The "Self and Sex Series" did much to alleviate such ignorance. Published at the turn of the century by adherents of the social purity movement (which advocated abstinence before marriage, and "continence" - limiting sex to its procreative function - afterward, as well as sex education), these books sold in numbers that would make Barbara Cartland weep with jealousy. (Click for Part Two)

See some covers of Growing Up and Liking It , How shall I tell my daughter, Very Personally Yours and Personal Digest booklets.

1 And oh, how the worm has turned regarding both these subjects. See MD #4 for my paen to wedded bliss, and if you pause right now and listen hard, that's my biological clock you hear ticking.
2 Or, if you'd like to look for it in your local library under its full title: *The Book of Nature: Containing Information for Young People Who Think of Getting Married, on the Philosophy of Procreation and Sexual Intercourse; Showing How to Prevent Conception and to Avoid Child-bearing*. A reprint edition is available as part of the series Sex, Marriage and Society: Birth Control in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: Arno Press, 1974.

Oh, the Peril(s) of Mystery Date!
Lynn says this about herself:
I have a masters in history from San Francisco State U., with a concentration in Gender and a minor in American history.
I'm a free-lance writer whose work has appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian and Slant, among other publications. Mystery Date is a zine devoted to my obsession with used books - particularly old sex and dating manuals, etiquette and self-help books, and health, beauty and fashion guides.
Two essays from Mystery Date will appear in The Zine Reader, to be published the spring of 1998 by Henry Holt & Co.
By the way, about the cover of MD#5: it's from an ad for whatever brand bra it is. The full ad featured a really sad woman (without a crown) whose only sin was wearing the wrong bra. Wearing the right one gets you a crown and Mystery Date cover girl status!
Mystery Date costs $1.50 each for the five so far. Order from
Lynn Peril, P.O. Box 641592, San Francisco, CA 94164-1592
and this is the Mystery Date Web site.
See covers of other Growing Up and Liking It booklets - See some covers of Growing Up and Liking It, How shall I tell my daughter, Very Personally Yours, and Personal Digest booklets, and see the 1928 booklet Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday and an advertisement for for teenagers

©1997 Lynn Peril