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Dead toad and papyrus: how women coped with periods in the past
Dead toad and papyrus: how women coped with periods in the past
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Now the choice of tools that can be used during menstruation is quite wide: tampons, pads, menstrual cups. All this is presented in dozens, and maybe hundreds, of options - we just have to choose the right one. But this was not always the case, and this splendor appeared not so long ago. We find out what we would have to use if we lived in Ancient Egypt or in medieval Europe.

Dead toad and papyrus: how women coped with periods in the past

To begin with, even now menstruation is taboo and not everyone decides to talk about it - girls are often embarrassed to ask about their monthly parents, and parents do not know how to discuss this delicate topic. And this is now, when the XXI century is in the yard. And what about the past?

For a long time, there was no special term in society to designate menstruation, and no one was involved in the development of means that could make it easier for a woman to survive in this difficult period.

Menstruation itself was considered (and somewhere it is still considered) something dirty, forbidden and scary. Taboo. By the way, there is an opinion that the word "taboo" itself comes from the Polynesian tapu - a term that denoted the very process of menstruation and menstrual blood.

But back to the hygiene products, or rather, to their absence. The choice was not rich, it would be better to say, it was not at all. But women used ingenuity and improvised means to somehow survive their periods.

Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome

In ancient Egypt, softened papyrus was used, which was simply rolled up to make something like a tampon out of it. The absorbency of this product was not very good, but it is better than nothing. In ancient Greece, there were no papyri, but homemade tampons were. For these purposes, they used small sticks wrapped in a soft cloth, and the practice of using moss or sea sponges instead of tampons was still in use. By the way, this method is still proposed by some eco-activists.

The Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote that women during menstruation can have amazing abilities: to cause thunder and lightning, to destroy crops and harmful insects with just one glance.

Ancient Egyptian sources shed light on how menstruation was dealt with in the past

Ancient Egyptian sources shed light on how menstruation was dealt with in the past, Wikipedia

Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, the situation did not improve much. The words "menstruation" and "menstruation" did not exist, and women themselves during this period were considered dirty and dangerous. The appearance of menstruation was associated with the devil, and therefore often communication with a woman was reduced to this period to a minimum, so that something bad did not happen.

The Middle Ages was a period when plague and leprosy were common diseases that took life after life. Menstruation also began to be considered dangerous at some period: they preferred not to communicate with women during menstruation, so as not to become infected with that very leprosy.

The women themselves continued to look for ways to provide themselves at least some comfort during menstruation: all kinds of pieces of fabric were used. Some did not use any pads, but simply let the blood flow freely.

In order for the stomach to hurt less during menstruation, and the menstruation themselves were less abundant, another remedy was used, which quickly became popular: a dead dried toad, suspended from a string at the waist. It is not known how this was supposed to work, but many still hung the toad. On their necks, they wore bags of medicinal herbs with a pleasant aroma - this was also supposed to alleviate the condition during menstruation.

From left to right: contraceptive sponge; vaginal shower; medical tampon; animal intestine condom. Vaginal douching was a contraceptive measure that involved flushing a woman's vagina after intercourse. Tampons are small pads of lint or other material that have been used by women for centuries and are designed to be inserted into the vagina to stop blood flow during menstruation. A sponge is a device made up of a small natural or synthetic sponge (sometimes soaked in vinegar or lemon juice) that is inserted before intercourse as a barrier method of contraception. Condoms were first used in the 16th century. Originally made from flax or animal intestines, they are now made from latex

From left to right: contraceptive sponge; vaginal shower; medical tampon; animal intestine condom. Vaginal douching was a contraceptive measure that involved flushing a woman's vagina after intercourse.Tampons are small pads of lint or other material that have been used by women for centuries and are designed to be inserted into the vagina to stop blood flow during menstruation. A sponge is a device made up of a small natural or synthetic sponge (sometimes soaked in vinegar or lemon juice) that is inserted before intercourse as a barrier method of contraception. Condoms were first used in the 16th century. Originally made from flax or animal intestines, they are now made from latex., Getty Images

17th century

Time passed, menstruation continued, but even those who were engaged in medicine and obstetrics did not risk talking about them. For example, the records of midwife Jane Sharp, made in 1671, have been preserved. She describes menstruation without ever mentioning the name of the process itself: “Sometimes it flows too early, sometimes too late. Sometimes there is too much, and sometimes very little, sometimes it happens that they do not flow at all."

