See a Modess True or False? ad in The American
Girl magazine, January 1947, and actress Carol Lynley
in "How Shall I Tell My Daughter" booklet ad (1955) - Modess . . . . because ads (many dates).
THE MUSEUM OF MENSTRUATION AND WOMEN'S HEALTH - 1996
Menstruation Relates to Infibulation, Scarring
and, Yes, Odor
The chairperson of the department of sociology and anthropology of a
southern university visited MUM on a recent Saturday with her husband and
a student, and brought along a wealth of information about lots of things:
-Did you know that infibulation, the genital mutilation practiced in parts
of Africa which involves greatly narrowing the entrance to the vagina, can
impede the menstrual flow to the extent of causing sterility? Just as can
happen with an imperforate hymen, the menses can back up into the fallopian
tubes and render them useless.
-There are doctors in towns in Africa where honeymooners often visit who
specialize in widening the narrowed entrances to the vagina caused by infibulation.
-Black women in our country, and I'm sure elsewhere, form keloid scars more
easily than whites, which can lead to impeding the uterus in its expelling
of menstrual blood. When the backed-up blood is finally expelled, there
is so much of it that it can gush unexpectedly from the vagina in huge quantities.
-The synchrony of periods women experience when they are together for extended
times can have evolutionary benefits. If women menstruate at the same time,
any animals attracted to the smell will be worrisome only for a short time
each month, which could be important in rural groups.
-Menstrual huts sometimes had the purpose of placing the menstrual odor
far away from the inhabitants of a village, thereby not attracting animals.
Your MUM curator doesn't know everything about menstruation, and I learn
things every time someone visits. This is part of what makes MUM so interesting.
Japanese Student Donates Tampons and Ads
Nancy Young of New York University encouraged one of her charges, a
Japanese student, to bring back with her and give to the museum some products
and print ads from Japan - a great donation! The student reported that her
mother in Japan had a good laugh about these wacky Americans. My thanks
to Nancy and the student, and I am glad to have provided a bright moment
in her mother's day, as she has me.
What? Someone Else Thinks MUM is Strange??
Read about MUM and some other interesting museums in America's Strangest Museums
(Citadel Press/Carol, $12.95) by Sandra Gurvis. MUM's on pages 285-288,
way in the back in a special section for some reason, between the Mike Weaver
Drain Tile Museum (TRULY weird!) and The Museum of Bad Art, which makes
me cringe (I'm an artist). The illustration for the MUM section is a photo
of a wall exhibit showing some currently available washable pads, The Keeper
menstrual cup, etc. I bought my copy of the book at a Scribner's book store
near the Pentagon, where I used to work (the Pentagon, that is); the book's
probably widely available. I get no cut, so you won't be supporting the
museum, but Sandra Gurvis needs the money. Don't we all?
Thanks For Your Help!
In alphabetical order I want to thank
-Megan Hicks of
the Powerhouse Museum, the largest museum in Australia,
for the treasure trove of information about the menstrual cup Gynaeseal
she sent recently and for the cartoons about menstruation;
-Judy MacInnes, Starry
Night Productions in Vancouver, Canada, for her contacting the Judy
Chicago organization to pave the way for MUM's future use of a picture of
Ms. Chicago's in the Art of Menstruation exhibit on this site (see directory);
-Susan Rishworth of the American
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, for her help in locating
archival material for Dr. Marion Sims and the Beginnings of Modern Gynecology
(a comic strip I started but couldn't continue because of time, and which
I hope to do in the future), and for showing a MUM visitor what ACOG has
in its resources; and
-Donna Swift, anthropologist
in New Zealand, for her constant supplying of information about all
kinds of things to this museum!
First Russian Contacts MUM
Part of the fun of MUM is meeting people from all over the world. Recently
a Russian woman e-mailed us for information and for the MUM newsletter Catamenia,
joining folks from Belgium, France, England, Italy, Israel, Norway, Canada,
Finland, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.A.
The New Cup is Not That New!
A reporter for The Seattle Times called MUM and said that the press
release for Instead, the new menstrual cup (see our item below from
a few weeks ago, Try Out a New Menstrual This Fall), stated that it's the
first new thing in menstrual hygiene in 60 years. Not true, if it means
cups are new. They've been around commercially since the late 1950's,
and there's another one available right now, The
Keeper, a re-usable one, which is pretty cheap compared to what the
reporter said the new one costs.
