See ads for menarche-education booklets:
Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday
(Kotex, 1933), Tampax tampons (1970, with Susan Dey),
Personal Products (1955, with Carol Lynley), and
German o.b. tampons (lower ad, 1970s)
And read Lynn Peril's series about these
and similar booklets!
See more Kotex items: First ad
(1921) - ad 1928 (Sears and Roebuck catalog)
- Lee Miller ads (first real person in amenstrual
hygiene ad, 1928) - Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday
(booklet for girls, 1928, Australian edition; there are many links here
to Kotex items) - Preparing for Womanhood (1920s,
booklet for girls; Australian edition) - 1920s booklet in Spanish showing
disposal method - box
from about 1969 - "Are you in the know?"
ads (Kotex) (1949)(1953)(1964)(booklet, 1956) -
See more ads on the Ads for Teenagers main page
THE MUSEUM OF MENSTRUATION AND WOMEN'S HEALTH
Pacific Menstrual Ritual Similar to McClintock's
You probably read recently about the discovery
by Professor Martha McClintock and others of the cause
of the tendency of women living or working closely together to menstruate
together: human pheromones.
Kathleen O'Grady, of Trinity College, University
of Cambridge, sent me this letter to the editor of Toronto's (Canada) Globe
and Mail newspaper, dated last month:
In "Mind & Matter: Sniffing Out the Secrets of Pheromones"
(March 21,1998), Judy Foreman wrote of the new research undertaken by Professor
McClintock on the influence of "odourless underarm secretions"
(pheromones) on female menstrual synchrony (large groups of women menstruating
at the same time). Readers might be interested to note that the
central feature of a Melanesian menarche (first menstruation) ritual (Naranduawa
Rites of the Ndu of the Sepik Basin)* includes the initiate
licking the armpit secretions from the hands
of a female elder. It is always interesting to see such tangible
connections between contemporary scientific studies and ancient human knowledge
*See "In the Shadow of the Tambaran: Female Initiation Among
the Ndu of the Sepik Basin" by Paul B. Roscoe in Nancy C. Lutkehaus
and Paul B. Roscoe in Gender Rituals: Female Initiation
in Melanesia (NY: Routledge, 1995).
Ms. O'Grady, a doctoral candidate completing her Ph.D. at Cambridge,
is the co-author of Sweet Secrets: Stories of Menstruation (Toronto: Second Story
Press, 1997), and contributed, with her co-author, Paula Wansbrough, 99
percent of the bibliography of menstruation on
this Web site.
See also two letters below about dogs and large cats and menstrual odor.
Here are more items about the science and
medicine of menstruation, and other items about women's health.
Genius Cracks fax
A woman listening to the Howard Stern interview
looked at this Web site and may have figured out why a 1930s tampon is called
fax - which is always written in italic and lowercase.
The code breaker, who wants to remain anonymous,
looked at an ad sent to me by a woman in Chicago
a couple of years ago, and noticed that - well, here's her letter:
Heard you on the Howard Stern Show as I was driving to work on I-495
in Massachusetts. I'm lucky I didn't have an accident.
But I was intrigued, so I checked out your Web site - weird
but fascinating, particularly all the old advertising and packaging from
You asked about the origin of the name "fax
" - needless to say it's not related to the FAX as we know it now!!
My first thought was that it might have some Latin origin since my high
school Latin teacher told us that everything went back to the Latin
language. But no, I don't think so.
Then in looking at the front of the "politically
incorrect" box with the bathing beauty pose, I noticed that the box
bears the words "Freedom, Comfort, Convenience."
I believe that fax is an acronym for that phrase.
Take the first letter of each word. Now to fool the public you throw in a vowel and with
the 2 Cs make it sound plural - FaCCs - disguise the spelling (since no well-bred person would
talk about such things back then) and you have fax.
It's the best explanation I've ever heard!
By the way, when naming drugs, pharmaceutical firms have determined
that certain letters and sounds appeal more to buyers. One of those sounds/letters
is "x." Even in the early part of this century non-pharmaceutical
companies named things Kleenex, Kotex,
Wix - and fax.
