New this week:
Would you stop menstruating if you
could? E-mail answers from you
- Ad for Pursettes
tampon ('Teen magazine, April 1959, U.S.A.) - humor
Celebrate the First Annual Menstrual
Monday! See below.
Last weekend I enjoyed giving a talk
Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, New York, about the future
of this museum and of menstruation
as part of a conference called The Unholy
Sex, Sexuality and Gender for the 21st Century.
It was April Fools' Day and the
or so students (three were males) - about average for "workshop"
attendance, I think - in the lecture room eyed
warily, suspecting a prank. Oh, sure, "Museum of
And run by a man? Get the usher!
In fact, if I read the no-show of hands to my question
one had even heard of the museum prior to the conference. Only one
had read or even heard of the New Yorker
article about John Rock and stopping menstruation and no one had
book Is Menstruation Obsolete? (excerpts).
Is Vassar a menstrual backwater??
But how come I know so much? Eh?
I only had an hour to explain myself, and I got good questions
menstrual cups (about a third had heard of The
cup) and where to find information about the cultural history of
Just as with the visitors in the actual museum, the students
seemed to relax
after a while.
Talking a mile a minute, I tried to squeeze six years of MUM
short hour conducted on Vassar time, which someone explained to me
minutes behind the rest of the world. This confirms my experience
women (and my brother), Vassar having been a school for women for
My intention was to let the participants fill out questionnaires
if they would stop menstruating if they could (see New this week,
but I rattled on to the end, and am relying on them to send their
Thanks very much to the cheerful people who created the
I especially enjoyed the company of my truly international
escort, Mary Chan, and remember the tasty veggie lunch
the café) served up.
Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger
K. Kellogg Supported Mandatory Sterilization of the "Unfit"
That's what the leading German news magazine Der Spiegel
its 27 March edition (issue #13 for 2000) in a one-page article
about the eugenics sterilization laws in
the United States adopted by 30
states, a program that started in
Indiana, in 1907. I coincidentally put excerpts
a eugenics text, verbal and pictorial, on this site at the
of March. (It doesn't surprise me that at least one member of the
family, of breakfast-cereal fame, supported sterilization; read
from Dr. J. H. Kellogg's magnum opus).
In 1936, the University of Heidelberg, in Germany, awarded
biologist Harry Laughlin, the
creator of Virginia's
eugenics laws, an honorary doctorate, a thank-you from Hitler,
who used Virginia's laws as the model for his own ("Gesetz zur
erbkranken Nachwuchses"). Laughlin would
"preferred to immediately castrate the most worthless tenth of
population," the magazine quoted
saying (in my translation from German). Der Spiegel said one
the worthless was there because she had masturbated, a pet
irritant of Dr.
Some of America's own universities, Harvard, Yale and Columbia
them, wrote studies about the threat of the "Untermenschen"
- "subhumans," the Nazi-era word
used by Der Spiegel.
Until 1979 (which is when Virginia
stickers say "Virginia is for lovers" - abandoned the laws), from
60,000 to 100,000 Americans were sterilized
their will, for epilepsy, poverty, mental retardation,
and other "afflictions."
One of the points of the article is that among the "unfit"
were very fit people who happened to belong to large families that
supporting them. The Spiegel article begins with the state of
seven of the nine children of one such family into an insane
then sterilizing them when they became 18, one right after the
boy, released four years after his sterilization, suffered a
wound as a soldier in Korea, then became a farmer. Michigan
his claim for damages for his institutionalization and
he had waited too long to sue.
The strange thing, of course, is that while America fought
too was neutralizing many of its unwanted citizens and forcing
Americans to behave according to rules reminiscent of German
-gypsy and -homosexual and . . .) laws.
What we are doing today that we will regret tomorrow?
Letters to Your MUM
What did women use for menstruation in American colonial times?
Good Morning, Mr. Finley,
I an 18th-century reenactor and I am frequently asked by the
people who visit our camp how women dealt with their period in
our time period which is the mid 1700's. I am hoping you can
help me give the people a correct answer. I have read that they
tied on linen rags which makes sense to me [or other kinds of
cloth]. What did they use to protect their clothing. It has been
suggested that their periods weren't heavy as ours are today
because of the lack of a balanced diet. Also did the fact that
they were much more physical then we are did that effect the
amount of flow?
I would really like to be able these questions correctly.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this.
[First, read a general discussion.
Women in colonial times, and before, often had many children -
many died; reduction in infant mortality in our century greatly
contributed to the statistical lengthening of life we North
Americans and Europeans enjoy - and sometimes breast fed the
survivors for years, stopping menstruation. Women matured much
later then and usually died earlier, much more often during or
right after childbirth than today. (So much for the good old
days.) All these factors, plus possibly poor nutrition and more
sickness, meant that most colonial women menstruated much less
than the 350-400 or so periods of today. And it's possible women
became pregnant before having menstruated - yup, it's possible!
