New this week: "If Men Could Menstruate," by Gloria Steinem - menstrual humor

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How the Anna Health Sponge Got Its Name

I found this delightful e-mail waiting for me when I returned from Germany:

Dear H. Finley:

You ask if anyone remembers the Anna Health Sponge. Well, yes, I do.

My grandfather Harry Z. Cohen was a partner in the American Sponge and Chamois Company, which manufactured the article. He named it after my grandmother Anna B. Cohen.

It has long been a family joke that our grandmother's name was on thousands of women's lips.


Lewis H. Rubman

Read and Follow the Instructions and Warnings for Any Menstrual Product

Elaine Plummer, spokesperson for Tampax tampons and Always pads at Procter & Gamble, called your MUM last week to say that some women mistakenly believe all-cotton tampons to be the perfectly safe product. (Tampax itself makes an all-cotton tampon. Read about the safety of all-cotton tampons and other products here.)

There is no perfect product, she says, and in any case women must read and follow the manufacturer's instructions and warnings that come with the product for the safest experience.

She also suggested women look at the Web site for the Food and Drug Administration, which addresses the dioxin, asbestos and toxic shock problems - - thereby treating this very question, and also the Tampax Web site at

Later we speculated on the significance of the x and s sounds at the end of many products' names (Tampax, Kotex, Kleenex, Wix tampons, fax tampons, Meds tampons, Fibs tampons, etc. - these last four being tampons created in the 1930s). Someone she knows in P&G suggested that they all mean textile, and that the practice started with Kotex.

I had read that advertising people have scientifically determined that these sounds simply sell products, for whatever reason.

Only after our conversation did I remember how the Kotex people explained their product in its earliest advertising: it was an acronym for cotton-like texture, because women up to that point had most often used washable rags made of cotton, and would supposedly trust a product overtly like it. Kotex consisted of cellulose, created from trees.

As you may know, the Kimberly-Clark Corporation's explanation (see their first ad, in 1921, which tells the story) is that the "original" Kotex was a bandage made by them for American soldiers in World War I. Nurses in France discovered that it made a great throw-away menstrual pad, so K-C then created the Cellucotton Products Company to manufacture it after the war. Apparently K-C did not want to be associated with menstruation.

By the way, Ms. Plummer also suggested a book to read about menstruation: Culture, Society and Menstruation, by Olsen and Woods, 1986. I'm gonna look it up! Here's more books about menstruation.

Letters to Your MUM

Make Your Own Washable Pads

Hi Harry!!

Your site just gets more cool!! [Many thanks!]

Finally I have completed my first crack at a site with instructions and patterns for washable pads based on my design.

Have a look and see if it could have a link on your site. As far as I have seen its the only thing like it on the net. [See also here for a belt and washable pad from the company.]

Warm regards,

Janet Trenaman

Web site:

She likes and wears pads with belts

This e-mail illustrates the contention of a number of women, that I, finally, am just a guy - I AM, darn it! - and what do I know? - which is true in many situations. (And read about what men would do if they menstruated, according to Gloria Steinem.)

Dear Sir,

I recently watched an online movie of your museum where you were interviewed by two women. I enjoyed most of it but I take exception with the section where you cover the belted napkins and the interviewers (who I doubt have ever used a belt) blatantly and with bias, agree with some negative comments that you related about bad stories you had heard and your comments about how they are less convenient.

I am 28 years old, have an M.A. and am an active, outgoing woman. I used adhesive napkins all my life until I discovered tabbed napkins and sanitary belts. I switched.

Why? I assure you that belts and belted napkins are FAR superior to any type of adhesive napkin. Here is a list that I compiled with two other women friends (26 and 33) who use them and agree with me.

1. A belt holds the pad closer

2. A belt keeps the pad from moving

3. A belt means a woman does not have to wear tight, constricting underwear in order to just hold an adhesive pad in place

4. Belted napkins don't stick to your pubic hair

5. Belted napkins don't twist and bunch, sticking to themselves as adhesives do

6. They are great under pantyhose when it is hot in the summer and you want to go without panties or panty lines

7. Faster to attach than adhesives with wings

8. No adhesive to wreck your panties when you stick them on over and over

9. Less expensive

10. Far better for night time when you roll over and move around in bed

11. Overall, provide a more secure feeling

What I (we) do not understand is the automatic assumption that belts are bad, especially by women who have never used them. My experience has been that once a woman tries the belts, she uses them (this has happened several times in the last five years with people I know). Even women who use tampons (as I do sometimes) still use them for night time or when they exercise, etc.

I have found plenty of belts and various napkins available in my local drug stores and some of the older women working behind the counter swear by them and wonder why they went out of style.

I have an idea: With the advent of adhesives, American women were deluged with a monstrous advertising campaign that caused them to associate beltless with liberation, freedom, etc., along with the promise of something better. Adhesives may be better for some, but the adhesives in the 70s were a nightmare (I am told) and many women couldn't find the belts back then.

