Menstruation

Weird
Jo here.There was a flurry of questions and answers, so I kept my answer to my regular day, especially as it turned into an essay. As for the picture, it wouldn’t be right to bring an innocent male CBK into this, so I found this Victorian picture. No, that’s not me, even in my wild youth! But she does look as if she’s trying to cope with the worst kind of PMS, doesn’t she?

“Why don’t women in historicals get PMS and chew holes in everyone around them?”

And excellent question, with many angles.

My first response is that mine rarely do because I rarely did. I’m one of those annoying women who had very little problem with menstruation other than the general hassle of it. No particular mood changes, no cramps. We write what we know. However, Jancy in The Rogue’s Return did get grouchy. I thought I’d include a bit of the scene because it illustrates a couple of points.

One is, if a couple are living in close quarters and menstruation happens, he’s probably going to know. If the book covers more than three and a bit of such living, it’s going to happen, and the reader needs to know. It is part of the intimacy of marriage anyway and shows character is how it’s dealt with.

In this case, it works with a significant theme of the book — the difference in their stations. Jancy comes from a simple background and is unused to servants. Simon, though living simply at the moment and not extravagnt by nature, is an aristocrat, used to money not being a consideration. Her idea of decent thrift is his idea of ridiculous penny-pinching. He complains later that she pinches a penny where a St. Bride would pinch a pound.

Jancy and Simon are on a small boat, traveling down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal. When she gets up after the first night, she finds a spot of blood on her nightdress.

At least her valise was here, so she had a fresh nightgown, but how was she to wash the other? She couldn’t, absolutely couldn’t, let Treadwell do it, even if a gentleman’s valet was supposed to do such things.

Dressed but without her drawers, she emerged and unlocked her chest. She dug around until she found her cloths and the sling that kept them in place, and then stood to retreat behind the sheet again. Simon was looking at her. He knew.

“There’s a blood spot on the sheet,” he said. “I’m sorry if you’d rather not talk about it, but I think in this situation it would be rather difficult. No child, then.”

A touch of sadness in his voice made her ask, “Do you mind?”

“No, of course not. As you said, you don’t want to be with child during an ocean voyage. But our children will be welcome when they come. Will you have a hard time of it?”

“No, but… Never mind.”

“What is it?” he asked, so prosaically that she told him.

“I can’t imagine how to discreetly wash my nightgown and cloths. And Treadwell will see the sheet.”

“I can’t do anything about that, but as for your nightgown and cloths, throw them away.”

“That would be a sinful waste!”

“Throw them away. The cloths, at least. If necessary, buy more in Kingston or Montreal.”

“But….”

“I can, I believe, afford rags for my wife. I’m not rich, but I’m not a pauper.”

“You don’t know the meaning of rich and poor. You have no idea!”

“Oh, don’t I? Hal’s laying out most of the money for this journey.”

She opened her mouth to score a point, but he quickly added, “But I’m not so poor that my wife needs to launder her monthly rags.”

“And your wife’s not so foolish that she’ll throw money away!”

They glared at each other, but then Simon asked, “What are we arguing about?”

She straightened. “I’m sorry. I get short-tempered at this time.”

It would be interesting to know how many women regularly have PMS today, and even more interesting to know how common it was in the past. Some people suggest that modern diet and pollution make it more common by interfering with natural hormones. (Refer back in part to my comment to Loretta’s post about body hair.)

For example, it is well established that women living in close contact for long periods tend to synchronize their periods. A powerful example of the effects of body chemicals, though what the point of it is, I don’t know. Women in the past mostly lived in close contact with other women. If this synchrony does have a healthy purpose, perhaps they had less PMS.

On a tangent, it is also well established that women with irregular ovulation and menstruation can often be helped by sniffing male sweat. If they’re married and are having this problem, it seems their husband’s sweat just doesn’t do it for them. There’s also stuff about women and men being partly attracted to people because of their sweat, but that’s getting back to the body odor thing again.

Back to writing, if the couple are sexually intimate, especially if they are living together, and the story carries on for more than a couple of weeks, menstruation is bound to become an issue. Why try to avoid it when it throws interesting light on the characters and their relationship? How do the man and the woman deal with this aspect of intimacy for the first time? Does she try to hide it? How does she convey to him that it’s happening, and that sex isn’t possible. That’s assuming that she sees it that way, but she probably does. How does he react to it?

I find it distracting if the author doesn’t deal with this when necessary.

