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The Life and Mind of DamnBlackHeart
This is to help me stay actively writing. So expect to see rants, tips on writing, thoughts on subjects, me complaining of boredom, reviews, anime, movies, video games, conventions, tv shows and whatever life throws at me.
What Did Women Use Before Pads/Tampons?
There’s very little documentation about women’s periods in ancient history, probably due to the fact that most of the scribes were men who chose not to record menstruation. What we do know is that women in ancient times had fewer periods than they do now, due to several reasons such as, malnourishment from a poor diet while also working very hard, they were either pregnant or breastfeeding for much of their lives and menopause began sooner in earlier eras — as in their late thirties. However, there’s little evidence surrounding how ancient women handled their bleeding.

In many parts of the ancient world, menstruating women were often considered holy and mystical, at other times seen cursed and untouchable. For example, in biblical times, ancient Hebrews upheld laws of Niddah, in which menstruating women went into seclusion and had to be separated from the rest of society for seven “clean” days.

No one knows for sure what women used when they had their period in ancient times. Historians do their best to make educated guesses base on what they’ve learned about the time period and from the few hints or indirect hints in ancient text. So far, in Ancient Egypt they believed that it had a healing effect, which is why menstrual blood was incorporated into spell casting and medical treatments (only used for women, though).

In a “Wisdom Text” there’s one more indirect hint about menstrual hygiene. The text describes the high social status of a scribe and gives some examples of “negative” careers like that of a laundry worker, who even has to wash the “loincloth of a menstruating woman,” which could easily be a pad with straps that tie around the body like a belt or something similar. This story also implies that menstrual blood was impure and was something a respectable man didn’t touch.

There are other hints that Ancient Egyptian women might’ve used a pad, made from a compress with a sponge on top. Or even throw-away tampons made of softened papyrus, or other grasses. They were ‘softened’ by soaking it in the Nile, which was also the place where the previous tampons were dumped with the rest of the raw sewage. Poorer groups might’ve even used cheap linen, but during the Roman era cotton probably took the place of these materials.

In Ancient Roman, a philosopher called Pliny the Elder thought women acquire the magical ability to stop hailstorms, whirlwinds, or halt lightning during their monthly periods. That they supposedly had both harming and healing effects on the environment and objects. Such as dulling the edge of a sword or dim mirrors just by looking at them. Or they’re able to save crops from insects if they were to stroll nude through the field.

It was basically viewed as something natural and it was actually concerning when women didn’t bleed heavily or regularly. Which is why there were remedies especially created to help “bring out the blood.” This is because they also had the belief that if it doesn’t come out, women would become ill, as the blood could rot or could go somewhere in the body and put pressure on vital organs.

As for what they do or used when they bleed, historians don’t really know. The biggest myth is that the Greek women would wrap wool around a bit of wood and inserted that. There’s no evidence from the ancient world about this, but the myth seem to have originate from an tampon-marketing website. Historians guessed, that if their families could afford it, women would stay home during that time. They most likely just bled on their clothes or used woven cotton cloth (they certainly had the technology to weave cotton) to place between their legs and washed and dried for reuse.

In Ancient Japan, menstruating women were seen as impure during their menstruation. While on their period, they were forbidden from entering shrines and temples. They were also forbidden from climbing certain “sacred” mountains due to their “impurity.” Menstruating women had to seclude themselves in a special hut built in a shady grove of Zelkova trees. They were also compelled to have ceremonies of ritual purification.

Japanese women would make menstrual pads from cloth of fibers such as flax, vine, wisteria, or mulberry paper. Flax was often used by commoners and fashioned as a loincloth. As for the wealthy, they used a crepe-type of wrapper called “Fukusa”, which was made from silk and paper. However, during the Edo era there was a hygiene band similar to a loincloth that was invented. Coarse toilet paper known as “Asakusa paper” was applied inside of it. When cotton became more available in the country many switched over to it. They realized it was very absorbent when used for bandages during the time of the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War.

In Ancient China, woman used to make period pads by putting sand in a cloth and wrapping it tightly. Once the pad got completely wet, they would throw away the sand, but kept the cloth which they wash and reuse for the next month. This method was also done with dried grass instead of sand, depending on where the women lived and what materials were available in their immediate environment. It’s not confirmed but they may have also used Panda pelts as a sort of sanitary napkin.

Those in the Middle East believed that menstruating women were impure and anything they touched while on their period became unclean. In some religious culture women had to live apart from the family in a separate hut or enclosure during their period. They were also prohibited from doing certain activities or going to places (such as they couldn’t enter any mosque, they couldn’t pray, couldn’t take a bath, nor could they make their own food or eat). They would wear special clothes at the time of menstruation and rely on reusable cloth pads (made from bamboo, wool, cotton, or hemp) which they wash and use again. Some still do this, but slowly the religious taboos on menstruation are being cast away.

As for women who lived in colder climates, they depended on animal fur during those days. Since colder regions are cursed with snow and ice, there were limited commodities available for survival. Thus, women used fur of the animals which they hunted to prevent mensuration blood and fluids from staining their clothes.