Well, the belts are back and women are using them again because they are better. Period [!]. There is a reason that, as you say in your movie, "the belt industry has not been completely wiped out."

Has anyone at your museum considered why? [You must mean me, since cats make up the rest of the staff. I guess it's because some people still like them.]

Thanks for taking the time to read my (our) e-mail.

Where can she buy a belt?

I was looking for a place to purchase a sanitary napkin belt when I ran across your pages.

Yes, I still use them.

Menstruation has been a major part of my life since I was eleven; I'm now 49. My mother once said that if I let this interrupt my life, I will miss a good third or more of my life so I'd better learn to live with it and enjoy it. I have cycles that last a minimum of 7 days and as long as 10 days and come ever 23 to 26 days. You do the math, my life is my cycle. I have at least 4-6 days of heavy bleeding and so still need the belts for nighttime wear because they are they only safe method for sleeping for me. [See the comment in the previous letter.]

I purchased my last two, ironically, while on a trip to Haiti during the coup some 5 years ago. I thought they would be my last, but my doctor says I'm still a long way from menopause. I hadn't seen any belts in stores for at least 10 or 15 years, so when I saw them in a grocery store in Haiti, I was elated, my old ones were wearing thin.

Now after losing my luggage on a plane trip, and one of two of my remaining belts, and since I will probably have menses for another few years, I need to find someplace to buy some more. I have not been able to locate any sellers on the Internet, or maybe I'm not looking in the right places, either way can you help. I know this is a crazy question, but I thought because of who you are you would understand.

Can you help? [Within hours she sent another e-mail, saying she had found a store that sold them. Some drugstores still carry them, as well as "alternative" companies.]

More information about Islam and menstruation:

Hi there,

I really enjoyed your Web site and most of all that you are a man and really care for such issues.

Well, what made me really contact you was the section you have about religion and menstruation. I am a Moslem girl and I just wanted to add that women in menses aren't allowed to pray or fast or do any religious thing, not even touch the holy Quran. But of course we can read it without touching

If you are interested in more information I'd be happy to research it more deeply and e-mail you. [Yes!]

She likes the Instead menstrual cup:

I love using Instead. However, when it came out, I predicted that the company would fail. Why? Because Instead is completely reusable. [This is what caused the failure of the Tassette cup, in part.] I NEVER throw them away. I just wash with warm water and re-insert (the water acts as a lubricant).

One cool thing about Instead that no one mentioned is that it can be used before your period starts, to prevent accidents. It's much better to be protected, and Instead is more comfortable than itchy, sticky mini-pads.

Now that I've learned that the company that makes Instead has declared bankruptcy, I'll buy a couple of more boxes for the future. [But there is now a new company making it. Call 1-800-INSTEAD for where to buy the cup.}

Thanks for your interesting site!

He finds menstruation erotic:

Today I discovered your Web site. I just had to take the time and thank you for creating such a wonderful Web site on a subject that is most erotic to me: menstruation.

Menstruation should be celebrated, not hidden. It is one of the most purest and natural events to occur. I had the honor of experiencing menstrual odor on multiple occasions with my girlfriend before she moved to be back with her mother in another state here in the U.S.

I find menstruation and menstrual odor to be a most erotic and interesting topic. Thank you again for MUM.

The Keeper, Instead, etc., on a college campus:

Hello and thanks for your great museum! [Hello yourself and thank you!]

I am delighted to see all the information about menstrual cups. I have used Instead [menstrual cup], my diaphragm, and The Keeper, successfully for some time now. I love The Keeper, and have had no problems with the leakage some of the other women have written about, and neither have many of my friends who also use it. I go to school at ***, where the Women's Center has offered them at a discount price. The company owner was generous enough to give the center this discount so we low-income students would not be without menstrual options, for which we are eternally grateful. Maybe she would be interested in extending the same discount to other women's groups and campus organizations. Because it is distributed on campus, and because menstruation is a constant topic of interest in *** (Women's Center Publication), a whole network of local women are all using The Keeper. I always hear positive things about it, and besides you can always return it if it doesn't work out, so what are you waiting for? It's worth the money, trust me.

In response to other women's e-mail on the subject:

Public Restrooms: First of all, you can just wipe it out in the stall with toilet paper, and stick it back in without rinsing if you are really in a jam. Second, if you are in some anonymous place where nobody knows you, why not just be brave and start shifting paradigms by rinsing it out in public restroom sinks! I thoroughly enjoy doing this even at school or work where I could run into someone I know, because I feel like I'm expanding the margins of what is possible. How many people allow this kind of profound religious experience to spice up their daily routines? Not enough. Do your daughters a favor and go for it!!!

Diaphragms: My nurse practitioner gives the go-ahead on using them as a menstrual cup. It doesn't work for me as well as The Keeper, but if you have a diaphragm already, why not try it?