Final note on the practicalities. Details about how women dealt with menstruation are scanty, but we know a bit. Women with leisure did sometimes take to their beds for a few days. It might have been because they were suffering from cramps and PMS, but it might have simply been an excuse to keep to themselves and avoid hassle.

Pads were cloths made into pads, and sometimes they were actually sewn into pads, but I suspect that’s rare because it would make them harder to launder. Yes, they had to be washed and dried, another practicality I’ve dealt with in my books. They were generally called rags, but could well be neatly made and hemmed like a handkerchief. The saying “on the rag” comes from that.

They held the pads on with a belt with a wide strap back to front, not too disimilar in principal to the old belts. In England we called the sanitary belts and sanitary napkins. I’m not sure what North Americans called them. I suspect that even when women didn’t normally wear underpants of any kind (up to and including the regency for some of them) they might have during menstruation for greater security. People have generally been practical.

And while I’m on the topic, I might as well put in my favourite public service nudge. Every menstruating woman should have her ferritin levels checked (that’s a blood test) at least every couple of years, but especially if she has heavy periods and any unexplained health problems. That will test the body’s stores of iron, and they can be low even if the amount of iron in the blood is normal. Low ferritin levels are associated with many problems, including general tiredness, mental confusion, depression, and panic attacks. Low normal ferritin levels are associated with poor mental performance and possibly with other problems. You want a reading at least in the 20s, but much higher is perfectly safe. The upper level of normal is over a 100,

Not incidentally, women in the past went to some effort to replenish their iron. Some stuck nails into an apple, then after a while, ate the apple. In Victorian times, at least, some visited abattoirs to drink blood. Liver was known to be good for women. Food like blood pudding, or black pudding as it is usually called in England, made sure the blood from slaughtering pigs didn’t go to waste. Being a good northern lass, I love black pudding.

Oh, and men shouldn’t take supplemental iron. They have no way of getting rid of it short of bloodletting. See, even that wasn’t always stupid as a health practice in the past.

Here’s to your health!

Jo

42 thoughts on “Menstruation”

  1. I second Teresa. What a wonderfully interesting post! I confess to a constant interest in how people dealt with the practicalities of day to day living when they didn’t have the advantages we do. I love all the historical posts on this site.
    And Jo, I remember the belts and napkins, and we called them the same thing in Kentucky, only sometimes we called them sanitary pads instead of napkins. I remember when you knew a woman was in that time of month because you could see the elastic belt cutting across her backside. Not the time to wear form-fitting fabrics or clothing. I was barely 10 when I started needing the whole apparatus, and it was particularly galling to wear them at that age. I blessed the day they invented stick-on pads. Probably TMI :D.
    And I love that passage from your book, Jo! How a man deals with that kind of thing does show a lot about him. I knew a man who attributed every mood shift or upset of his wife’s to PMS, even though that would mean she was in that state 24/7/365. It was a handy way for him to dismiss her concerns. To dismiss her generally, I always thought.

    Reply
  2. I second Teresa. What a wonderfully interesting post! I confess to a constant interest in how people dealt with the practicalities of day to day living when they didn’t have the advantages we do. I love all the historical posts on this site.
    And Jo, I remember the belts and napkins, and we called them the same thing in Kentucky, only sometimes we called them sanitary pads instead of napkins. I remember when you knew a woman was in that time of month because you could see the elastic belt cutting across her backside. Not the time to wear form-fitting fabrics or clothing. I was barely 10 when I started needing the whole apparatus, and it was particularly galling to wear them at that age. I blessed the day they invented stick-on pads. Probably TMI :D.
    And I love that passage from your book, Jo! How a man deals with that kind of thing does show a lot about him. I knew a man who attributed every mood shift or upset of his wife’s to PMS, even though that would mean she was in that state 24/7/365. It was a handy way for him to dismiss her concerns. To dismiss her generally, I always thought.

    Reply
  3. I second Teresa. What a wonderfully interesting post! I confess to a constant interest in how people dealt with the practicalities of day to day living when they didn’t have the advantages we do. I love all the historical posts on this site.
    And Jo, I remember the belts and napkins, and we called them the same thing in Kentucky, only sometimes we called them sanitary pads instead of napkins. I remember when you knew a woman was in that time of month because you could see the elastic belt cutting across her backside. Not the time to wear form-fitting fabrics or clothing. I was barely 10 when I started needing the whole apparatus, and it was particularly galling to wear them at that age. I blessed the day they invented stick-on pads. Probably TMI :D.
    And I love that passage from your book, Jo! How a man deals with that kind of thing does show a lot about him. I knew a man who attributed every mood shift or upset of his wife’s to PMS, even though that would mean she was in that state 24/7/365. It was a handy way for him to dismiss her concerns. To dismiss her generally, I always thought.

