And, of course, the first Tampax AND - special
for you! - the American fax tampon,
from the early 1930s, which also came in bags.
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).
Menstruation and giving money to PBS
Last spring , as a classical
music fan, I pledged support to my
local public broadcasting radio
station. And I did it in the name of
the Museum of Menstruation.
The man taking my call said, "Museum
of ...?", waiting for me to repeat the
phrase. This happens often.
I said he had heard me correctly. "The
word is menstruation."
"Andrew, you're blushing!" said a
woman close to the man on the phone.
The drive volunteer confirmed this to
We talked a minute about the museum
and its contents and he wished me
luck, which was nice of him. He even
said he would visit some time, which I
doubt. Probably 95% of the museum's
visitors are intelligent, liberal
women, and I get the impression most
men come as bodyguards. They look as
if they feel out of place.
Among his questions was - it always
comes around to this - Why open a
museum devoted to menstruation?
It's been suggested that it's my
dating service. Any visitor to the
museum would laugh at that.
Or that I hate women. Or that I'm a
The answer is because it's not there,
to twist around the reply of mountain
climbers. Like mountains, menstruation
makes many people uneasy. Often you
get over both by facing them -
climbing mountains, learning about
Menstruation didn't become a mountain
for me until I started collecting page
layouts and ads for ideas as the art
director for a small magazine in
Germany 15 years ago (I'm an artist).
Ripping my way through hundreds of
magazines from England to Japan, I
noticed that ads for tampons and pads
differed tremendously from one country
to the next. This piqued me - I
majored in pique and resolution,
philosophy, at Johns Hopkins, where
rooming next door to pre-med students
obviously rubbed off - and when I
returned to the Pentagon - yes, I work
for the feds - after 13 years in
Europe I offered the use of my ads to
Glamour, Ms., and similar
At the same time I called up the Kotex
and Tampax public affairs people,
asking them if they had historical
displays of their products, or if they
knew of a museum of menstruation
anywhere. I was getting interested in
the whole culture of menstruation and
the marketing of its products.
Pause. "Museum of ...?" But unlike the
PBS volunteer they didn't seem
embarrassed, just, well, miffed
somehow. Had I said something wrong?
So, of course, I had to open my own.
It's been a roller coaster experience,
which I will write about sometime.
The museum may be unique, but
temporary displays of menstrual
history are not - at least in Europe.
Besides the current one in a town
museum in Norway, the city
museum of Frankfurt, Germany,
incorporated a selection of German
menstrual products history into an
exhibition of the history of underwear
in the late 1980's. Yes, I said city
and town museums. Imagine that in the
But no matter where the museum is, it
can change lives. It has changed mine.
And the changes are for the better.
© 1998 Harry Finley. It is illegal to
reproduce or distribute any of the work on this
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