Anonymous wins the official MUM
t-shirt, which, she says, she "will wear in the privacy
of my home with pride!!"
Media Make a Busy
Week for Your MUM
Not only did Howard Stern interview the museum
director - me - this past week (see some e-mail responses, below, on this
page), but Gerry Ryan posed many interesting
questions to me for a half hour on his show on 2FM of the National
Radio of Ireland. And Kevin Kline, morning show host on KFMZ
in Columbia, Missouri, U.S.A., home of the
University of Missouri, questioned me, also for a half hour.
The producer for the Irish show called
afterwards and said that several people phoned in with positive
comments - there were no negative ones - something
that surprised them in that very conservative country. (See the last of
the Letters below for an e-mail from from an Irish listener to the show.)
She said on-air menstrual hygiene advertising had just been permitted there.
By the way, television advertising started in
the U.S.A. around 1975 with the infamous Rely tampon,
to which Playtex responded with its own campaign.
The Washington Times newspaper, in reviewing the book Offbeat
Museums a week ago, quoted the author - a male - as saying Washington's
hometown entry, none other than this museum, was the "weirdest"
museum in the book. Thanks, buddy.
And yesterday Ken Smith and Doug Kirby from the Web site Roadside
America visited MUM, taking notes and pictures for a possible review
of this museum on that site.
See some of the other media that have discussed
I Must Tell You Two Nonmenstrual Jokes
A woman in my office - as a matter of fact, the same one who explained
to me - recently attended a show put on by her three-year-old daughter's
preschool. A teacher told her two jokes:
What did the snail say after he climbed onto
the turtle's back?
The Space Shuttle crash landed into the playground
of a preschool. An astronaut got out and shouted, "I'm free! I'm free!"
A little boy watching said, "Big deal! I'm
Winchester the Beagle
Confuses the Odor Issue
Just when I thought the question of animals being
attracted to menstrual odor had been settled - I thought the answer
was basically "no," contrary to my intuition - another listener
to Howard Stern e-mailed me with this:
I have a beagle [dog] (AKC registered) named Winchester who has the uncanny ability to enter a room of up to 30 people
(in an actual trial) and will immediately
identify a menstruating woman (by aggressively sniffing her).
No matter what kind of freshening douches or odor disguise products
the woman may use my dog has not been fooled
yet. Usually he will locate the first woman and not proceed
any further in the room. The dog will not respond
to normal human non-menstrual blood. Walking on a leash in public
is phenomenally revealing.
I have contacted two prominent tampon manufacturers
about renting the services of my dog to assist them in developing freshening
or odor-disguising compounds to market. Their responses have been
directed to me as a "crackpot." Kimberly-Clark maintains that
most dogs will respond like Winchester! This is totally untrue. Some dogs
will sniff everybody's crotch randomly!
Winchester has a perfect track record and a genetic, definitely untrained,
sense of smell of this specific odor.
Have you ever heard of anything like this? [No.]
No doubt about the smelling ability of a beagle - but this selectively
heightened odor perception is uncanny. Maybe it's related to professionally
trained drug and bomb sniffing animals?
Best wishes for your museum.
The writer later added:
It would be interesting to know if there were other breeds of dogs
with Winchester's very selective talent. As I mentioned to you earlier,
Mr. Finley, two tampon manufacturers maintain that the menstrual pheromone,
among other odors, is instinctively (no pun intended) attractive
to most mammals as well as most raptors (eagles, hawks, owls, etc) who
may also respond in some "non-descript" fashion.
And Not Only a Beagle . . .
I received this e-mail last week:
Thought you'd like to know in the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) safety
book they warn all their actresses that working around big
cats while menstruating is hazardous. The big cats become very aggressive
and can attack. Actresses are to stay off the set.
I've asked the writer to send me a photocopy of that part of the
book. Anyone have comments?
