CONTRIBUTE to Humor, Words and expressions about menstruation and Would you stop menstruating if you could?
Some MUM site links:
MUM address & What does MUM mean? |
Email the museum |
Privacy on this site |
Who runs this museum?? |
Amazing women! |
Art of menstruation (and awesome ancient art of menstruation) |
Artists (non-menstrual) |
Asbestos |
Belts |
Bidets |
Birth control and religion |
Birth control drugs, old |
Birth control douche & sponges |
Founder bio |
Bly, Nellie |
MUM board |
Books: menstruation & menopause (& reviews) |
Cats |
Company booklets for girls (mostly) directory |
Contraception and religion |
Contraceptive drugs, old |
Contraceptive douche & sponges |
Costumes |
Menstrual cups |
Cup usage |
Dispensers |
Douches, pain, sprays |
Essay directory |
Examination, gynecological (pelvic) (short history) |
Extraction |
Facts-of-life booklets for girls |
Famous women in menstrual hygiene ads |
Feminine napkin, towel, pad directory |
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, towel, napkin directory |
Patent medicine |
Poetry directory |
Products, some current |
Puberty booklets for girls and parents|
Religion |
Religión y menstruación |
Your remedies for menstrual discomfort |
Menstrual products safety |
Sanitary napkin, towel, pad directory |
Seguridad de productos para la menstruación |
Science |
Shame |
Slapping, menstrual |
Sponges |
Synchrony |
Tampon directory |
Early tampons |
Teen ads directory |
Tour of the former museum (video) |
Towel, pad, sanitary napkin directory |
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 |
Read 10 years (1996-2006) of articles and Letters to Your MUM on this site.
Leer la versión en español de los siguientes temas: Anticoncepción y religión, Breve reseña - Olor - Religión y menstruación - Seguridad de productos para la menstruación.

The Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health

Letters, etc. to your MUM


A woman writes,

I don't really remember this, as I was only maybe 4 years old, but it got brought up a few times around the age when I was learning about menstruation. One time, I walked in on my mother on the toilet, and asked her, what are you doing? She replied, I'm menstruating. Confused, I asked, what does that mean? She told me that it is something only women do. I answered with, well if only women do it, shouldn't it be called womenstruating? [More funny stuff.]
January 2012


13-year-old Sophy, Effie's sister,
by John Millais from the book.
25 years later she starved herself to death.

Death by starvation! The most famous art critic! The most famous artist! Not consummating a marriage! Scandalous "divorce"! Consummating a marriage! Pubic hair!

And, um , menstruation!?

Wow, this book has everything for beach reading!

Effie by Suzanne Cooper (St. Martin's Press)

I know you've never wondered why 19th-century England's most famous art critic never, um, consummated his marriage to the much younger Effie Gray. He had been nuts about her! But about their wedding night she wrote that "her person" disgusted him, the beginning of a terrible "marriage" that never was. Later, at the beginning of the scandal, judges and doctors ruled that the union was never legal since there was never sexual intercourse (they checked).

Effie was then free to marry England's future most famous artist, John Millais, later Sir John and president of the Royal Academy of Arts. But in British society's eyes, "divorced" Effie was a fallen woman.

The critic, John Ruskin, later lost his mind after he failed to wed much younger Rose la Touche; her parents thought he was weird.

A certain set has always wondered what happened on that first wedding night. Had Ruskin never seen pubic hair on a woman? His world of art avoided showing it. Biographer Cooper suggests instead that Effie's menstruation might have disgusted him - but forever? (Now you see the tenuous connection to this Web site.)

I wonder if Ruskin liked slender girls' bodies but women's curvier ones lost his attention. Both Effie and Rose were very young when he first saw them.

Oh, the death by starvation: Effie's stunning sister Sophy, canonized in an included oil portrait by Sir John (above), slowly killed herself by not eating - anorexia. A horrifying story about women's exclusion from the world of work, manic piano playing - and a gazing (and maybe more) artist. (I'm one, too.)

Going back back to Ruskin's unhappy attraction to girls and young women (which he shared with his friend Lewis Carroll): German genius man-about-the-universe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe succumbed to the beauty and wit of 18-year-old Baroness Ulrike von Levetzow and composed his great Marienbad Elegy right after her proxy rejected his marriage proposal. He was 73. "To me is all, I to myself am lost."

Remember to wear sunscreen!

Can a woman synchronize with a, um, GOAT?? (letter)

I have a weird synchronization experience to share. I've tried Googling to see if it has happened to others, but no luck. It could all just be an interesting coincidence, but nonetheless:

My cycles are usually pretty reliably 28 days long. Occasionally when I move someplace new, with new roommates, there is a period of adjustment, but it always settles back to 28 days, on average. In June (four and a half months ago) I started working at a goat farm. Goats start going into heat when the weather starts to cool down at the end of the summer. They typically are on 21 day cycles, with 3 days of estrus followed by 18 "off" days. Starting in July, my cycles have been very noticeably shorter than usual... an average of 21 days long, in fact. And the average is not being pulled down by one freakishly short cycle, either. My last 6 cycles have been 19, 18, 19, 27, 17, and 22 days long, respectively. I have never, in my 15 years of menstruating, experienced such a consistent stretch of abnormal-length periods. I have no idea whether goat pheromones could actually affect humans, or whether this is all a coincidence. Having a three week cycle does, however, make me much less eager to continue working with goats.

October 2010

Read what your MUM has about menstrual synchrony.

"I was adopted into an all-female household where the other women were ashamed and terrified of their bodies"

Mr. Finley -

I first found your website what must have been a decade ago searching for women's health info online as a teenager, and was instantly captivated. I was adopted into an all-female household where the other women were ashamed and terrified of their bodies and while that was never my perspective, it also meant that I was phenominally ignorant of other attitudes towards womens health. The women of my genetic family all suffered from severe endometriosis and menstrual problems associated with that, but my legal family was so uptight about the subject that they never believed me when I said I needed help. Your website was profoundly eye opening in how it shed light on cultural attitudes towards menstruation, and I can credit it with giving me the courage and knowledge to start taking control of my own health and seek out other nonjudgmental perspectives on women's health.

Plus, it is really funny and fun, these days now that I'm healthy and much better balanced I share your website with my friends, and we all love the history and cultural attitudes discussed, so many of which seem wild and exotic from our perspective.

I also have something to contribute, in the probably unlikely chance you haven't seen this before - I hadn't visited your site in a long while but was reminded of it when I saw Kotex's recent self-aware advertising, which is a great contrast to typically oblique American descriptions of menstrual products. There was an article from them describing how they were unable to use the word "vagina" in their advertisements because TV networks blocked it, and had to switch it for "down there". They have a whole list of youtube videos now, including responses from customers voicing similar frustrations, I thought it might be a cool resource for MUM to link to:



Thanks for all your hard work, you truly have one of the best and bravest presences the web has to offer,


July 2010

She finds fault with this site's portrayal of menstrual seclusion in India & with the relationship between underwear and menstrual-flow containment.
Readers, draw your own conclusions and read my comments at the end of the letter.

I just read your conclusion about what happens when women in India menstruate. It is written from a Western analysis, that of Dr. Margaret Greene. It is assumed that they are shunned and feel powerless because a Westerner is looking in on an alien custom and putting her own spin on it. I have made the same mistake, even in my own family.