Tampax claimed to be a new concept in 1936, whereas commercial tampons had
existed years before that (see exhibit news several items below).
What was new was the applicator, truly a good idea for many women. Yes,
I know about the disposal problems, something we are still grappling with,
as women will with the non-degradable, non-reusable Instead.
As I said in the item below, I would be interested in hearing
what people think about Instead.
Unusual Person Calls MUM
A producer from The Late Show - that's with David
Letterman - called to get information about MUM recently. Nothing
will probably come of it - many are called, few serve, or something like
that - and if anything did, it would surely be humorous. But I think it
would be a gentler humor than with Howard Stern,
whose sidekick Gary (I've forgotten his last name; I never listen to the
program) called twice about a year ago to discuss sending a camera crew
here. I decided I did not want the beating I would have gotten. But with
David, er, Mr. Letterman, maybe that wouldn't be so bad . . . . Sigh.
Very Unusual Person Calls on MUM
The California Institute of Technology,
that renommierte bastion of science, sent its finest to inspect MUM
just days after Mr. Letterman, um, Mr. Letterman's producer, called.
Its finest was a student brilliant enough to enter Cal Tech at 16. She has
decided to study tampons and convinced her school to pay her way to Washington
to check out our holdings. Next week MUM will send her behind the scenes
in the Smithsonian to see its two drawers full of menstrual goodies and
over to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to inspect
This business is fun!
MUM has More Brushes With the Best
And while I'm in the mood, I must mention that The
New Yorker magazine called for information when this museum first
opened two years ago. Like, just the best magazine that ever was!!!
Not only The New Yorker, but in the past year feelers were extended
by writers from Harper's, Newsday, British Elle magazine
and the Sunday Telegraph in Great Britain, Biba and Colors in France
and the wild and new Amica magazine in Germany,
among others. And producers from The Today Show and
Lifetime TV network called for information.
And dozens and dozens of radio stations have rung MUM, including from Australia
But many of the best media have already discussed MUM. Read their names
in What the Media Say About MUM.
Thanks Again to Generous French and American
Again a donor in France has given the museum many French and German
ads for menstrual products, and an American has donated German tampons.
Included in the French gift was a terrific study in German of menstruation
and its hygiene from 1860-1985. Thank you both very much!
Try Out a New Menstrual Cup This Fall
Women in the Seattle (U.S.A.) area this fall will be able to test a
new item in the menstrual arsenal besides pads and tampons, a menstrual
collection cup called Instead. It's the first product of the company UltraFem.
Menstrual cups are not new. The current cup (now with the potential competitor
Instead) is The Keeper (see also
MenstrualCentral), a rubber cup which succeeded
Tassaway and Tassette, cups sold in the U.S.A. in the 1950's - 1970's. The
commercial idea seems to have been developed about 60 years ago in the United
(Does anyone know of any non-American cups? I
know of only two, the first an Australian cup which doubled as a contraceptive
in the 1980's called Gynaeseal. But it failed for lack of interest
in spite of having an insertion applicator. And a Canadian hospital is testing
a Chinese cup for possible commercial introduction into the West.)
The user inserts the flexible cup into her vagina, where it collects menstrual
fluid. The user then withdraws and empties it, reinserting it if it is the
reusable kind. As I understand it, women must insert the new cup a bit farther
in than The Keeper, as Instead sits near or touching the cervix.
The medical reports I have read on menstrual cups are very positive, showing
them safer than tampons and pads.
The Keeper people say their cup will last at least ten years, which makes
it far cheaper than tampons or pads or even sponges. The Keeper costs $35
and comes with a pouch carrier. And of course ecologically speaking, reusable
cups are unbeatable!
The objections I have heard from users are basically four:
- Cups leak. The Keeper folks say that it will not leak if inserted properly.
They say insertion takes a little practice, just as inserting tampons does.
- EEEEYOUUUUU! I could never put that in ME! The Keeper folks point out
that you must FOLD it first, then insert. It's actually pretty small when
you use as directed.
- Cups must hurt. Again, The Keeper people say that if it's in the right
place, you won't feel it, just as with tampons.
- And they're messy! They are potentially just a little messier than tampons,
but maybe not if you're clever.
I would be interested to hear from you
people who try the new cup to see how you like it.
See THE Film
on Menstruation This Fall on Television!
How do we perceive menstruation in popular culture? The only Canadian
film - and maybe the only one anywhere - examining this appears on three
Canadian television networks this fall.