    Reply
  4. Hey Jo,
    Do you have any suggestions for places (books and such) to look for info on how women dealt with their periods historically?
    I get asked this question every time I give my underwear class, and I haven’t found any documentation pre-1850 (aside from biblical stuff that is notoriously badly translated and unreliable). Lots of supposition (rags, pessaries, wool rolls, seaweed, just bleeding onto the shift), but no documentation. *SIGH*
    I’ve found info ABOUT menstruation (like the great article by Patricia Crawford: Attitudes to Menstruation in Seventeenth-Century England), but nothing about how it was dealt with.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
  5. Hey Jo,
    Do you have any suggestions for places (books and such) to look for info on how women dealt with their periods historically?
    I get asked this question every time I give my underwear class, and I haven’t found any documentation pre-1850 (aside from biblical stuff that is notoriously badly translated and unreliable). Lots of supposition (rags, pessaries, wool rolls, seaweed, just bleeding onto the shift), but no documentation. *SIGH*
    I’ve found info ABOUT menstruation (like the great article by Patricia Crawford: Attitudes to Menstruation in Seventeenth-Century England), but nothing about how it was dealt with.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
  6. Hey Jo,
    Do you have any suggestions for places (books and such) to look for info on how women dealt with their periods historically?
    I get asked this question every time I give my underwear class, and I haven’t found any documentation pre-1850 (aside from biblical stuff that is notoriously badly translated and unreliable). Lots of supposition (rags, pessaries, wool rolls, seaweed, just bleeding onto the shift), but no documentation. *SIGH*
    I’ve found info ABOUT menstruation (like the great article by Patricia Crawford: Attitudes to Menstruation in Seventeenth-Century England), but nothing about how it was dealt with.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
  7. Tonda, as you say, hard info is scarce. I’ve put together my knowledge from bits and pieces, as well as using knowledge from my mother, including what she got from her mother, who was born in the mid 19th century. The phrase “on the rag” is pretty illustrative.
    I forgot to mention the Museum of Menstruation on line, which has lots of stuff, though still not all what we want to know.In a way, there’s too much of it and not well organized.
    http://www.mum.org/pastgerm.htm
    There are knitted pads from Norway illustrated there, but they’re very thin. I suspect they were used to hold rags rather than on their own.
    I’m sure I’ve seen mention of leather slings, and that would be sensible as they’d be less porous, but also less easy to clean.
    In the end, we gather what we can and put it into something that makes sense with human nature. I’m a very naughty researcher, I know, because I depend too much on my mind. Even when I take notes, which I do copiously, I don’t file them in any sensible way.
    I keep planning to reform, and as old age creeps up on me I fear I’ll have to. The brain alone can only do so much.
    Any and all extra info will be added to the grey cells.
    Jo

    Reply
  8. Tonda, as you say, hard info is scarce. I’ve put together my knowledge from bits and pieces, as well as using knowledge from my mother, including what she got from her mother, who was born in the mid 19th century. The phrase “on the rag” is pretty illustrative.
    I forgot to mention the Museum of Menstruation on line, which has lots of stuff, though still not all what we want to know.In a way, there’s too much of it and not well organized.
    http://www.mum.org/pastgerm.htm
    There are knitted pads from Norway illustrated there, but they’re very thin. I suspect they were used to hold rags rather than on their own.
    I’m sure I’ve seen mention of leather slings, and that would be sensible as they’d be less porous, but also less easy to clean.
    In the end, we gather what we can and put it into something that makes sense with human nature. I’m a very naughty researcher, I know, because I depend too much on my mind. Even when I take notes, which I do copiously, I don’t file them in any sensible way.
    I keep planning to reform, and as old age creeps up on me I fear I’ll have to. The brain alone can only do so much.
    Any and all extra info will be added to the grey cells.
    Jo

    Reply
  9. Tonda, as you say, hard info is scarce. I’ve put together my knowledge from bits and pieces, as well as using knowledge from my mother, including what she got from her mother, who was born in the mid 19th century. The phrase “on the rag” is pretty illustrative.
    I forgot to mention the Museum of Menstruation on line, which has lots of stuff, though still not all what we want to know.In a way, there’s too much of it and not well organized.
    http://www.mum.org/pastgerm.htm
    There are knitted pads from Norway illustrated there, but they’re very thin. I suspect they were used to hold rags rather than on their own.
    I’m sure I’ve seen mention of leather slings, and that would be sensible as they’d be less porous, but also less easy to clean.
    In the end, we gather what we can and put it into something that makes sense with human nature. I’m a very naughty researcher, I know, because I depend too much on my mind. Even when I take notes, which I do copiously, I don’t file them in any sensible way.
    I keep planning to reform, and as old age creeps up on me I fear I’ll have to. The brain alone can only do so much.
    Any and all extra info will be added to the grey cells.
    Jo