And now a question: I didn't see menstrual sponges in your museum. Before The Keeper came to ***, lots of us were using sponges. The basic idea is that you use a small sea sponge like a tampon, and rinse it out every few hours. You should boil it before and after your cycle, and maybe sometime in between. I've never heard about any research on toxic shock with the sponge, and although I used it, that had me worried. I think the germ problem could be avoided by having a bunch of sponges and not wearing any one more than a day. Sponges get points for being really soft and comfortable, cheap, and natural. If you are having heavy flow, though, they can leak. I don't know what the history of sponges was before feminists started using them in the 70s. Does anybody else out there know? [I have some information from the 70s that I will put on this site eventually.] Also, what have our ancestors from around the world used? Come to think of it, what did they use for birth-control? [Those are really big questions with really big answers.]

Well, anyway, thanks for the great site. I look forward to telling the enthusiastic Keeper users at *** about it- they'll be interested in the history of the cup, I'm sure.

And more about using The Keeper menstrual cup:


Just found your site during an unhappily fruitless search for Instead [menstrual cup; see above]. Read the other comments about them, and thought I'd put in my $0.02.

I've had my Keeper for a little more than a year, and I'm not 100 percent happy with it. Its performance is inconsistent. It either works beautifully, or it's useless. During the good times, nothing could be easier. No leakage, no pain, no trouble. During the useless times, it's far worse than tampons or pads. It's hard to insert, hard to position. It leaks badly. If I leave it in too long (even when it isn't leaking or close to being filled) it smells bad. The stem catches and presses into tender parts of my anatomy, and it hurts.

I've finally decided that the state of my bowels makes the difference - if they're empty, smooth sailing. If not, look out. Unfortunately, I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, so I have little control over it. I was hoping that I could switch to Instead and solve my problem. Looks like I'm s.o.l. ["shit out of luck"]. Guess I'll keep using it until something better comes along.

I've gotten the public restroom thing down - it is possible. I have found, though, that if I make the extra effort to empty it at home before I go anywhere, I rarely have to do so in a public bathroom.

Here's my routine, with handy tips to make it easier:

(Handy tip #1) Buy one of those old-fashioned collapsible drinking cups. Fill it with water and take it in with you. Take four paper towels - two wet, two dry.

(Handy tip #2) Choose the handicapped stall - it's probably bigger, the one usually farthest from the door, and typically the least frequently used. Use a dry towel as your "staging area." Remove The Keeper and empty it. Use the cup of water to dip-rinse. Use a wet one to finish cleaning if necessary. Reinsert The Keeper. Use the remaining paper towels to clean and dry your hands. Wash up at sink if necessary.

(Handy tip #3) If you pick your restroom right, you can be there when no one else is.

(Handy tip #4) Be Bold. Take your Keeper to the sink and rinse it there. I've done it many times, and never had a problem. Does take some brass, though, to do it the first time.

My friend got one at the same time I did. She had a lot of trouble with leakage. The company decided "her" problem was that she needed the larger size even though she has never had a baby. Switching sizes took care of her leakage, and she's quite happy with it. Makes me wonder if I could use a (nonexistent) smaller size.

And here's the location of the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association (see the next item below):

I was looking through MUM and saw the info you posted about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I thought you might like to know that there is a national support group for PCOS called the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association (PCOSA), and if you'd like to link to our site, the URL is: .



Do You Have Irregular Menses?

If so, you may have polycystic ovary syndrome [and here's a support association for it].

Jane Newman, Clinical Research Coordinator at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard University School of Medicine, asked me to tell you that

Irregular menses identify women at high risk for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which exists in 6-10% of women of reproductive age. PCOS is a major cause of infertility and is linked to diabetes.

Learn more about current research on PCOS at Brigham and Women's Hospital, the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State University - or contact Jane Newman.

If you have fewer than six periods a year, you may be eligible to participate in the study!

See more medical and scientific information about menstruation.

It's Too Late to Call Your Congressman About the Proposed Tampon Safety and Research Act! Congress Had More Important ;-) Things To Do! Here's How and Why for Next Time.

New this week: "If Men Could Menstruate," by Gloria Steinem - menstrual humor

PREVIOUS NEWS | first page | newest news | contact the museum | menstrual products safety | FAQ | DIRECTORY OF ALL TOPICS

Take a short tour of MUM! (and on Web video!) - FAQ - Future of this museum - Tampon Safety Act - Contact the actual museum - Board of Directors - Norwegian menstruation exhibit - The media and the MUM - Menstrual odor - Prof. Mack C. Padd: Fat Cat - The science and medicine of menstruation - Early tampons - Books about menstruation - Menstrual cups: history, comments - Religion and menstruation: A discussion - Safety of menstrual products (asbestos, dioxin, toxic shock syndrome, viscose rayon) - A Note from Germany/Neues aus Deutschland und Europa - Letters - Links

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