The 57-minute"Under Wraps" dropped its wraps first at the Vancouver
International Film Festival in October. TVOntario, The Knowledge Network
and SCN will show it a bit later.
Starry Night Productions of Vancouver made the documentary, and spent parts
of two days filming at MUM and at The Johns Hopkins University (the MUM
founder - this writer - majored in philosophy at Hopkins many moons ago)
for the section on the historical aspect of the subject.
Late last year the British Broadcasting Corporation
shot an item in this museum for the Sunday Morning Show in the UK, and earlier
this year a German TV crew visited MUM for
a shoot, broadcast last spring on the Pro-7 channel for the program Liebe
Sünde (Dear Sin!!). Menstruation as sin, na ja. Many radio
stations around the world have interviewed the MUM founder, the latest being
Swedish National Radio, a few weeks ago.
In the Canadian production you'll also see interviews with artist Judy Chicago, MacArthur Fellow Margie Profet, Judy Blume,
Tamara Slayton, Karen Houppert, Wenda Gu, Lori Katz and Barb Meyer, Liz
Armstrong and Adrienne Scott, Bernadette Vallely, Sophie Laws, Jacqueline
van Laar and others, each in some way involved "professionally"
Those of us unfortunate enough not to be in Canada at the right time can
possibly buy a video or see the film at a later date in another country.
Check here later for details.
Starry Night sparkles in this film through producers Teresa MacInnes (who
also directs) and Penny Wheelwright, cinematographer Kent Nason, picture
editor Janice Brown, sound designer Gael MacLean and Link-to-the-World Judy
Telefilm Canada also participated in the production in association with
the National Film Board of Canada, British Columbia Film, The Knowledge
Network, TV Ontario, Vision TV, VanCity, Life Network, SCN and Great North
I'll provide further information here as I get it, but if you want to call
Penny Wheelwright directly, her number is (604) 684-2919 (Vancouver, British
Columbia, Canada). Starry Night has e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
MUM Gets Videos!
One of the country's largest advertising agencies has donated several
years of TV videos of menstrual protection advertising to the museum, filling
a gap in our holdings. Thank you very much! Researchers can view these by
making a weekend appointment to visit the museum. We hope to have these
running continuously for visitors sometime in the future.
Young? Not So Young? Read These Books!
Volcano Press in - where
else? - Volcano, California publishes two great books for people just beginning
and just finishing their menstrual careers: Period
for menarcheal folks ($9.95), and Menopause, Naturally
for those many periods later ($14.95). I think it's great to have clear,
sensible books about a subject which embarrasses so many people of both
Donors Give Tampons and Ads to MUM
An American donor has just contributed many items to MUM, this time
the rarer of the major "protection" products in Japan, tampons.
MUM will show these with other tampons from around the world. Many thanks!
And a French discoverer of the MUM Web site has sent us a dozen older French
ads for menstrual hygiene, with the promise of more to come. Merci beaucoup!
Can Anyone Give MUM
1. What is the Japanese "pony" used in menstruation?
2. Does anyone know when fax tampons were developed and first sold?
Were there earlier commercial tampons?
So What Do Astronauts, Er, Do in Orbit?
Dr. Barbara Czerwinski gives an illustrated talk about the sanitary
arrangements in space capsules while they're spinning around the earth,
and we hope she will do this sometime soon at MUM. She promises you will
give up any aspirations you may have had about pursuing an orbiting career.
Are you interested in attending or reading
Museum Exhibits in Australia and San Francisco
Lisa Carter faxes from Sydney, Australia, that her museum, the Australian Museum, plans to have an exhibit on sex
and reproduction later this year. MUM will contribute some items about menstruation.
And Megan Hicks, Curator of Health and Medicine at the Powerhouse
Museum, also in Sydney, writes that her current exhibit Taking
Precautions: the Story of Contraception at the museum is so successful
that it will continue through at least mid-1997 and possibly go on tour.
Ms. Hicks wrote MUM last year that visitors to the Hyde
Park Barracks Historic House in Sydney can see remains
of cloth menstrual rags found under the floorboards of the house.
It was an asylum for women in the early 19th century.
The Exploratorium museum in San Francisco is
considering having a display on menstruation this fall in a larger exhibit
about the cycles of nature, and has asked MUM for information.
Who Asks What of Whom?