Firstly, I think the main assumption throughout your website is in error that the use, or not, of undergarments indicates the use, or not, of menstrual padding - however, the use of undergarments has nothing to do with the use of menstrual pads. My late great-aunts, born in the 1880s, wore no underwear in their Appalachian youth, yet they made use of homemade menstrual pads made from clean batts of spinnable fiber as their grandmother had shown them - everyone had a spinning wheel or spindle, so they also had spinning materials of some sort. Spindle weights have been found in the ruins of Sumer. Do you think the women spinning the soft, absorbent fiber did not think to use it for the obvious usage so they could get on with their daily work?

But back to India - have you ever spoken to an Indian woman about her menstrual time? I have. I admit that I expected her to have felt exiled from her family when she began menstruating as a child. But it was the exact opposite. Once a month, she went to a separate building behind her house. It was outfitted with a feminine eye with the things the women of the household would need - pallets with cushions, comfortable blankets, and netting, books, some hobbies, and a pottery "pottie." No one expected her to do her regular chores, because she could not mend, cook or clean for the males of the house. But most important, it came with one-on-one access to her grandmother. Only women who were no longer menstruating would be able to come and go, so her grandmother brought her food and slept with her and told her stories. She learned the old songs and poems from her grandmother, as well as advanced handicraft skills and life lessons. It was the greatest, most special time of her life.

Her family had been so poor that she went hungry many times growing up, and had rickets as a child - still has the bent legs to show for it. Yet her grandmother taught her to make washable pads of the cotton batts that all Indian households have - spinning one's own cotton is a matter of national pride and all Indian men and women are expected to learn the skill. The menstrual supplies were kept in the women's hut, so men never saw them. And they would never consider speaking of the topic to a man. [Read about an Indian woman's project to make washable for the poor in her area.]

I didn't start out to ask my Indian friend about menstruation. I sensed a longing in her sometimes, so one day I asked her what she missed most about India - and this was what that was. She no longer had a "break" from everyday life, a time just for her. She missed it greatly.

I hope this helps. It really bothers me when generalizations are given with authority, made from assumptions. [Generalizing from the conversation of one - one - of the hundreds of millions of Indian women is questionable.]

[She later sent this:]
I just read your conclusion that women "did nothing" when menstruating, leaving "a trail of blood behind them." [Um, that's the statement of the two German women who wrote a book about this very topic; read this page more carefully.] Evidently you haven't spoken to women about this, or the women you've spoken to either don't know or feel free to discuss this topic with you. [Read my comments below. This letter is too good to be true but typical.] It is common for people who spin fibers to use those same fibers when menstruating. There are even writings about how to bundle the fiber for best effect. Whether sheeps wool, cotton, flax, or hemp, the soft, absorbent, clean batts were placed in cheesecloth or other light, loosely woven coverings and tied on. Some women were even "famous" among their peers for being able to hold the pad in place without tying it.

In some primitive and hunting societies, soft, clean, absorbent rabbit fur was used, also tied in place.

To make a definite statement based on assumption simply because you can find no one who will tell you something is irresponsible. [Wow, talk about jumping to conclusions!]

For more information on this subject, you can consult original printed spinning/knitting instructions and their reprints, antique diaries, and author Jean Auel.

I hope you will soon change the information on this topic. It is patently absurd to assume that a woman would choose to leave a trail of blood that she would only have to continually clean up. She had enough to do without making more work for herself.



[In general, the American women I've talked to and whose email to me I've read - yes, that's more than one woman - are horrified by the thought of bleeding into their clothing and deny that anyone has done it intentionally. Yet there is much evidence that this happened in Europe and undoubtedly in America and elsewhere. When my MUM museum was open in my house more than one woman told me they or an acquaintance used no pad or tampon or cup or anything but just let it flow. The letter writer should talk to more of her fellow Americans. What discoveries she'll make! I would say Americans (I'm an American) along with Japanese top the list of those extremely conscious of bodily cleanliness (are there other groups?), helped along by the mammoth personal hygiene industry. Many people find it hard to escape their cultures just like the woman writer of this letter.]

Artists wanted

"Metropolis TV," a documentary show that airs on Dutch public television, is working on a program about global attitudes toward menstruation. The show is produced by the VPRO, a progressive network that often collaborates with BBC and PBS.

For the US section of the documentary, correspondents Kel O'Neill and Eline Jongsma are looking to profile East Coast artists who incorporate menstrual blood into their paintings, performances or sculptures. If you are an artist, and want the opportunity to share your work and philosophy with a global audience, contact Eline Jongsma:

elinejongsma (at) yahoo (dot) com.

About "Metropolis TV" (www.metropolisweb.tv) "Metropolis TV" is an award-winning show featuring items from a global collective of video journalists and filmmakers. "Metropolis" correspondents make video reports from where they live on a variety of issues and themes. The show's correspondent network consists of over 50 documentary filmmakers from all over the world. In each episode, we make a trip around the globe and bring viewers a collection of short stories, all grouped around a weekly theme. From obesity and the lives of fifteen year old girls, to traffic jams, outcasts and Elvis impersonators, we present to you one new global view every week. By comparing these stories from all over the world we will discover surprising differences and similarities between people and cultures worldwide.

"Metropolis TV" is currently airing in The Netherlands, Greece, Iraq, and Nicaragua. Reports are also available worldwide on the website, which recently won a special commendation from at the 2009 Prix Europa Awards.

July 2010

Pads for prisons, help for women in Sudan, etc.

Hello Harry,

I have just discovered your amazing website and am listening to the interiew on Keeper.com [on the homepage, mum.org]

I have no idea if you are still interested in this subject but I thought I'd email you to tell you about my project.

I am a justice consultant in Canada, involved in a prison reform project in Southern Sudan. Women everywhere in poor countries but especially in prison do not have access to pads. We started a pads for prisons project (at http://sites.google.com/site/padsforprison/ ) and have now got a successful thing going, but I have been so curious about the history of pads and menstruation and have been talking to women everywhere about their periods, about what their mothers and grandmother's did.

My own father recently told me he used to soften paper with his hands as a child for his mother.

Sudanese girls sit on ash and paper for the duration of their periods.

Some women in Kenya use clay to put up their vaginas. Many Indian women used folded old cotton sari material. It goes on and on. Mostly cultures are negative about periods and muslims are so far the worst in terms of considering women "dirty" when they have their periods, but African tribes are not much different.

Anyway, you must know all this but, from my pads project, I have now developed a lifeskills (including sewing cloth pads), health education, and leadership workshop for women because it's all linked. Attitudes towards women are somewhat related to their function and role in society and so much of the attitudes are based on taboo and lack of knowledge about the female anatomy and the whole menstruation cycle and reproductive health of women. Last month I ran two workshops in Southern Sudan and made alot of progress in this regard. So much of the success of the workshops was due to our ability to discuss women's health issues including menstruation. [See Indian projects in Rajasthan & Uttar Pradesh.]

Thanks for your work and time. You are doing women everywhere a big favour.

Vivienne Chin

Project Coordinator

International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy

1822 East Mall, Vancouver

British Columbia V6T 1Z1, Canadatel:


Period calculator

Dear Mr. Finley,

I am a high school student living in Monaco who is learning how to use php+css.

I decided to create a little calculator to keep track of my period. I liked the tool and thought I'd put it up online:


I created the tool and my friend **** helped me put it up online.