    Reply
  10. Thanks, Jo. I was hoping you’d come up with the holy grail of menstruation. My little academic/reenactor brain just won’t let go of the need for documentation. And I hate getting caught up in a lively argument in the middle of my workshop (some people have strong feelings about what they “believe” to be correct).
    There’s no way I’m buying the “they did nothing; just bled onto their clothes” argument (ick!; and unsupported by the bloodstain-free extant shifts), but I’ve never been able to find any solid information that predates the Victorians. I even got my friend on the international Barber Surgeon list to post there and see if any of the History of Medicine folks had a place for me to look and still came up empty-handed. Lots of info about how to treat heavy flows, but no info on what they did to abate the general mess of the problem. *GRUMBLE*

    Reply
  11. Thanks, Jo. I was hoping you’d come up with the holy grail of menstruation. My little academic/reenactor brain just won’t let go of the need for documentation. And I hate getting caught up in a lively argument in the middle of my workshop (some people have strong feelings about what they “believe” to be correct).
    There’s no way I’m buying the “they did nothing; just bled onto their clothes” argument (ick!; and unsupported by the bloodstain-free extant shifts), but I’ve never been able to find any solid information that predates the Victorians. I even got my friend on the international Barber Surgeon list to post there and see if any of the History of Medicine folks had a place for me to look and still came up empty-handed. Lots of info about how to treat heavy flows, but no info on what they did to abate the general mess of the problem. *GRUMBLE*

    Reply
  12. Thanks, Jo. I was hoping you’d come up with the holy grail of menstruation. My little academic/reenactor brain just won’t let go of the need for documentation. And I hate getting caught up in a lively argument in the middle of my workshop (some people have strong feelings about what they “believe” to be correct).
    There’s no way I’m buying the “they did nothing; just bled onto their clothes” argument (ick!; and unsupported by the bloodstain-free extant shifts), but I’ve never been able to find any solid information that predates the Victorians. I even got my friend on the international Barber Surgeon list to post there and see if any of the History of Medicine folks had a place for me to look and still came up empty-handed. Lots of info about how to treat heavy flows, but no info on what they did to abate the general mess of the problem. *GRUMBLE*

    Reply
  13. Since there were no stores advertising menstruation products as they do now, we have to assume that women did what they could with what they had, and they followed whatever they’d been taught by their mothers. This means that every woman would be different, depending on circumstance.
    If you’re out on a battlefield, surrounded by soldiers, with a doctor’s tent available, then rags and bandages would be available. After pins were invented, if underwear was available, pins might be used to hold the pads in place. If bandages and rags are scarce, then old linens, bedsheets, chemises, whatever a woman could get her hands on, would be torn and very carefully washed after each use. They could possibly be looped over ribbons or strings or fastened in whatever makeshift fashion she had been taught or thought up for herself.
    As a society today, we’re very spoiled and not accustomed to thinking for ourselves. This could be true of all aristocratic society at any time, anywhere. But women who had to survive on their own in more primitive eras had to be very creative thinkers. If anyone questions your theories, simply tell them you’re a woman and you’re a creative thinker and that’s how you would have done it.

    Reply
  14. Since there were no stores advertising menstruation products as they do now, we have to assume that women did what they could with what they had, and they followed whatever they’d been taught by their mothers. This means that every woman would be different, depending on circumstance.
    If you’re out on a battlefield, surrounded by soldiers, with a doctor’s tent available, then rags and bandages would be available. After pins were invented, if underwear was available, pins might be used to hold the pads in place. If bandages and rags are scarce, then old linens, bedsheets, chemises, whatever a woman could get her hands on, would be torn and very carefully washed after each use. They could possibly be looped over ribbons or strings or fastened in whatever makeshift fashion she had been taught or thought up for herself.
    As a society today, we’re very spoiled and not accustomed to thinking for ourselves. This could be true of all aristocratic society at any time, anywhere. But women who had to survive on their own in more primitive eras had to be very creative thinkers. If anyone questions your theories, simply tell them you’re a woman and you’re a creative thinker and that’s how you would have done it.