So menstruation could have been an unusual event, maybe giving
people the impression that is was a bad sign: the woman was
bleeding - in any other case a sign that something was wrong -
as punishment for not doing her duty, having kids!
[Read about this and much more in the thought-provoking Is
Menstruation Obsolete? Here are some excerpts.]
I'm forwarding a copy of an e-mail [below] I sent to UltraFem,
praising the Instead menstrual cup [Web site], since your site
was where I heard about it. I love the product, and pray it will
be around as long as women are menstruating.
I was finally able to locate and try out your product; in
fact, I've been using it now for three days, and I think it's
WONDERFUL! I was a tampon-and-pad user (alternating during light
to medium flow days, using both on heavy flow days) but I'll
never be again! This product allows me to put it in and forget
about it, only having to change it twice a day (I can wear it
the full 12 hours, even on heavy flow days). I'm not having the
I always complained of that with tampons, and I'm not having
to clean up the overflow mess from a pad that I seemed to always
encounter. I was also very conscious with pads and tampons about
the smell, and I can't even tell I'm on my period with Instead.
I'm not currently involved with anyone, but when I am again,
I'll know that I don't have to forego sex just because I'm on my
period. The freedom is unimaginable! And not having to worry
about increased risk of TSS makes it even more appealing. I
could go on and on, but suffice it to say I'll never go back to
pads and tampons, and when my daughter begins menstruating, I'll
pass along this advice to her as well.
It took me a couple of times changing the cup out to get the
hang of it, and it was a bit messy, but as your literature
promised, it's just a matter of learning how. After a few more
days of use, I'm certain I'll even feel comfortable changing one
out in a public restroom if needs be. I was even able to sleep
without a pad on, which was absolutely fabulous! I wore a thin
pad the first two days, because I was worried about leakage, but
I had absolutely NONE! I was skeptical, but your product far,
far exceeded my expectations.
Please, PLEASE, tell me if this product is ever in danger of
no longer being available, because I'll want to spend a month's
salary to lay in a supply to last me a long time.
Database Design Specialist
[writers' names and addresses normally don't appear unless
they want them to]
My theoretical television partner, MUM board member Miki
Walsh, urges you to send back those tampons - no, BEFORE you use
It was pretty exciting! ["It" was the anti-tampon conference
last weekend in Virginia; I went to Vassar.] I hope to write a
big thing about it soon, when I'm not so frantic! [Miki works in
There is a big anti-tampon campaign
going on. There is an anti-tampon mailing list, etc. AND there
is a nationwide send-back of tampons happening on 22 April! YOU
should post about it on the MUM page and try to see if we can
get more people to mail tampons back to the company!
[Tap dancer and good-sport Miki and I are poised on the brink
of television fame. Read more! Read
also about tampon safety.]
A Frenchman studying for a doctorate writes about menstruation
in recent movies and literature:
I've just discovered your Web site devoted to menstruation and
find it immensely comprehensive. [Thanks, but you haven't seen
I am a Young Research Fellow at the Universite de
Paris-X-Nanterre and am preparing a Ph.D. in English literature.
I specialize in post-colonial literature, and my topic is
"Duality in Nuruddin Farah's novels".
Nuruddin Farah is a Somalian
English-speaking novelist. He was awarded the Neustadt
International Prize two years ago.
Most of his novels deal, directly or indirectly, with the
issue of menstruation. In Sardines,
an eight-year old girl is described as she plays with a tampon
she has dressed as a doll. In Maps,
the main (male) protagonist's foster-mother's "seasons" are
given a complex treatment. At some point, the male protagonist
is convinced he has menstruated too. (This is a very difficult
passage. Actually, I intend to analyze this in a paper for a
conference to be held in Paris next November).
In Secrets, his last novel to
date, the main male protagonist, Kalaman, remembers his
childhood infatuation with a girl named Sholoongo. One of their
intimate rites was that he drank her menstrual blood. In the
context of Somalian society, all this rings quite transgressive,
as you can imagine.
Well, this is just a short survey of what can be (briefly)
said about Farah's treatment of women's periods and menstrual
blood. If you're interested, I could send you (in a few weeks)
excerpts from the novels as well as comments of my own.
Hope I'm not being boring.
Congratulations on your Web site. [Thanks!]
Then another e-mail arrived:
Your site IS really impressive, and I am so glad the Internet
makes such a fantastic collection of data available.
Now, come to think of it (because of the pages devoted to cinema), there is a very famous French
film director called Arnaud Desplechin
who is fascinated with menstruation. I suggest you check on his
first movie (La Vie des Morts) but
also on his latest (Comment je me suis
disputé . . .).
In the latter, one of the female characters is convinced
throughout the movie that she is pregnant. One of the most
impressive scenes is when she showers and finds out that her
period has come at last. The triple flux (shower water - tears -
menstrual blood) is depicted in a rather literal (or, at least,
Let me know if I can help.