There are similar tools like this online but none of them offer the ability to integrate with your day-to-day calendar application like Google Calendar, MS Outlook Calendar, iCal etc.

I was wondering if I could get a link to it from your website? I'm hoping that you will agree with my slightly biased view of it being useful and relevant to MUM.



Beautiful book of paintings & text to illustrate words and expressions for menstruation
published in connection with the Dutch exhibition called
Menstrual Hygiene for Girls and Women in Developing Countries
(Menstruele Hygiene voor Meisjes en Vrouen in Ontwikkelungslanden),
February, 2009, in the town hall of the city of The Hague (Den Haag),
the capital of the Netherlands.
Varina Tjon A Ten, former member of the Dutch Paliament and born in Suriname, created the exhibition and book.
Book information: KIT Publishers, Amsterdam, ISBN 978 94 6022 022 7

The soft-cover, 83-page book measures 6 5/16 x 7 1/2" (16 x 19 cm). See 2 pages below. Scroll down to buy the book.

Joke Meijer created the cover oil painting illustrating Het rode roosje bloet, a Dutch expression meaning The red rose is blooming again.

A frequent Dutch contributor to this museum generously sent me the book and wrote much more information in the e-mail below the 3rd image.

Can you imagine a government building in the U.S.A. holding an exhibit about menstruation without special security to warn visitors about horrifying images and information about that secret thing called menst--, oh, I can't mention it.

But government buildings in at least Germany, Norway and here in the Netherlands have done just that. And of course I had a museum of menstruation in my non-government house for four years.

And the woman who wrote the book is a former member of the Dutch parliament. Can you imagine a former member of the U.S. Congress writing about menstruation?

Below: Because it's my favorite painting I picked facing pages 16 & 17,
typical of the format. Evita Tjon A Ten painted it on Egyptian papyrus,
from which menstrual pads can be made. If the artist's name sounds
familiar, well, it's the author's daughter, one of many artists reproduced here.
It illustrates the Dutch expression
Meisje huilt rode tranen (Girl is crying red tears).
The facing text page is one of many showing words and expressions
from many countries (excerpt lies below).

The book's donor sent this information with the book:

The author, Dr. Varina Tjon A Ten, has sampled from several countries about how menstruation is named. She is the woman who founded the Stichting Vrouw en Verband (Foundation Woman and Bandage). The aim is to provide the Third World with cheap sanitary protection for the (young) women because that aspect of development is neglected.

Read her background paper (pdf) about menstrual hygiene: Menstrual Hygiene: A Neglected Condition for the Achievement of Several Millennium Development Goals at http://www.eepa.be/wcm/dmdocuments/BGpaper_Menstrual-Hygiene.pdf

In Februar 2009, more than one year ago, she organised an exhibition in the town hall of the city of The Hague (Den Haag), the city in which our government is housed (your Washington DC). She asked several painters and so on to produce one or two paintings etc. with the theme menstruation. After the exhibition the paintings were sold at an auction to raise money for the Stichting/Foundation. All the paintings are printed in the book I sent you. See on youtube an impression of the exhibition:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebHm_ypR5Hw or type: "vrouw en verband"

She is promoting the same issue as here Libresse and Oxfam in Soedan: see


and also you have paid several times attention to that theme.

Her book is only sold by her Stichting/Foundation. The price of the book including the postage costs to send it to the U.S.A. is 14.00 euro. (It costs 12.50 euro, including postage, for the Netherlands).

To transfer the money to a foreign bank account people need to have a BiC code and an IBAN number.
BiC code: ABNANL2A
IBAN: NL82ABNA0553345672

Order the book from this address in the Netherlands:
Stichting Vrouw & Verband
p/a Van Beeckstraat 5
2722 BB Zoetermeer
The Netherlands

See related information on this Web site:

Washable menstrual pads for women in Almora, Uttar Pradesh state,
, giving them more freedom

Teaching girls about puberty, menstruation and
how to make washable menstrual pads
, in rural India

Menstrual Hygiene and Management in Developing Countries:
Taking Stock, November 2004, report by Sowmyaa Bharadwaj and Archana Patkar

Festival, menstruation, announcement, 1988, Germany

Norwegian exhibit about menstruation & the company history
of the Scandinavian tampon and menstrual pad company
SCA Mølnlycke

Words and expressions about menstruation

Art of menstruation (and awesome ancient art of menstruation)

Lara Freidenfelds, Ph.D., reviews a recent book (more about Dr. Freidenfelds):

Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation, by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim, is a gorgeous book, from its beautiful, bold cover, to its elegant, modern design elements throughout, to the full-color images spread liberally through its pages. The images, most of which are reproductions of menstrual product advertisements from the 1920s through the 2000s, are the best part of the book. They do not just help tell the story, or illustrate the authors' points; they can be read for their own narrative, and analyzed as rich documents in women's history and advertising history. While there are several other books about the history of menstrual products and practices, none have been produced nearly so lavishly, so Flow is a unique resource.

Stein and Kim look at the history and current cultural status of menstruation by way of a number of fascinating topics, including hysteria and PMS, vibrators, douche advertising, menstrual education and menopause. In their analysis, they are attempting to represent a kind of "mainstream" feminism that I think they rightly believe will appeal to and capture the sensibilities of many American women. They are not Goddess feminists, ready to abandon Tampax and Always for homemade pads or "free flow" practices. But while they appreciate the technological and commercial developments of the past century which have made effective disposable products available, they are not so sure that they trust everything about Kimberly-Clark's or Johnson & Johnson's advertising rhetoric or product development practices, or believe that major manufacturers have women's interests at heart. I am sympathetic with this perspective, and it deserves a prominent place in historical and cultural discussions of menstruation. They are absolutely right that they do not need to choose between rejecting commercialized menstrual products and practices and swallowing promotional materials whole. They can be appreciative yet critical. Unfortunately, however, they never satisfactorily articulate their critique. It is indicated in the many, many times they call mainstream menstrual products and practices in some way "creepy" or "spooky." But in the end, these terms evoke Halloween more than they support a penetrating critique.

The book contains historical chapters and chapters about current scientific and medical knowledge (or lack thereof). Their current chapters are accurate summaries of what we do and do not know about menstruation and menopause, and how women might use that knowledge to their benefit. One qualification: for readers considering alternative remedies for menstrual symptoms, be sure to consult a practitioner with expertise in the medical system upon which you want to draw. For example, dong gui is contra-indicated for those with heart conditions; consult a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner before you use it. Their look at non-medical alternative practices around menstruation by way of a quick tour of quirky websites addressing everything from do-it-yourself menstrual pads to menstrual erotica is fun and through-provoking.

In comparison, the historical sections are weak, largely because Stein and Kim failed to read the many history books on women's health written by several generations of women's historians. For example, they make a common error that is a pet peeve of medical historians: they misread life expectancy statistics. They argue that "until quite recently in world history, a woman living past her childbearing years was like a total eclipse of the sun, a rare anomaly to be viewed with suspicion, even fear" ( p. 219). In fact, post-menopausal women were not all that rare. Infant mortality rates were high, and childhood illnesses were often fatal, so average life expectancy as measured from birth was quite low. However, life expectancy was significantly past menopause for those who survived the illnesses of infancy and childhood. This is not a trivial error. It means that their entire interpretation (and, essentially, dismissal) of cultural and social experiences of menopause before the twentieth century is mistaken. And making this kind of mistake about earlier history means that the later history is also susceptible to misinterpretation. Menopause was not a new medical issue; its appearance represented both continuities and changes in how the "change of life" was addressed by women, physicians, families and society.