    Reply
  15. Since there were no stores advertising menstruation products as they do now, we have to assume that women did what they could with what they had, and they followed whatever they’d been taught by their mothers. This means that every woman would be different, depending on circumstance.
    If you’re out on a battlefield, surrounded by soldiers, with a doctor’s tent available, then rags and bandages would be available. After pins were invented, if underwear was available, pins might be used to hold the pads in place. If bandages and rags are scarce, then old linens, bedsheets, chemises, whatever a woman could get her hands on, would be torn and very carefully washed after each use. They could possibly be looped over ribbons or strings or fastened in whatever makeshift fashion she had been taught or thought up for herself.
    As a society today, we’re very spoiled and not accustomed to thinking for ourselves. This could be true of all aristocratic society at any time, anywhere. But women who had to survive on their own in more primitive eras had to be very creative thinkers. If anyone questions your theories, simply tell them you’re a woman and you’re a creative thinker and that’s how you would have done it.

    Reply
  16. Jo, we usually called the pads “sanitary napkins” or “Kotex” after the best-known brand.
    There is some interesting incidental information in Victoria Lincoln’s A PRIVATE DISGRACE: LIZZIE BORDEN BY DAYLIGHT. Lizzie’s explanation for a spot of blood on her undergarment and a bucket of bloody rags soaking in the cellar was her period. Also, the author has a fascinating theory about Lizzie’s alleged “peculiar spells” related to her period, which were apparently well known at the time among Fall River insiders.
    And one of the stories in this book is about a band of outlaws that makes the mistake of raiding a village of women warriors, all of whom are suffering from simultaneous PMS:
    http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/t0/t1196.jpg

    Reply
  17. Jo, we usually called the pads “sanitary napkins” or “Kotex” after the best-known brand.
    There is some interesting incidental information in Victoria Lincoln’s A PRIVATE DISGRACE: LIZZIE BORDEN BY DAYLIGHT. Lizzie’s explanation for a spot of blood on her undergarment and a bucket of bloody rags soaking in the cellar was her period. Also, the author has a fascinating theory about Lizzie’s alleged “peculiar spells” related to her period, which were apparently well known at the time among Fall River insiders.
    And one of the stories in this book is about a band of outlaws that makes the mistake of raiding a village of women warriors, all of whom are suffering from simultaneous PMS:
    http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/t0/t1196.jpg

    Reply
  18. Jo, we usually called the pads “sanitary napkins” or “Kotex” after the best-known brand.
    There is some interesting incidental information in Victoria Lincoln’s A PRIVATE DISGRACE: LIZZIE BORDEN BY DAYLIGHT. Lizzie’s explanation for a spot of blood on her undergarment and a bucket of bloody rags soaking in the cellar was her period. Also, the author has a fascinating theory about Lizzie’s alleged “peculiar spells” related to her period, which were apparently well known at the time among Fall River insiders.
    And one of the stories in this book is about a band of outlaws that makes the mistake of raiding a village of women warriors, all of whom are suffering from simultaneous PMS:
    http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/t0/t1196.jpg