19th century

In the medical literature, the first mention of periods, without any allegories, refers only to 1822. But even after that, it remained only in the vocabulary of doctors and scientists.

Meanwhile, by the middle of the 19th century, there was some progress in feminine hygiene. Fabric pads made of cotton and flannel became more widespread, and a certain rubber hygienic belt appeared, one of the straps of which passed between the legs and was supposed to prevent blood from flowing out. They coped with their task: the clothes and furniture, where the women sat, remained clean, but it was not very comfortable to wear it, moreover, it smelled terribly.

At the same time, menstrual tissue belts were invented, to which it was necessary to attach tissue pads with pins. The thing, it seems, is not so bad, but for some reason it did not become popular, which is why it was not patented until the twenties of the twentieth century.

But the end of the 19th century was marked by a truly revolutionary event: the first gasket was invented. Lister’s Towels offered a ready-made product for women that could be bought in pharmacies. But the invention failed miserably: women were embarrassed to buy SUCH, and sales did not go.

XX century

The twentieth century has witnessed truly impressive changes. At the beginning of the century, women did not even dream of tampons and panty liners - due to the taboo topic, they were not ready to buy hygiene products in stores and coped on their own.

Pseudoscience also contributed to the demonization of menstruation: in 1919, a certain professor Schick published an article in which he spoke of the presence in the menstrual blood of certain menotoxins - poisonous components that can poison food, wine and destroy plants. It's scary to think, but someone believes in the ideas of Professor Schick and Pliny the Elder to this day.

A Kotex sanitary belt, one of several items from the Menstruation Museum, at the home of collection founder Harry Finley in New Carrollton, Maryland

A Kotex sanitary belt, one of several items from the Menstruation Museum, at the home of collection founder Harry Finley in New Carrollton, Maryland, Getty Images

The First World War became an important period for the development of medicine. This also affected menstrual hygiene - the nurses came up with the idea of ​​using cellulose for pads. In the future, this idea was used by Kotex, which began to produce cellulose pads. At the same time, Johnson & Johnson redesigned the product from Lister's Towels and released the gaskets under a new name. So that women would not hesitate to buy them, a special scheme was invented: it was necessary to take the packaging from the shop window and throw a coin into a special box.

At the same time, the first tampons appeared on sale. They, however, were still far from perfect, and women preferred gaskets for reliability. This continued until 1931, when Earl Haas invented a cotton swab with an applicator. He borrowed the idea from his girlfriend, who came up with something similar on her own.By the way, Haas did not confine himself to the creation of tampons, in the future he also came up with a diaphragm - a means of female contraception.

Image

Getty Images

Tampons later underwent many changes: by the middle of the twentieth century, a tampon without an applicator appeared, which was really convenient to use. Tampons became more and more popular - mainly due to their compactness as well as ease of use. But in the fate of tampons, not everything was smooth: in the 70s, Procter & Gamble released "the most absorbent tampon in the world." The idea of ​​using such a remedy is very tempting, but now we know that long-term use of tampons is fraught with toxic shock syndrome. Everything has its time, and you need to use tampons in accordance with the instructions, and not "as long as possible."

Menstrual cups seem to be a recent invention, but in reality the first appeared back in 1930: despite active advertising, these rubber products did not become popular.

Menstrual cup

Getty Images

Now we can use pads, and tampons, and cups, and for convenience, menstrual pants are also produced, which are useful. In addition, there are ways that can stop menstruation for a while or forever - we have written a whole material about them.

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