They make another subtle yet important historical mistake with huge cultural and political ramifications: they do not realize that products widely advertised as anti-odor douches in the 1920s and 1930s were primarily used for birth control, not for eliminating menstrual odor. This is an easy mistake to make, because the advertisements claim, on the surface, to be selling women douches as a remedy for vaginal odor. Through the mid-1930s, selling and distributing birth control was illegal, so advertisers had to indicate other purposes for their products. As historian Andrea Tone has ably demonstrated, women were willing to suffer the consequences of routinely spraying diluted Lysol into their vaginas not because they were ready dupes of Lysol manufacturer Lehn & Fink but because they did not have access to other forms of birth control in the midst of the Great Depression. Lehn & Fink appears to have been trying hard to create an additional reason to use their product as a douche, but we should not assume that it is the primary reason women bought and used it. Stein and Kim seem to recognize that Lysol could serve as birth control, but they mention it only briefly (p. 151), as if it were a convenient by-product of douching, rather than the main purpose. Their discussion of radical women's health movement groups' use of menstrual extraction (a cannula-based extraction of uterine contents at the expected time of menstruation) suffers from the same problem. The point of the practice was to declare women to be in charge of their own uterine contents, including any fertilized eggs which may have arrived there during the previous cycle. Menstrual extraction was primarily a declaration of abortion rights, and only secondarily a stab at menstruation or the commercial products sold to manage it. Stein and Kim would not have needed to become professional historians to catch the profound and explosive reproductive politics that are caught up in these aspects of menstrual history, but they would have needed to read what women's historians have written.

In sum, check out the book, spend lots of time with the illustrations, and supplement the text with some better-researched women's health history.

If this makes you want to read more, here's a list of a few of my favorite women's health history books:

Ulrich, Laurel. A midwife's tale: the life of Martha Ballard, based on her diary, 1785 -1812. New York: Vintage Books, 1991.

Tone, Andrea. Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America.

New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.

Gowing, Laura. Common Bodies : Women, Touch and Power in Seventeenth-Century England. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

Freidenfelds, Lara. The Modern Period: Menstruation in Twentieth-Century America. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

Leavitt, Judith Walzer. Brought to bed: childbearing in America, 1750 to 1950. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Reagan, Leslie J. When Abortion was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Lara Freidenfelds, Ph.D., is an historian of women's health, medicine and the body in America. She is the author of The Modern Period: Menstruation in Twentieth-Century America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009) (www.themodernperiod.com). Her work has been supported by numerous fellowships, including a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Newhouse Center for the Humanities and the Women's Studies Department at Wellesley College; a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship; and a Whiting Fellowship in the Humanities at Harvard University. She is currently writing her next book on the history of cultural understandings and experiences of early pregnancy and first-trimester miscarriage from the late middle ages to the early twenty-first century.

Both Ms. Stein and Dr. Freidenfelds visited the museum in my house years before they published their books about menstruation.

See more books and articles about menstruation.

"[T]here's a difference between a guy knowing about menstruation and a guy knowing that his classmate is menstruating. Menstruation is at the heart of what it means to be feminine, and so it is at the heart of the mystery of being a woman."

Dear Mr. Finley,

I hope that this is the proper place to contact you; I couldn't find any other contact information on your site, which is extremely interesting and informative. I've enjoyed surfing it.

That said, I think I might mention something regarding some comments on Kotex's ads for teens; you call Kotex "shameless" for exploiting a girl's fear lest a boy find out she's menstruating. Obviously, menstruation shouldn't be thought of as disgusting or as a sign of women's inferiority, but I don't think that it's correct to be entirely open about it, on a personal level.

It's not to say that people shouldn't be well-informed, or that your museum shouldn't exist; menstruation is fascinating historically, sociologically, and scientifically. But there's a difference between a guy knowing about menstruation and a guy knowing that his classmate is menstruating. Menstruation is at the heart of what it means to be feminine, and so it is at the heart of the mystery of being a woman. And mysteries are by their very nature meant to be known only to the initiate - other women, because they themselves also have the mystery within them, and a woman's husband, because he is the one who enters into the heart of the mystery. I would be embarrassed for a boy to know that I was menstruating, just because that knowledge isn't for him, even though I think it's a beautiful symbol in spite of all the bother. The most precious and beautiful things are kept veiled, like the Hebrew Holy of Holies in the Bible. (It's interesting to note, too, that just as the Holy of Holies is where God came down and dwelt among the Jews, it is within woman that God and man meet to create a new person.)

But also, not all shame is a bad thing. We wear clothing not because our bodies are evil, but because our nakedness makes us vulnerable; it is too easy for us to be used when our sex appeal gets in the way of our personal appeal. I think that menstruation is private just because it advertises to the world that a woman's fertile. Of course, in the advertisement the girl's assertion that she would want to change schools is a complete exaggeration. (Similar to "I'd kill myself if he found out!") But it would be embarrassing, and I don't think that it's wrong for a girl to be embarrassed. (Whether or not Kotex's advertisement encourages girls to think negatively about menstruation in general is another issue; I think not, but it could go either way.)

I would also like to mention my views on your assertion that painful, potentially fatal childbirth argues against intelligent design. I think that, had Adam and Eve not sinned, things would have been completely different. The Bible actually mentions painful childbirth and distorted relationships between the sexes as direct results of the Fall, and I'm sure that all pain, suffering, and abuse were quite simply not meant to be. But they are, because mankind chose to mold his own future instead of conform to God's (and God, being God, had the better plan). Similarly, I don't think that women's fertility would have included such extreme messiness, pain, and mood swings. Of course, thinks makes sense only if you believe in the Bible, but I just wanted to explain that it's not as irrational and contradictory as you might perhaps think.

For the record, I'm a teenage American girl and a devout Catholic. I'm not a feminist in the usual sense of the word... but I'm interested in the role of woman in society, in religion, and in the modern world. To me, feminists have simply told us that we need to be men, which is not satisfactory - they haven't said what it means to be a woman, and menstruation is an important part of that.



P.S. The Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II talks a lot about Adam and Eve being "naked without shame," the consequences the Fall, and the meaning of the human body in the light of man as the image of God, if you are interested in the subject. Alice von Hildebrand is also a good author to read.

November 2009


Article on early-modern menstruation


Just to let you know that I had my research on sanitary protection in the early-modern period published last year. The journal is not the easiest of ones to access, but I guess people can get it on order through their library, if they are interested. I would appreciate it if you could publish a link to it on your site as all feedback is welcome!

The journal it appears in is called Early Modern Woman: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Their blurb says

"Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal is the only journal devoted solely to the interdisciplinary and global study of women and gender during the years 1400 to 1700."

The article is called Thy Righteousness is but a menstrual clout: Sanitary Practices and Prejudice in Early Modern England and a link to the journal is here:


My web-page can be accessed through Academia.edu

Best wishes


"What does a poor woman do during menses every month?" More good news from India

Hi, I have been a fan of your MUM website for a long while. I just wanted to share with your readers something we at GOONJ have been trying to do on the highly taboo issue of menses and the most basic need of sanitary napkins for millions of village women across India, for the last many years

Here's a link to our work [interesting insight into India]


More about GOONJ on www.goonj.info

Look forward to your response.