    Reply
  19. Good point on things like the Lizzie Borden story, Tal. That’s the sort of evidence that pops up here and there.I think I’ve found things in travel journals, too, as it obviously becomes a problem when a woman is traveling.And in inventories of what’s needed on a journey.
    This sent me flipping through my books — always a time sink — and while I didn’t find anything relating to menstruation, I did find this on the often contested issue of whether there was ready made clothing available in the late 18th, early 19th centuries.
    This is from a dense scholarly book called SHOPS AND SHOPKEEPING IN EIGHTEENTH CENTURY ENGLAND, by Hoh-Cheung and Lorna H Mui, McGill Queen’s University Press, 1989, 0-7735-0620-9
    “A great variety of ready-made clothing was available in the eighteenth century.In addition to hats, cloaks, coats, gowns, breeches, riding habits,waistcoats,petticoats, and boys’ and girls’ clothing,some shops sold frocks ready-to-wear.” (I assume frocks are gentlemen’s frock coats and gowns are ladies’ dresses.)
    It cites an advertisement for “best and most fashionable ready made frocks, suits of fustian,Ticken, and Holland… blue and canvas frocks at reasonable prices.”
    Then it says that by the end of the century ready-made gowns were a regular stock in shops not serving the highest levels of society.
    This is a book I keep meaning to read from cover to cover, but it’s just not that sort of book. Whenever I dip into it, however, I am fascinated.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  20. Good point on things like the Lizzie Borden story, Tal. That’s the sort of evidence that pops up here and there.I think I’ve found things in travel journals, too, as it obviously becomes a problem when a woman is traveling.And in inventories of what’s needed on a journey.
    This sent me flipping through my books — always a time sink — and while I didn’t find anything relating to menstruation, I did find this on the often contested issue of whether there was ready made clothing available in the late 18th, early 19th centuries.
    This is from a dense scholarly book called SHOPS AND SHOPKEEPING IN EIGHTEENTH CENTURY ENGLAND, by Hoh-Cheung and Lorna H Mui, McGill Queen’s University Press, 1989, 0-7735-0620-9
    “A great variety of ready-made clothing was available in the eighteenth century.In addition to hats, cloaks, coats, gowns, breeches, riding habits,waistcoats,petticoats, and boys’ and girls’ clothing,some shops sold frocks ready-to-wear.” (I assume frocks are gentlemen’s frock coats and gowns are ladies’ dresses.)
    It cites an advertisement for “best and most fashionable ready made frocks, suits of fustian,Ticken, and Holland… blue and canvas frocks at reasonable prices.”
    Then it says that by the end of the century ready-made gowns were a regular stock in shops not serving the highest levels of society.
    This is a book I keep meaning to read from cover to cover, but it’s just not that sort of book. Whenever I dip into it, however, I am fascinated.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  21. Good point on things like the Lizzie Borden story, Tal. That’s the sort of evidence that pops up here and there.I think I’ve found things in travel journals, too, as it obviously becomes a problem when a woman is traveling.And in inventories of what’s needed on a journey.
    This sent me flipping through my books — always a time sink — and while I didn’t find anything relating to menstruation, I did find this on the often contested issue of whether there was ready made clothing available in the late 18th, early 19th centuries.
    This is from a dense scholarly book called SHOPS AND SHOPKEEPING IN EIGHTEENTH CENTURY ENGLAND, by Hoh-Cheung and Lorna H Mui, McGill Queen’s University Press, 1989, 0-7735-0620-9
    “A great variety of ready-made clothing was available in the eighteenth century.In addition to hats, cloaks, coats, gowns, breeches, riding habits,waistcoats,petticoats, and boys’ and girls’ clothing,some shops sold frocks ready-to-wear.” (I assume frocks are gentlemen’s frock coats and gowns are ladies’ dresses.)
    It cites an advertisement for “best and most fashionable ready made frocks, suits of fustian,Ticken, and Holland… blue and canvas frocks at reasonable prices.”
    Then it says that by the end of the century ready-made gowns were a regular stock in shops not serving the highest levels of society.
    This is a book I keep meaning to read from cover to cover, but it’s just not that sort of book. Whenever I dip into it, however, I am fascinated.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  22. I’m just sitting here and chuckling to myself, imagining the expression on the face of anyone of the male persuasion who accidentally wanders into this discussion…

    Reply
  23. I’m just sitting here and chuckling to myself, imagining the expression on the face of anyone of the male persuasion who accidentally wanders into this discussion…

    Reply
  24. I’m just sitting here and chuckling to myself, imagining the expression on the face of anyone of the male persuasion who accidentally wanders into this discussion…

    Reply
  25. This Brit and her contemporaries always called them sanitary TOWELS. Prior to the 2nd World War, commercially made towels were usually not worn with a belt, but simply pinned to the underwear using safety pins. In my generation (teenage in the 1950s), most of them had loops for attachment to the elastic belts, which had hooks for the purpose. Worn that way, they feel far more secure than stick-on pads, because they are independent of the underwear.
    My mother, in her youth (she was born in 1915, in a rural area), simply used folded pads of cotton cloth that were washed after use, or pads of cotton wool, which were discarded, of course.
    The concept of the tampon, often made of wool, is very ancient, but usually as a contraceptive rather than a device to deal with menstrual blood. However, I should be surprised if it had not been used even in the remote past, long before properly manufactured tampons became available in the early 20th century.
    In many societies in the past, women simply did not menstruate as often as they do now: they tended to enter puberty rather later, and once married, would often be pregnant or lactating (which usually suppresses ovulation and menstruation) for long periods of time throughout their childbearing years.
    Blood-soaked rags have been found in the excavations of some Medieval latrine pits (in Britain), and are assumed to be menstrual equipment, but I fear I do not have the exact references to hand.