Surely you're joking!
I was happy to see your site (as my search continues . . . .)
and also glad to see your even-handed approach
to the answers about why we don't have much information about
ancient or medieval practices in regards to, well, you know: (wo)menses. [That's pretty good!]
I have a question that may be unanswerable then, but I have to
ask it because I need to write a joke
(for a very cheap show).
Is it POSSIBLE that a woman in Europe
(even more specifically a woman from southern France en route
to Jerusalem in 1147) ever used sphagnum as a form of tampon,
pad or something? It's just that I like my facts
straight on these things, (not that anyone's ever checking these
things but . . . .).
Thanks. Good luck with the research.
[Yes! Sphagnum moss forms on the top of bogs and people have
used it for protecting plants and covering wounds for eons.
Well, the predecessor of Kotex started out as a bandage for American soldiers in
the First World War, and, according to the Kotex folks, nurses
used it for absorbing their menstrual blood. So I'd say women in
1147 could have used it if they had had a bog handy. I suspect
women have used anything they could find that could absorb
Hoping you can help.
I am currently researching menstruation for the purpose of
writing a book, as I have found that I no
longer need any sanitary products whatsoever; I can control my
flow and release as you would urinate, when the need arises.
It appears that I am unique in this ability and I want to know
of any history or know where women control their flow as you
would any other bodily function.
I am keen to teach others what I have learnt but need more
information on menstruation generally. Thanks for your time and
look forward to hearing from you.
[The mail came from an Australian - who would have guessed? -
male sender. This menstrual magic makes one think again about
where it came from: down under.]
From Ireland to Washington to almost my house
I actually heard about you museum in
Ireland, they were reviewing it on a very up-beat radio show
[probably on Irish
National Radio, which interviewed me
about the same time Howard Stern did]. This was almost three years ago and now
that I actually live in the vicinity it is with regret that
you are closed.
I personally think if you had a
different location more people would visit and it would feel
more open. I guess it's a cultural thing that people are
afraid of the unknown and especially where there are low
traffic areas, i.e., your house. I'm afraid we are all a bit
like sheep in that respect - following the crowd in comfort.
[Especially when it's a museum of menstruation in the basement
of a guy's house!]
Coming from a tea/coffee culture I think
you are wise to have a resting spot where people can reflect
and discuss there own past experiences with menstruation.
[Read more about the future museum.]
I wish you well in your pursuit of
knowledge. [Many thanks!]
First Annual Menstrual Monday!
before Mother's Day, because menstruation comes before
(and usually long after it, too). This year's Menstrual Monday
May 8, 2000. If you live in a country
doesn't celebrate Mother's Day as in the United States, pick a day
seems appropriate and convenient for a "Menstrual Monday"!
Where: In your backyard at
in the cafeteria at lunch; after work; at your friend's house; in
in your dorm room - wherever is convenient and appropriate!
Why: To create a sense of
and fun around menstruation; to encourage women to be proactive in
menstrual and reproduction-related health issues; to encourage
of menstruation culturally, in film, print, music, and other
to enhance honesty about menstruation in our relationships.
How: Wear a red article of
put a red tablecloth on the table at dinner; talk to an older or
relative about her menstrual experiences; create some art or do
about menstruation, and share with friends; share information
endometriosis, or self-breast examinations; create a ritual
candles and red tulips. In short: Whatever seems convenient and
Free Starter Kit!
Please feel free to download the above
make flyers or post on your own Web site, to e-mail
a friend, and so on. For more
or to receive a FREE Menstrual Monday
kit" - please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
or write, with your address:
4881 Packard #A2
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48108
Is this the new millennium or even
You can get the correct information
if you go to these pages published by the U S Naval
A comprehensive site from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich
will put right any doubts:
Help Wanted: This Museum Needs a
Public Official For Its Board of Directors
Your MUM is doing the paper work necessary to become eligible to
support from foundations as a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. To
this status, it helps to have a American public official - an
appointed official of the government, federal, state or local - on
its board of directors.
What public official out
will support a museum for the worldwide
women's health and menstruation?
Eventually I would also like to entice people experienced in the
finances and fund raising to the board.
Do You Have Irregular Menses?
If so, you may have polycystic ovary
[and here's a support association for it].
Jane Newman, Clinical Research Coordinator at Brigham
and Women's Hospital, Harvard University School of Medicine,
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
Hospital, the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State
- or contact Jane
If you have fewer than six
periods a year, you may be eligible
in the study!
New this week:
Would you stop menstruating if you
could? E-mail answers from you
- Ad for Pursettes
tampon ('Teen magazine, April 1959, U.S.A.) - humor
© 2000 Harry Finley. It is
to reproduce or distribute work on this Web site in any manner
without written permission of the author. Please report