With best regards



(See also MUM's India and menstruation stories, one featuring an Indian woman supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the other with information from the U. S. A.'s Center for Health and Gender Equity. And see the 2 articles below.)

(newspaper scan courtesy Visaga, India, www.visagatech.com)

"*A Revolution in Personal* *Hygiene*" in India

To Museum of Menstruation

Respected Sir / Madam,

*Visaga Techno System*, Coimbatore, has launched innovative products in India keeping in mind the health and hygiene factors which are the pillars of good living. The products are *"Napivend"-- A Sanitary Napkin Vending Machine *which vends quality napkins and another is a *Compact Electric Incinerator* for the disposal of used Napkins. We introduce ourselves with these unique products. The designing and manufacturing is done under the guidance of *UNICEF Chennai.*

* UNICEF * along with Government officials, Collectors and NGOs work towards creating awareness of need to use Sanitary Napkins & need for proper disposal of used napkins in rural areas.

*'Napivend'* is a compact unit which can be wall mounted and has whole day battery back-up. When coins are dropped inside, a Sanitary Napkin comes out. There is a glass panel to see the napkin status. The machine works on Microprocessor Control. The Capacity of Sanitary Napkins in the machine varies from model to model. It ranges from 20, 40, 60 & 100 Napkins. Sanitary Napkin Vending Machine can be implemented in areas like:

*Rural Areas* - Government hospitals, schools, girls hostels, public toilets, primary health centers, etc.

*Cities* - Schools, colleges, railway & bus stations, hospitals, ladies hostels, toilets of highway petrol bunks , shopping malls, etc.

Installation of Sanitary Napkin Vending Machine and Electric Incinerator with the help of UNICEF has been done & is still in process in several Schools, Colleges, Mills etc. ... in various districts of Tamil Nadu.

Used napkins can be disposed scientifically by an *Electric Incinerator*which can destroy 100 napkins in a day, with periodic settings. It is compact in size.

We also take necessary measures to help in training the SHGs in the production of Sanitary Napkin at low cost. The Vending machine helps the SHGs Napkins reach the end-user directly by benefiting the manufacturer.

We will be honored if you can render us help in implementing this project

*A Revolution in Personal* *Hygiene*.

We look forward for a favorable reply at the earliest of your convenience.

*Girls Education Dreams:*


Thanks & Regards

Ms. Parimala

Marketing Co-ordinator


1373 - A, Jeya Shanthi Towers,

III Floor, Sathy Road, Ganapathy,

Coimbatore - 641 006, TN, India.

Tel: + 91 - 422 - 4376373

Fax: + 91 - 422 - 4376560

E mail : sales@visagatech.com

URL : www.visagatech.com

(See also MUM's India and menstruation stories, one featuring an Indian woman supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the other with information from the U. S. A.'s Center for Health and Gender Equity. And see the article below.)

The Times of India invents a quotation from me

A writer for The Times asked me to comment on the recent publication of My Little Red Book, a book of women's first menstrual experiences edited by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff that I think is a good thing.

But I never said the long quote attributed to me in The Times writer's article, a jumble of ideas picked up and shaken from this MUM Web site and an e-mail I sent her in all innocence and good faith. She later apologized for some of it but never changed the wording in the article.

How much of the rest of her article is fiction?

Beware when talking to anyone in the media or writing a book when they have an axe to grind.

The writer took some of her material from this museum's two articles about India and menstruation, one featuring an Indian woman supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the other with information from the U. S. A.'s Center for Health and Gender Equity. Both are about changing some of India's ways, which the article opposes.

Read The Times of India article.

She comments on Intelligent Design, childbirth, and boric acid

Yes, boric acid is a poison [she's writing about Zephies tampon], however it can be used as a vaginal suppository (by putting it in a capsule and inserting it) for yeast infections. I had never heard of it until about a month ago, reading a Dr Mercola's website. Following is the quote:

"Inserting one Boric acid powder capsule morning and evening for three to seven days for an acute infection, and 14 to 30 days for a chronic infection. I have not seen Boric acid capsules widely available in health stores or pharmacies but women can make their own by buying a bottle of Boric acid powder and gelatin capsules (a capsule-making machine makes the process go faster). Studies show the effectiveness of Boric acid is very high especially in women with chronic resistant yeast infections--one study with 100 women showed a 98 percent success rate with this condition. If you find that the Boric acid irritates your external genitalia you can protect the tissue with vitamin E oil (preferred) or Vaseline."

Here is the link: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2004/04/07/yeast-infections-

Found your site interesting.

One comment I read by another contributor (paraphrased): "A good argument against intelligent design [definition] is that an intelligent designer would not have made childbirth so hard [the comment is here, next-to-last paragraph of the text]" obviously has not read the Bible as to WHY childbirth is so hard.

Genesis 3:16 (New King James Version) To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow [menstruation?] and conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you."

More appropriately, I think a woman's physical makeup proves that there IS an Intelligent Designer, because there is no physiological reason for labor to be painful, or for childbirth to hurt (with the exception of IF the perineum is torn.)

Interesting site though.
January 2009

Somebody likes MUM!

Dear Mr. Finley,

I just came across the MUM website and found myself fascinated, amused and feeling very appreciative to find it. I wanted to write and say thank you for creating this informative, humorous, unashamed website.

Actually, an argument I had with my longtime boyfriend was the impetus for my stumbling upon the MUM website. Wonderful as he is, my boyfriend, unfortunately, is still squeamish about any evidence of my menstruation. It's so tiresome and I try to get him to hear that I do not want to feel shamed by him about a natural process-- and one that is essential to the continuity of life!

Imagine my surprise to learn that MUM was created by a man! Bless you for your perseverance and curiosity. [I've been assailed for both virtues and for the sin of being male. Thanks!]

I will share the site with my friends and look forward to revisiting it regularly. I'm even going to try to get my boyfriend to take a look.

Sincerely yours,


Collecting, Collectibles, Collectors, Collections

30th Annual Meeting of the Southwest/Texas Popular & American Culture Association

Feb 25-28, 2009

Hyatt Regency

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Proposals are being accepted for the Collecting, Collectibles, Collectors, Collections Area.
All proposals are welcome. We are especially interested in papers that address the following areas:

* the intersections between literary/filmic/photographic techniques of exhibition and curation and those of museums

* the intersections between professional and popular archival forms as expressed through any medium

* the archiving and exhibition of Native American, African-American, or immigrant populations as addressed in literature, film, or museums

* the relationship between civic/professional collections and private collections

* postmodern museums/collections and the role of the visitor

Scholars, artists, curators, and other professionals are encouraged to participate.
Graduate students are welcome, with award opportunities for the best graduate papers.
Please visit the organization website for more information about this conference. http://www.swtxpca.org

Send 200-250 word abstracts or proposals for panels by 20 October 2008 to Elizabeth Festa, email: eaf2@rice.edu

Elizabeth A. Festa, Ph.D.

Program for Communication Excellence

Rice University MS 630

PO Box 1892

RMC Chapel Reading Room

Houston TX 77251



Under Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology (Hardcover, Lexington Books, 2008) by Sharra L. Vostral. $65.