    Reply
  26. This Brit and her contemporaries always called them sanitary TOWELS. Prior to the 2nd World War, commercially made towels were usually not worn with a belt, but simply pinned to the underwear using safety pins. In my generation (teenage in the 1950s), most of them had loops for attachment to the elastic belts, which had hooks for the purpose. Worn that way, they feel far more secure than stick-on pads, because they are independent of the underwear.
    My mother, in her youth (she was born in 1915, in a rural area), simply used folded pads of cotton cloth that were washed after use, or pads of cotton wool, which were discarded, of course.
    The concept of the tampon, often made of wool, is very ancient, but usually as a contraceptive rather than a device to deal with menstrual blood. However, I should be surprised if it had not been used even in the remote past, long before properly manufactured tampons became available in the early 20th century.
    In many societies in the past, women simply did not menstruate as often as they do now: they tended to enter puberty rather later, and once married, would often be pregnant or lactating (which usually suppresses ovulation and menstruation) for long periods of time throughout their childbearing years.
    Blood-soaked rags have been found in the excavations of some Medieval latrine pits (in Britain), and are assumed to be menstrual equipment, but I fear I do not have the exact references to hand.

    Reply
  27. This Brit and her contemporaries always called them sanitary TOWELS. Prior to the 2nd World War, commercially made towels were usually not worn with a belt, but simply pinned to the underwear using safety pins. In my generation (teenage in the 1950s), most of them had loops for attachment to the elastic belts, which had hooks for the purpose. Worn that way, they feel far more secure than stick-on pads, because they are independent of the underwear.
    My mother, in her youth (she was born in 1915, in a rural area), simply used folded pads of cotton cloth that were washed after use, or pads of cotton wool, which were discarded, of course.
    The concept of the tampon, often made of wool, is very ancient, but usually as a contraceptive rather than a device to deal with menstrual blood. However, I should be surprised if it had not been used even in the remote past, long before properly manufactured tampons became available in the early 20th century.
    In many societies in the past, women simply did not menstruate as often as they do now: they tended to enter puberty rather later, and once married, would often be pregnant or lactating (which usually suppresses ovulation and menstruation) for long periods of time throughout their childbearing years.
    Blood-soaked rags have been found in the excavations of some Medieval latrine pits (in Britain), and are assumed to be menstrual equipment, but I fear I do not have the exact references to hand.

    Reply
  28. Incidentally, just read Charlaine Harris’s newest in her Southern Gothic Vampire series, DEFINITELY DEAD, and menstruation does play a part in the plot. (If you’re hanging out with vampires, and you smell of blood, you’d better watch out…)

    Reply
  29. Incidentally, just read Charlaine Harris’s newest in her Southern Gothic Vampire series, DEFINITELY DEAD, and menstruation does play a part in the plot. (If you’re hanging out with vampires, and you smell of blood, you’d better watch out…)

    Reply
  30. Incidentally, just read Charlaine Harris’s newest in her Southern Gothic Vampire series, DEFINITELY DEAD, and menstruation does play a part in the plot. (If you’re hanging out with vampires, and you smell of blood, you’d better watch out…)

    Reply
  31. I’m very late coming in on your interesting post, Jo, but I did want to add my two bits.
    For most of their lives, Sarah Churchill and Princess Anne were as close as two women friends could be, and their letters back and forth offer chatty insight into this side of their lives. They referred to their periods as the “French Lady”, and the arrival or absences of the French Lady seems to be a constant worry.
    Poor Anne had a genuine concern: she needed to produce a live male heir to continue the Stuart line to the throne, and to that end endured nearly twenty pregnancies and miscarriages; not one of her children survived into his or her teens. From her marriage until her middle thirties, she was almost constantly pregnant, or hoping she was pregnant, so the French Lady’s appearance (on sheets, smocks, and petticoats) was a much-dreaded sign.
    Though most of Sarah’s children did survive to adulthood, her two sons both died as children, which devastated her no end. She wanted to establish a dynasty, with her husband John’s hard-won dukedom as the centerpiece — a problem without a male heir. Adding to her reproductive challenge was a husband who was away at least six months a year fighting the French on the Continent. Her letters to John are also peppered with references to that same French Lady, and he certainly understood the significance.
    Alas, Sarah seems to have reached menopause early, and bore no more sons; but Sarah being Sarah, she pushed for the House to authorize a special allowance for the dukedom to pass through her eldest daughter.