The Victorians viewed menstruation as an illness, and it was in fact, taboo to have any discussion or mention that women bled at all. Women that were privileged were usually confined to their private quarters during their periods. While others would go about their business as usual. Victorian women underwear was actually crotchless bloomers. This was to allow women to use the toilet more easily, because dresses were so heavy and comprised of several layers, which kept everything hidden. Unfortunately, this was one of the reasons periods were a nightmare to deal with. Most historians believed that women would bleed freely into their undergarments.

However, Charles Delucena Meigs, an obstetrician advised women to use the T-bandage for the bleeding. It consisted of a napkin, called the guard that was folded like a cravat, which pressed against the genitalia. The ends were strings that would tied around the body and held above the hips. Either way, women would also put on a thicker petticoat as a precaution if they bleed through their clothing. When they were experiencing a heavy flow, they would use a cloth plug (made of linen rag, cotton, or sponge). They would roll the cloth up, and tied the string in the middle of it so that it would be easier to pull it out, just like a tampon.

In the Middle Ages, they believed that if a man’s p***s touched menstrual blood, it would burn up, and any child conceived during menstruation would be possessed by the devil, deformed, or red-haired. However, historians don’t have much to work with other than speculation. They believed that medieval women would used rags (hence the term “on the rag”) or other absorbent materials during heavy periods. Otherwise, many women would just freely bleed into their clothes. There is now some archaeological evidence to show us that some women may have worn panty-like garments to hold the menstrual pad. Women could also wrap cotton (or linen if it was available or if they could afford it) fabric around a twig and use it as a proto-tampon.

At this time, there was a lot of religious shame surrounding periods, so women went to insane lengths to hide their cycle from the public. They would carry little pouches of sweet-smelling herbs around their neck or waist to neutralize the smell of blood, and they believed that burning a toad and wearing the ashes in a pouch around your waist would ease cramps and heavy flow.

In many Native American tribes, in particular the Ojibwe women traditionally secluded themselves in a moon lodge during menstruation. In the wigwam, the women would settled over grass mats and bled into them. They spent their time telling stories to other menstruating women, weaving new grass mats, sewing clothing, and resting. They slept separated from their husbands and infants. They refrained from sex, food preparation, and ceremony. They were also very careful not to step over young children, touch babies, men or communal food. Female friends and relatives ensured the menstruating woman was safe and fed, and they helped care for her family in her absence.

If cedar boughs were missing from her front door, it was a sign that she had begun her period and that she retreated to the moon lodge. It also alerted other women to come visit her, bring her food, and to check up on her. To an outsider, most are likely to make assumptions that the Ojibwe people viewed menstruating women as evil or unclean because of their practice. But for Ojibwe women, their moon is healthy and natural. There was no reason to be ashamed of it. They were given time to rest, to regenerate and recognition for their roles as life givers.

As for pioneer women, there’s hardly a single reference to menstruation in the diaries, letters or inventories of wagon-trains. Except there was one source–a diary, in which the writer mentioned how she had nothing to absorb menstrual discharge other than her underwear. She pointed it out to another woman that hers were dark, not white, and advised her to use the same dark colors for her underwear too.

In 18th century America, women held their pads up with suspenders which were worn under the clothes. The napkin was also reusable.

Sometime in the late 19th century Europe, concern grew around the notion of whether bleeding into one’s clothes was healthy and sanitary. One German doctor wrote in the book Health in the House: “It is completely disgusting to bleed into your chemise, and wearing that same chemise for four to eight days can cause infections.”

That was because women living in rural areas in Europe often didn’t use any kind of menstrual protection. They would just bleed on their clothes or even drip blood along the floor as they went about their days. In this era, menstrual protection was somewhat of a luxury. Lower class women on farms couldn’t really afford extra materials to make sanitary pads.

The very first disposable pads was thought up by nurses, looking for new methods to stop excessive bleeding, particularly on the battlefield. The first pads were made from wood pulp bandages by nurses in France. It was very absorbent, and cheap enough to throw away afterwards. Commercial manufacturers borrowed this idea, and the first disposable pads were available for purchase as early as 1888 – called the Southball pad. In America, Johnson & Johnson developed their own version in 1896 called Lister’s Towel: Sanitary Towel’s for Ladies.

The problem was, women did not feel comfortable asking for this product, so in the early 1920s, the name was changed to Nupak. It was a name that did not describe the product.

Even though sanitary pads were available during this time, they were much too expensive for most women, and they continued using more traditional methods. When they could afford it, women were allowed to place money in a box so that they would not have to speak to the clerk, and take a box of Kotex pads from the counter themselves. It took several years for disposable menstrual pads to become commonplace.

The earliest disposable pads were generally in the form of a cotton wool or similar fibrous rectangle covered with an absorbent liner. The liner ends extended out from the front and back so as to fit through loops in a special girdle or belt worn beneath undergarments. This design was notorious for slipping either forward or back of the intended position.

Around the 1970s an adhesive strip was placed on the bottom of the pad for attachment to the saddle of the panties, and this became a favored method with women. The belted sanitary napkin was quickly phased out once self-adhesive pads were in the market.


DamnBlackHeart
Community Member
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