From the publisher's Web site:

"Under Wraps is a valuable addition to our understanding of gender, technology, and consumer culture." - Linda Layne, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Menstruation provides one of the few shared bodily functions that most women will experience during their lifetimes. Yet, these experiences are anything but common. In the United States, for the better part of the twentieth century, menstruation went hand-in-glove with menstrual hygiene. But how and why did this occur? This book looks at the social history of menstrual hygiene by examining it as a technology. In doing so, the lens of technology provides a way to think about menstrual artifacts, how the artifacts are used, and how women gained the knowledge and skills to use them. As technological users, women developed great savvy in manipulating belts, pins, and pads, and using tampons to effectively mask their entire menstrual period. This masking is a form of passing, though it is not often thought of in that way. By using a technology of passing, a woman might pass temporarily as a non-bleeder, which could help her perform her work duties and not get fired or maintain social engagements like swimming at a summer party and not be marked as having her period. How women use technologies of passing, and the resulting politics of secrecy, are a part of women's history that has remained under wraps.

About the Author:

Sharra L. Vostral is an assistant professor of gender and women's studies and history at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


Menstruación: qué es y qué no es (Menstruation: What it is and what it is not) (Paperback, Editorial Pax Mexico, to be published Oct 28, 2008) by Maria Luisa Marvan and Sandra Cortes-Iniesta. $15.

From the Amazon.com Web site:

By analyzing the medical facts and history of menstruation, the authors attempt to eliminate the taboo that surrounds this biological process. With this guide, readers will develop an understanding of the attitudes and myths associated with menstruation, premenstrual syndrome, and menopause. Also featuring a humorous section of comments, opinions, and jokes about menstruation, this resource is helpful for parents, teachers, and medical professionals.

Analizando los hechos médicos y la historia del la menstruación, las autores tratan de disolver el tabú que rodea a este proceso biológico. Con esta guía, los lectores fomentarán la comprensión de las actitudes y los mitos asociados con la menstruación, el síndrome premenstrual y la menopausia. También incluyendo una sección de humor con una serie de comentarios, opiniones y chistes sobre la menstruación, esta guía es ideal para los padres, maestros y profesionales médicos.

About the Authors:

Maria Luisa Marván is a psychologist who has published numerous articles on the subject of menstruation. Sandra Cortés-Iniesta is a professor of clinical psychology who specializes in the psychology surrounding menstruation.

Call for Abstracts: Embodied Resistance: Breaking the Rules in Public Spaces

Co-Editors: Chris Bobel, University of Massachusetts Boston and Samantha Kwan, University of Houston

This edited collection will assemble scholarly yet accessibly written works that explore the dimensions of resistance to embodied taboos of all sorts. We are interested in pieces that describe and analyze the many ways that humans subvert the social constraints that deem certain behaviors and bodily presentations as inappropriate, disgusting, private and/or forbidden in various cultural and historical contexts. Empirical, historical, theoretical and narrative contributions are equally welcome.

This book, intended as a supplemental text for use in undergraduate and graduate classrooms, aims to advance and deepen our understanding of the motivations, experiences and consequences associated with the bodies that break the rules through the (intersecting) lenses of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, culture, religiosity, class and nation.

The editors welcome submissions from scholars in a range of disciplines, including but not limited to sociology, women's and gender studies, anthropology, science studies, cultural studies, literary studies, disability studies, psychology, and history. We especially encourage scholarship which focuses on areas outside the US and the West.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to, practices that challenge:

- Traditional attire norms, e.g., older women who do not "dress their age," fat women who "show skin," and parents who refuse to dress their children in traditional gender attire

- Conventional hair and body norms, e.g., women who conspicuously do not shave, youth who experiment with hair colors and cuts, and individuals with numerous and various forms of body art

- The binary construction of gender, e.g., various practices and performances by individuals who identify as transgender, queer, or metrosexual

- Biological processes considered contextually taboo, e.g., mothers who conspicuously breastfeed in public and women who do not hide the fact of their menstruation

- Physical conditions that carry stigma, e.g., cancer patients who do not conceal their hair loss, people with HIV/AIDS who speak openly about their infection status, and intersex individuals who publicly discuss their condition

- Cultural, religious, and/or ethnic norms, e.g., Muslim women who wear hijab in spite of policies or laws that forbid veiling and Falun Gong practitioners who meditate in public demonstrations

SUBMISSION PROCEDURE: We invite authors to submit an abstract on or before December 19, 2008. Submissions should take the form of a 250-500 word abstract outlining the intent and scope of the paper, and where appropriate, author's theoretical, empirical, and/or methodological framework. Authors will be notified by February 13, 2009 about the status of their proposal. Full papers are expected by May 29, 2009.

Please direct inquiries and submissions to BOTH editors at:

Chris Bobel chris.bobel@umb.edu
Samantha Kwan sskwan@uh.edu

Play an Australian TV program discussing ads for menstrual products, including swimming in blue water, and, um, beaver

Dear Harry,

A recent program, episode 6, 2/7/2008, of "The Gruen Transfer" on ABC TV, would be of interest to your audience [heads up: it's a 90 MB download]: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/gruentransfer/download.htm

It features TV advertising of women's sanitary products and is subtitled: feminine hygiene; the things with strings and the things with wings! The commentary is lively, making fun of the language used to advertise these products. There are a lot of euphemisms and symbolism around this issue. No-one is willing to be frank on public TV. Some of the ads play on embarrassment, double meanings and timing give the advertising humour.

It was unfortunate that the panel consisted of only one woman and four men! The men, to their credit, do show a lively interest. I love the suggestion that tampons should come wrapped within a kinder surprise! I wanted to see a young woman's opinion. The advertisements are aimed at young women, and it would have been interesting to know how young women react to these issues. Are there different attitudes with the different generations? Are young women more free and open, or are they trying to hide all the evidence of menstruation as past generations did? How does menstruation fit in with their lives? Do they have different needs and expectations of the products because of their different stories, adventures and experiences?

I did enjoy the humour and suggest your web friends watch it.

Margaret Kalms
See her art on MUM.

See more about BLUE in menstruation and SHAME. And HUMOR.

New contributions to words and expressions about menstruation:

(from America)
Sambo Adams

"When I was in 5th grade, we referred to periods as Sambo Adams. I don't know who thought this up or why."

(from America)
Mr. Y'know
Mortimer Menses

"In high school, my friend called her period 'Mr. Y'know.' He would visit 3 other girls the rest of the month, and sometimes he'd get caught up, which is why he was sometimes late. My period is named Mortimer Menses. He doesn't visit anyone else, which is why he's almost always a little early. He travels the world in between. My boyfriend said that anthropomorphizing my period will make it sad when I go through menopause. He's probably right. Big blobs of menstrual fluid are menstruos and those globs of vaginal fluid you get when you're ovulating are ovulatoes. I guess you should leave me anonymous, to keep my friend's identity anonymous. Thanks!"

(from China)
Auntie/Mother's eldest sister/Senior Aunt
That thing
Unclean/dirty thing

"Hi, First of all, I want to thank you for setting up such an informative and fascinating web site. I enjoy browsing through it a lot! I also want to contribute a little to the list of expressions for menstruation on your website. In Hong Kong (where most of us speak Cantonese instead of Mandarin/Putonghua like in the rest of China), we often use the letter 'M' as an euphemism for period, as in 'M napkins', 'M pain', 'My M has come'. I'm pretty sure the letter stands for 'menstruation'. The expression 'Auntie/Mother's eldest sister/Senior Aunt' (same characters as 'Da Yi Ma' in Mandarin, but in Cantonese we pronounce them as 'Daai Yi Ma') seems to be growing out of fashion and is not much used by young people anymore. My mother used to refer to menstruation as 'that thing' (e.g. 'Has that thing of yours come?'), and when she talks to my grandma she would usually call it 'unclean/dirty thing', as in 'I think her dirty thing has cleared' (= 'I think her period has ended'). I hate the expression, because, well, it makes me feel dirty. I hope this rambling e-mail would be of use to you :) ****"

See many more Words and expressions about menstruation and Would you stop menstruating if you could?