    Reply
  32. I’m very late coming in on your interesting post, Jo, but I did want to add my two bits.
    For most of their lives, Sarah Churchill and Princess Anne were as close as two women friends could be, and their letters back and forth offer chatty insight into this side of their lives. They referred to their periods as the “French Lady”, and the arrival or absences of the French Lady seems to be a constant worry.
    Poor Anne had a genuine concern: she needed to produce a live male heir to continue the Stuart line to the throne, and to that end endured nearly twenty pregnancies and miscarriages; not one of her children survived into his or her teens. From her marriage until her middle thirties, she was almost constantly pregnant, or hoping she was pregnant, so the French Lady’s appearance (on sheets, smocks, and petticoats) was a much-dreaded sign.
    Though most of Sarah’s children did survive to adulthood, her two sons both died as children, which devastated her no end. She wanted to establish a dynasty, with her husband John’s hard-won dukedom as the centerpiece — a problem without a male heir. Adding to her reproductive challenge was a husband who was away at least six months a year fighting the French on the Continent. Her letters to John are also peppered with references to that same French Lady, and he certainly understood the significance.
    Alas, Sarah seems to have reached menopause early, and bore no more sons; but Sarah being Sarah, she pushed for the House to authorize a special allowance for the dukedom to pass through her eldest daughter.

    Reply
  33. I’m very late coming in on your interesting post, Jo, but I did want to add my two bits.
    For most of their lives, Sarah Churchill and Princess Anne were as close as two women friends could be, and their letters back and forth offer chatty insight into this side of their lives. They referred to their periods as the “French Lady”, and the arrival or absences of the French Lady seems to be a constant worry.
    Poor Anne had a genuine concern: she needed to produce a live male heir to continue the Stuart line to the throne, and to that end endured nearly twenty pregnancies and miscarriages; not one of her children survived into his or her teens. From her marriage until her middle thirties, she was almost constantly pregnant, or hoping she was pregnant, so the French Lady’s appearance (on sheets, smocks, and petticoats) was a much-dreaded sign.
    Though most of Sarah’s children did survive to adulthood, her two sons both died as children, which devastated her no end. She wanted to establish a dynasty, with her husband John’s hard-won dukedom as the centerpiece — a problem without a male heir. Adding to her reproductive challenge was a husband who was away at least six months a year fighting the French on the Continent. Her letters to John are also peppered with references to that same French Lady, and he certainly understood the significance.
    Alas, Sarah seems to have reached menopause early, and bore no more sons; but Sarah being Sarah, she pushed for the House to authorize a special allowance for the dukedom to pass through her eldest daughter.

    Reply
  34. But no mention of the technicalities of dealing with it, I assume, Susan?
    Interestingly, I did my dissertation, or whatever they called the special paper we did at the end of our history degree, on Queen Anne, Sarah Churchill, and Abigail Masham. I read their letters, though it’s a distant memory for me now.
    Poor Anne. She really had a tragic life.
    Jo

    Reply
  35. But no mention of the technicalities of dealing with it, I assume, Susan?
    Interestingly, I did my dissertation, or whatever they called the special paper we did at the end of our history degree, on Queen Anne, Sarah Churchill, and Abigail Masham. I read their letters, though it’s a distant memory for me now.
    Poor Anne. She really had a tragic life.
    Jo

    Reply
  36. But no mention of the technicalities of dealing with it, I assume, Susan?
    Interestingly, I did my dissertation, or whatever they called the special paper we did at the end of our history degree, on Queen Anne, Sarah Churchill, and Abigail Masham. I read their letters, though it’s a distant memory for me now.
    Poor Anne. She really had a tragic life.
    Jo

    Reply
  37. Alas, no details, Jo. Though I suppose they wouldn’t bother to write them down any more than today we’d write an email to a friend, “Argh, horrible cramps, but thank goodness I have a big blue 40 count box of Tampax Supers to get me through!” I imagine to them the details were too mundane to bother describing.
    So you did your dissertation on Anne, Sarah, and Abigail! Neat. I didn’t realize I was preaching to the converted. 🙂

    Reply
  38. Alas, no details, Jo. Though I suppose they wouldn’t bother to write them down any more than today we’d write an email to a friend, “Argh, horrible cramps, but thank goodness I have a big blue 40 count box of Tampax Supers to get me through!” I imagine to them the details were too mundane to bother describing.
    So you did your dissertation on Anne, Sarah, and Abigail! Neat. I didn’t realize I was preaching to the converted. 🙂

    Reply
  39. Alas, no details, Jo. Though I suppose they wouldn’t bother to write them down any more than today we’d write an email to a friend, “Argh, horrible cramps, but thank goodness I have a big blue 40 count box of Tampax Supers to get me through!” I imagine to them the details were too mundane to bother describing.
    So you did your dissertation on Anne, Sarah, and Abigail! Neat. I didn’t realize I was preaching to the converted. 🙂

    Reply

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