This museum supplies information - that's part of its mission. Some
-three of the largest adverteasing agencies in the world (in New York and
London) called for information to use for product development and new ad
-a company in the Philippines which publishes medical information wanted
facts about menstrual education
-writers from Germany, Canada and the USA called for information about MUM
-students from Belgium, England, Canada, New Zealand and the USA found ads,
articles and much else in MUM
-an Australian radio station interviewed the MUM director (one of scores
of interviews concerning MUM. The question is always, Why did you do it?)
-a member of the U.S. House of Representatives sought information about
dioxin and tampons
MUM Gets Kotex and Modess Dispensers!
An anonymous donor who has
already given the museum hundreds of items has struck again with two old
and possibly serviceable dispensers for Kotex and Modess sanitary napkins
(above)! Anyone know how old they are? Many thanks, Anon! That's how a museum
is built! (See also Donors Add to the Collection below.)
Menstruation Inhibits Reports of Sexual Abuse
This is one conclusion drawn by Donna Swift, a Canadian Commonwealth
Scholar who intensively interviewed a group of women in New Zealand over
2 1/2 years, and who recently reported her findings in a lecture at MUM.
Not only are women less likely - because of shame - to report sexual abuse
when it occurs when they are menstruating, but neither therapists nor the
police are likely to mention menstruation in this connection. And nothing
has been written about this link.
Swift said that some victims were reminded of the abuse with each subsequent
period, and that PMS - premenstrual syndrome - seemed to be intensified
as a result.
Of all reported sexual abuse, 65% occurred before menarche. One person interviewed
believed as a girl that the abuse had brought on her menarche; another believed
that her menarche would bring an end to the abuse.
In any case, the connection existed in silence.
Norwegians Visit History of Menstrual Protection Display
Lucky visitors can see the exhibit Women's Secret: from Papyrus to
Modern Pad Technology at the Vestfold People's Museum in Norway, which
started last year on the 50th anniversary of the founding of Saba Moelnlyke,
the menstrual protection company.
English PhD Candidate Researches at MUM
Utilizing the museum's unique collection of adverteasing for her dissertation,
a visitor on a grant from the Southampton Institute in the United Kingdom
photographed and photocopied for a day at MUM. The director of MUM arranged
for a visit to the menstrual products collection of the Smithsonian Institution
as well as a visit to the collection of the American College of Obstetricians
and Gynecologists in Washington.
Many candidates for advanced degrees as well as undergraduates, writers,
advertising agencies and others have explored the collection at MUM.
Casual visitors are welcome to see the museum displays on weekends by appointment
- and hundreds already have! There is no charge. Please call
ahead for arrangements.
Donors Add to the Collections
Dozens of wonderful people have donated hundreds of items to the museum.
Recently two readers of the Norwegian travel magazine Vagabond, which
had an article about this museum, sent Norwegian magazine adverteasements
and items relating to European tampons and pads.
And in early April a reader of last year's Chicago Tribune article about
MUM sent some possessions of her recently deceased mother, who had been
married to an adverteasing man for Kotex. These include
pristine boxes of Wix, possibly the first commercial tampon (early 1930's,
before even Tampax!); unopened boxes of Fax, a tampon of the same period,
which adverteased itself as "The Internal Sanitary Napkin" (!)
and "Modern Woman's Best Friend" (left); and unopened boxes of
Fibs (clever name, huh?), the first Kotex tampon (1930's). Included also
are rare dealer displays, a promotional sheet for Fax entitled "Introducing
Profit in Sanitary Napkins" aimed at dealers (the illustration above
is from this sheet), the first instructional sheet for Tampax (1936) and
a 1937 newspaper ad for Tampax.
MUM is deeply thankful to these donors. It is through such generosity that
MUM becomes ever more useful to researchers and the public!
MUM Looks for Additions
Do you have or know of items which belong in the Museum of Menstruation?
These can be articles, books, ads, actual products (but unused!), packaging,
pictures or silly, kitschy things - and anecdotes or reports from any culture.
Actually ANYTHING concerning menstruation in any culture, however humble,
is a welcome addition to the museum and archive.
Scholars and the public from around the world look to the museum as a source
for cultural information about menstruation, and you can help them!
The museum is expanding its collection, and is seeking a completely public
place for its exhibits and archive - and future cafe, shop and meeting and
Being considered also is a unique display of the history of women's health,
an expansion of the concept of the museum.
© 1996 Harry Finley. It is illegal to reproduce
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