Is it right to tax menstrual products? Write her!

HI, I'm writing to you because I thought you might know of resources for what I'm seeking to do.

I remembered having heard of your website a year or two ago, as I was reading on women's health, and especially menstruation and the political/social culture. It never occurred to me to look before, but recently I noticed that New York State charges sales tax on sanitary napkins, tampons, etc., which to me is ridiculous. For women, these items should be in the same category as food, medicine, etc. and it's also discriminatory, since women for the most part will be the only ones affected by it. Though I would also think that men who buy on behalf of their wives, mothers, girlfriends, daughters, etc. would appreciate the savings as well.

Do you have any knowledge of any groups working on this? I've already written to my elected representatives at the state level, but as unglamorous as this may seem, it really seems like an obvious "wrong."
Thank you.

Jennifer Fisher
write her at
hagarthefirst [at] yahoo [dot] com

See a wondrous event: the first clear pictures of a human egg leaving the ovary


Modified from NewScientist online

"[T]he event [was captured] by accident while preparing to carry out a partial hysterectomy on a 45-year-old woman. The release of an egg was considered a sudden, explosive event, but [the] pictures, to be published in Fertility and Sterility, show it taking place over a period of at least 15 minutes.

"Shortly before the egg is released, enzymes break down the tissue in the mature follicle, a fluid-filled sac on the surface of the ovary that contains the egg. This prompts the formation of a reddish protrusion, and after a while a hole appears, from which the egg emerges, surrounded by support cells. It then enters a Fallopian tube, which carries it to the uterus." (Article and more pictures in NewScientist.)

MacArthur Award winner says yes, the moon influences menstruation - but how?

"Somehow, however, the moon does have an effect on human beings--at least on women. Menstruation typically occurs on the 28 day lunar cycle. And even the phase of the moon matters. In a study of 826 women [what study?], 28 percent began menstruating during the four days around the new moon, whereas no more than 13 percent did so during any other four day period. This puts the peak of ovulation at the full moon. (Could this provide an evolutionary explanation for the romantic associations we have with the moon? I'll leave that to Robert Wright, Slate's resident Darwinian, to sort out.) How this happens is baffling. The lone hypothesis I've found proposes that the moon generates tidal forces on the 50 percent to 60 percent of our bodies that is water. But that only raises more questions--such as how tides are supposed to make women menstruate." (From E.R. [the emergency room in a hospital] and the Triple Hex: When a full moon and a lunar eclipse collide with Friday the 13th, do more accidents really happen? By Atul Gawande in Slate. Dr. Gawande belongs to the staffs of Brigham and Women's Hospital, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard medical school, and The New Yorker magazine. See an early chart showing the coincidence of ovulation and a woman's sexual feeling and physiological responses.

Do you like these ads?

Dear Museum Curator:

Please take a look at:


Especially some of the videos there.

Ads 2, 5, 14, 32. Note that being "Flipped" means being turned off by one reason or another by an ad. The reasons are explained for each ad.

It appears the white pants/shorts in menstrual ads actually turns off some women as being unreal.

Please refer to me only as "Mike H."

Letter about burning used menstrual pads in the old days (and today), bleeding into your clothes, etc.

I was reading about traveling and disposal in the old days, [and here] it mentioned burning pads in the fireplace of the place the woman was staying. I recall there being a rest stop in the interstate between Richmond, Virginia, and the North Carolina state line which had a furnace system. At the back of the cubicle was a door which opened and you dropped whatever into the furnace. A way to keep the place clean and warm (and keep the pipes from freezing) all in one! Though I must say, not so much a feature in July. Unfortunately for the museum's purposes, it was remodeled sometime in the 90's and it never occurred to me to take a picture. Well, it was just a little door on the wall--not photogenic.

Oh, you should read Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth, her memoir of midwifery in East London in the early 50's. Many of the women in the area were still living life the same way as their mothers they were living in the same or only slightly better conditions: Victorian tenement, originally no water or toilets except in the courtyard, modernized to have one cold water tap and one toilet per floor, serving hundreds of people.

One patient hadn't had a period since her first pregnancy began, as near as the midwives could determine (the woman did not speak English). Possibly never, as Conchita had come home with her husband from the Spanish Civil War as quite a young girl, prepubescent even.

She didn't know her own age. Determining how pregnant she was was always a problem, because she always managed to get pregnant again at the first opportunity! This woman also managed to care for her extremely premature infant, around 28 weeks as near as they could tell, her 25th pregnancy, and not her last!

Worth also comments on the dramatic results of the introduction of the Pill: "In the late 1950's we had eighty to a hundred deliveries on our books. In 1963, the number had dropped to four or five a month!

Now that is some social change!

It is a fascinating book.

About bleeding into your clothes, I'm so glad the retired teacher wrote in. Given the inconvenience of getting your clothes dirty, that menstrual blood could be taboo and ought not to be dripped all around in that sort of community, and that as far back as ancient Egypt tampons were used, it makes sense that at least some women of some classes did catch the blood. On the other hand, women wore multiple layers of petticoats in many eras, so that may have prevented a lot of staining and mess.

Here in the UK, both sanitary napkins and baby nappies (napkins) being the same word makes me wonder that the clothes might have been used for both purposes? at least some of the time [diaper cloth was used for menstrual pads in the U.S.A.]. Although diaper use also varied by class and age of the baby: the midwife tells of some of the poorest mothers still keeping toddlers undressed below the waist and their tenement rooms and furniture being piss and poo stained as a result. But with laundry being almost an impossibility, and many of these women so uneducated as to be primitive, and chamber pots still in use because the one toilet, if it worked, was not always available, it was a reasonable way to deal with toilet training.

Better off women, like Conchita, above, did diaper their children. Conchita had a big pot in which she boiled laundry all day, and made vast quantities of pasta (eaten from a communal bowl) each night for her family of 25+. Laundry was hung indoors over and from every possible surface.

These points apply to millions of women today.

It's possible that women attained adulthood and gave birth to children, but never menstruated [which in past times could mean that menstruation was rare, thus catching many women by surprise who had not worn - or never wore - anything special for menstruation, thus bleeding into their clothing. Remember that body odor, including probably menstrual odor, was much stronger and common in the past among Europeans and Americans - and bathing was often considered unhealthy. Teeth were bad, breath smelly, and people wore perfume to avoid having to smell other people!].


New Words and expressions about menstruation from the United Kingdom

Dear Mr. HF,

I found your site while researching cups for a particularly long road trip my partner and I are planning.

Although I haven't really looked around much (been "stuck" on the euphemisms page for ages!), I think it's a brilliant resource for first-timers and golden oldies, alike, so well done you.

My partner and I would like to contribute a euphemism or two.

He came up with "The old Red Rose." Rose being another word for vagina.