I received a torrent of e-mail and some
phone calls after the interview with Howard Stern. Probably 98 percent of
the mail was favorable. This week I was on
leave from work to relax and take Asst. Prof. Pam T. Padd (at the bottom
of this page) to the veterinarian, but spent
much of the time happily answering e-mail.
Next week I will print letters about menstrual
cups; here are a few of the other ones:
I imagine that my e-mail will be one of many that you will receive
as a result of your interview with Howard and crew. I am a faithful listener
of his show, college educated, female, an advocate for women's rights (to
a point), and I could go on and on but who cares.
I commend you on your passion, dedication, sense of humor and perseverance
with your museum. May it continue to grow, serve as an enlightened fixture
for the public and make you a wealthy and successful entrepreneur.
[from the Washington, D.C., area]
You handled it great. I'm a gay fan and thought you took every call,
weirdo or not, with a very professional attitude . . . OUTSTANDING!!!!!
[from the webtv domain]
My brother heard about your Web site on Howard Stern and e-mailed the
URL to me. I was delighted to discover the site and learn about your work.
Congratulations on a fine job. I am the author of "Everything
You Must Know About Tampons" (Berkley, New York City, 1981;
now out of print) and am quite familiar with the
obstacles to a frank and intelligent discussion of menstruation.
You are one sick, twisted and disturbed soul . . . nothing else could
describe you better. I laugh at you and thank God I wasn't born like you.
Get a life, creep.
[from Berkeley College - here are
more critical comments about this museum and me]
I think that this is one of the most interesting Web sites I have had
the pleasure of visiting! I heard you on the Howard Stern Show this morning
and I must say that I never thought a museum such as this existed. I've
learned a lot about menstruation and women's health from your Web site.
Keep up the good work, it's GREAT!
[from California State University at Los Angeles]
I heard you on Howard Stern this morning and enjoyed you thoroughly.
I commend you for the museum and more so for the seriousness with which
you answered all the questions from Mr. Stern.
[from the aol domain]
I was just listening to your interview with Howard Stern. You handled
yourself very well with him. He lambastes just about anyone with a peculiar
interest, but you had him very much in check. I was amazed!
Had to come and check out your Web site. It is very well done and quite
interesting. I am a 32-year-old woman and have not ever really looked into
such history, but nevertheless find it fascinating.
Thank you for taking the time to research such a "personal"
subject and make your knowledge available to others. Hopefully your contribution
will help that first awkward "pad buying" experience a little
easier for a young girl. I will never forget how
my mother failed me and sent me with my father to buy my first box of pads.
And then she told one of her friends that I had "started my period"
and I got a congratulatory phone call from her. This is really a rough
time in a young girl's life!!
It is nice to see a man interested in such a topic. My beau runs out
of the bathroom if I even reach for a tampon!
Just had to add my two cents. Thanks again
[from the aol domain]
I have to confess that I listen to Howard Stern on the way to work
in the mornings, perhaps as an escape. I find I have a lot of admiration
for those he interviews who manage to "hold their own" in spite
of his outrageous questions and comments.
As a feminist (gasp!) and scholar of women's cultural history, I would
like to commend you on the excellent interview you gave. I am also browsing
your Web site and have passed it on to a number of friends. Thanks!
Good luck in your endeavors!
[a Ph.D. from the aol domain]
You are a wild man - I gotta party with you, dude!
[from the aeltus domain]
I heard about your museum for the first time on the Howard Stern Show
this morning. I think I have now heard it all.
I appreciated the fact that you were unrattled by Howard's persistent
crude and off-color questions. When I am in Washington I will take my wife
to your museum, never mentioning the purpose of my trip. She will no doubt
interpret it in much the same vain as visiting the world's largest ball
of twine or mud ball as in the movie Vacation.
Thanks for the levity your appearance brought this morning on Howard's
show. As it is said, the people who don't like Howard
listen to him longer than the ones who do. I fall into that category,
but can only take him in VERY small doses. He gives New Yorkers a bad name.
[from the aol domain]
I am a long-time Howard Stern fan and loved hearing about your museum
this morning! Keep up the good work and someday I hope I can come visit
this masterpiece of cleanliness!!!