Also, I know of "Red Rum. Red Rum." from Stephen King's The Shining, red being an obvious reference to blood, and it's also very fitting of a girl's desire to commit murder at those times! Plus the river of blood on the stairwell always reminds my of my Womanlies!

I just wanted to share a little story also, because I think your site has just solved a decade's old mystery for me.

I used to travel by bus to school, and one day a "friend" - I say "friend" because she was quite obviously trying to set me up to look foolish in front of the older girls - invited me to sit on the prestigious back seat.

So then she proceeded to bombard me with questions about sex and periods, one of which was "Can/Do I come in a car?"

Now, knowing that no matter what I said, I was probably in for some sort of ridicule, I replied very carefully, "I go to school on a bus."

Peels of laughter ensued, not sure whether in reference to the "B.U.S." [see the American section of expressions], or because it was completely obvious that I had no clue what was being asked really.

Having read through most of your Words for Menstruation page, I think I have finally worked out, that they were asking if I had sex while on my period. I saw the phrases: "Granny came in a red Ferrari," and "My Aunt parked her red Porsche outside" [both in the South Africa section of expressions]; and it finally clicked into place.

Obviously, being almost 30 now, I've since lost touch with said 'friend' and can't - not sure I would, if I had the chance either - ask her what she meant, but maybe someone else has some idea of what "Come in a car" actually means [E-mail if you know].

Thanks for helping me while away a red afternoon,


28, Hampshire, UK.

See many more words and expressions.

When do Australians say "girl"?

I have been thinking about your question regarding the use of the word 'girls' in Australian ads and culture. Particularly that it wouldn't be appropriate in America. Um, that is a hard question so I will bring it back to myself. I am 24 (female Australian) and call myself a girl sometimes. I also will call my guy friends boys and used to call out 'Boy' when I wanted to get my boyfriends attention and he is four years older than me.

Women calling each other girls is acceptable and connotes an intimacy and a recognition that we're still young at heart, even aged 80. I would sometimes call my workmates, ladies in their mid to late fifties 'girls' as a way to show that I don't consider them old. However, it would not be polite for our male employer to call them 'girls.' He should call them ladies.

Australia is a deeply conservative and class-based society; middle-class feminists might want to be called women but respectable working class women are girls or ladies or women, regardless of their age. So partly it has to do with age, partly familiarity and partly respect. 'Girls' in Australian culture means women who are still young enough to have fun. Yet 'boy' doesn't usually apply to men over the age of 30 unless you are talking ironically about 'boys' toys' (power tools, computer games, cars, etc.) It is about context; in a women's mag, using the term 'girls' would connote that we are in on something, part of a private group of friends.

Another example of Australian English is the term 'Not Bad' which despite its unenthusiastic sound, is actually high praise. I love your website by the way, it is definitely not a bad effort, Harry. Thanks for your courage and dedication in running it and making the information available to all us interested girls.

She later added:

Also, on conservative, by that I mean gender role stability. Men work, women raise children - women work too, but when they work they do still do two thirds of the housekeeping and childcare. It is, I think, more acceptable in Australia for people to cohabit prior to or instead of marriage and apparently cohabiting prior to marriage allows for more negotiating of who does the housework (women still do more, though). Women worry about being seen as good mums, but men don't usually worry about being seen as good dads. It seems to me that Aussie men are quite happy and supportive of their women to work, as long as the men still get looked after. Australian women are very strong and independent ('it has to be done, somebody's got to do it, it may as well be me'). As a nation we are generally broadminded (except when it comes to race and racism which is somewhat entrenched in the dominant Anglo-Saxon culture), that's why your menstruation museum will be welcomed to the Powerhouse Museum [in Sydney. Read more.]

By the way I am an undergraduate B. Social Science student on a campus that is absolutely full of international students.


P.S. For a test of my theory you could email the Australian Women's Weekly magazine [I did] and see if they will run a short feature on your website - particularly regarding the eventual move to the Powerhouse Museum.

See menstruation products ads on YouTube

Hey Mr. Finley,

I have set up a channel on YouTube dedicated towards pads, tampons, and menstruation. Right now I am uploading one pad commercial per day. Right now I have 25 commercials, and two commercials of pad manufacturing. I was wondering if you could mention my channel on your website. My youtube channel is


Please let me know.
Brandon Gardner

Two e-mails adding words and phrases about menstruation (complete list)

[From Canada] My SIL and I use the term "TNSFF" instead of saying we are on our periods. I know it doesn't roll off the tongue but you get used to it. When we were in college, there was a commercial in Canada and probably the U.S., as well. It was for a feminine hygiene product, possibly a douche or something. I can't remember now. Anyway, a daughter and her mother are sitting outside and the daughter asks her mom if she ever gets That Not So Fresh Feeling --- TNSFF. There were a whole group of us that used this term because we all hated that commercial so we basically made fun of it by saying we were having that not so fresh feeling and it eventually got shortened to the initials. [See what happens when you're not so fresh!]

"What a bloody mess!"

"Shark bait"

"Chumming the waters"

"Dying the beard red"

"I'm a ragdoll."

Actually a friend of mine and I would sing the Aerosmith song "Ragdoll," except we would change the words:

feeling kind of moody!

bleeding from my booty!

never had cramps like THIS before!

Also, we worked in a large single room office and we'd call attention to any woman who might be on her period by loudly asking,

"Where are you going with your purse? Why are you taking your purse to the bathroom?"

Yes, someone saw the pancake-uterus video (see the e-mail below this one)!

I saw that movie in 1995 when I was in the fifth grade. It's called "I Got It!" I remember this because the opening scene is a girl yelling, "I got it! I got it!"- referring to the slumber party invitation, and was an embarrassing in-joke for us that whole next month. I've found a few things online that suggest it was a 1988 production maybe made by Always. Sadly, I remember absolutely nothing else about this video except that I was a little frightened that I could just wake up in the middle of the night and discover this thing had happened to me! (Because, you see, I imagined it to be like wetting the bed, only worse because blood stains.)

I just wish it had left a more positive, meaningful impact on me than the weirdness of your best friend's mom getting way too creative with the pancake batter and a fear that this could happen totally without warning. When I found "Molly Grows Up" online a while ago, I thought that it actually did a much better job of presentation, even if some of the information is antiquated.

Hope this helps with her paper!

Has anyone seen the pancake-uterus video?

This is going to sound strange, but I'm also looking for information about the video where the mother makes a pancake in the shape of a uterus to explain menstruation. I'm currently writing a graduate paper about shame surrounding physical development during puberty. Several of my friends reported seeing this video in the 80s in Wisconsin and I'm including the anecdotes in my paper. Have you gotten responses about the title? I'm searching the internet and have found references to it several places, but no actual title.

Thanks! (E-mail me if you have and I'll pass it on,)

"Certain Oral Contraceptives May Pose Health Risks, Study Suggests

"ScienceDaily (Mar. 11, 2008) - The widely used synthetic progestin medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) decreased endothelial function in premenopausal women in a study done at the University of Oregon. The finding, researchers said, raises concerns about long-term effects of MPA and possibly other synthetic hormones on vascular health in young women." More.

"Structure Of Brain Receptor Implicated In Epilepsy And Pre-Menstrual Tension Determined

"ScienceDaily (Mar. 11, 2008) - Scientists have identified the structure of a receptor in the brain implicated in conditions such as epilepsy and pre-menstrual tension. The same receptor has also been reported to be highly sensitive to alcohol." More.


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