You F*CKING RULE!!!!
[from the aol domain. The writer added the asterisk.]
I heard you on the Stern Show this morning. You were great! Stern asks
some pointed and sometimes lowdown tongue-in-cheek questions but you handled
My own feelings on your situation is that you have done so much research
and spent so much time on this endeavor I think you should write this information,
or history, down and receive compensation for it
[the MUM director added the red, with hope in his heart]. It's obvious
you're an expert on the subject.
Well, you have a few of my thoughts on the subject. Thanks for your
[from the pacbell domain]
I heard you on Howard Stern this morning. Before you came on the air,
I thought, this guy must be completely nuts. But after listening to you,
I can respect that you certainly know your stuff. Go for it.
[from the erols domain]
Heard you on Howard. You are definitely one of the ten weirdest guests.
Good luck and keep plugging.
[from the aol domain]
I heard you on The Howard Stern Show. You seem to be a normal sort
of guy, but this subject is perverse. You said that you probably would
not have started this 'museum' if your parents were alive. That should
tell you something.
[from the klinedavis domain]
Great job on the Howard Stern Show. It was a great topic. Had me laughing
all the way to work.
[from the dnai domain]
Heard you on the Howard Stern Show this morning and thought it was
a joke!!! But now I have found your Web site and think it is a wonderful
idea! Stern was soooo hysterical I could not stop laughing. Now I have
bookmarked your Web page and will look at it often.
Thanks for the information and keep those updates coming.
[from the snet domain]
Heard you speak with Howard Stern today. You were great (Howard was
Visited your site. Interesting.
Way to go!
I heard you on the Howard Stern Show this morning (5/4) and loved your
matter-of-fact answers to his sometimes very "cutting" questions.
I'm glad someone like you is doing something like this. Why hasn't it been
done before? Maybe we women are ashamed (heaven forbid!) of menstruation.
One of my professors this quarter has a cultural anthropology background.
She is now interested in visiting your Web site, too.
Keep up the good work!
An admirer in Ohio
You have to be kidding.
[from the intercall domain]
I heard you on the Howard Stern Show here in Toronto, Canada, today,
May 4, 1998.
I thought Howard was making a little too much fun of your open mindedness,
but then again that's how he makes the ratings. But, on the flip side,
you got advertising.
When I got home from work I decided to check your Web site out to see
for myself, something I honestly must say as a male, I know very little
I can say now I am a little wiser and more appreciative of the things
women go through. I found your site in very good taste and well presented
in a way I could understand.
Heard you on Howard this morning and think you have a great thing here.
You can always count on me for an occasional hit.
[from the berkshire domain]
I listen to Howard Stern for about six hours per week. I am a stock
broker. He is very entertaining and is respectful if you can stand up to
him. Lots of professionals listen. After reading your Web site, I now know
more on period protection than my wife.
Your museum is weird but interesting. You seem interesting.
You handled Howard well and the people (listeners) will visit your
site and museum. You just got yourself 400 times the publicity you have
Good luck, Mr. Finley!
And from a listener to the Gerry Ryan Show
I was listening to the Gerry Ryan Show yesterday and I heard about
your site and to say the least it is a bit strange that a man should take
such interest in a matter that usually mystifies most men!
So all I wanted to say really is good luck with the rest of the research.
Bye for now.
See Tampax tampons (1970, with Susan Dey), Personal Products (1955, with Carol Lynley), and
German o.b. tampons (lower ad, 1981) See a Lucky Strike cigarettes ad from 1933.
See ads for menarche-education booklets:
Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday
See also the booklets How
shall I tell my daughter? (Modess, various dates), Growing
up and liking it (Modess, various dates),
and Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday (Kotex, 1928).
And read Lynn Peril's series about these and
See another ad for As One Girl to Another (1942),
and the booklet itself.
© 1998 Harry Finley. It is illegal to reproduce or distribute any
of the work on this Web site in any manner or
medium without written permission of the author. Please report suspected
violations to firstname.lastname@example.org