See some covers of Growing Up and Liking It , How shall I tell my daughter, and Personal Digest booklets, and see the 1928 booklet Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday and an advertisement for it.
Read most of a 1928 Australian edition of Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday. Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday (1935) - Facts About Menstruation that every Woman should know (1936) - Marjorie May, introductory page, 1935 main page
Read Lynn Peril's series about these and similar booklets! And see the covers of the booklets How shall I tell my daughter?, Growing up and liking it, and Personal Digest; read the whole booklet As One Girl to Another (Kotex, 1940).
Marjorie May, three booklets, 1935 main page
Read Lynn Peril's series about these and similar booklets! And see the covers of the booklets How shall I tell my daughter? and Personal Digest; read the whole booklet As One Girl to Another (Kotex, 1940).
See a Kotex ad advertising this booklet.
See Kotex items: First ad (1921; scroll to bottom of page) - ad 1928 (Sears and Roebuck catalog) - Lee Miller ads (first real person in a menstrual hygiene ad, 1928) - Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday (booklet for girls, 1928, Australian edition; there are many links here to Kotex items) - Preparing for Womanhood (1920s, booklet for girls; Australian edition) - 1920s booklet in Spanish showing disposal method - box from about 1969 - "Are you in the know?" ads (Kotex) (1949)(1953)(1964)(booklet, 1956) - See more ads on the Ads for Teenagers main page
CONTRIBUTE to Humor, Words and expressions about menstruation and Would you stop menstruating if you could?
Some MUM site links:
homepage | MUM address & What does MUM mean? | e-mail the museum | privacy on this site | who runs this museum?? |
Amazing women! | the art of menstruation | artists (non-menstrual) | asbestos | belts | bidets | founder bio | Bly, Nellie | MUM board | books: menstruation and menopause (and reviews) | cats | company booklets for girls (mostly) directory | contraception and religion | costumes | menstrual cups | cup usage | dispensers | douches, pain, sprays | essay directory | extraction | facts-of-life booklets for girls | famous women in menstrual hygiene ads | FAQ | founder/director biography | gynecological topics by Dr. Soucasaux | humor | huts | links | masturbation | media coverage of MUM | menarche booklets for girls and parents | miscellaneous | museum future | Norwegian menstruation exhibit | odor | olor | pad directory | patent medicine | poetry directory | products, current | puberty booklets for girls and parents | religion | Religión y menstruación | your remedies for menstrual discomfort | menstrual products safety | science | Seguridad de productos para la menstruación | shame | slapping, menstrual | sponges | synchrony | tampon directory | early tampons | teen ads directory | tour of the former museum (video) | underpants & panties directory | videos, films directory | Words and expressions about menstruation | Would you stop menstruating if you could? | What did women do about menstruation in the past? | washable pads
Leer la versión en español de los siguientes temas: Anticoncepción y religión, Breve reseña - Olor - Religión y menstruación - Seguridad de productos para la menstruación.


Growing Up and Liking It

(Part 2)

A Primer of Period Pedagogy, 1868 - 1996

by Lynn Peril

(©1997 Lynn Peril) (Part 1, Final Part)


One volume in the series, "What A Young Girl Should Know," was still in print in 1936 having undergone few, if any, revisions from its original 1898 edition. Its author, Dr. Mary Wood-Allen, set the pace for menstruation instruction materials for years to come. Written in an insipid, pseudo-intimate tone, the narrative cozies up to the reader posing as a long-lost best friend, while the chapters take the form of "Twilight Talks" between mother and daughter. Little brother's arrival causes Nina Grant to wonder where babies come from, which leads mother to expound upon plants, animals and finally humans. Unfortunately, mother tends to long-windedness, droning on about how before "1810 there were no varieties of pansies, but by 1835 four hundred varieties had been produced by selection and cultivation." Nina and the reader perk up during Twilight Talk XVII, when Mrs. Grant lets it slip that "Certain bodily changes must take place in order that you may be a woman." She explains that Nina might experience "a strange weariness, perhaps a headache or a backache" as she approaches puberty.

But this only means that Nina is "getting to be a woman." In fact, Mrs. Grant points out that "a little housework is a very good occupation" for weary, achy adolescent girls, and offers the following homey remedy for PMS: "Dishwashing is especially beneficial as the hot water calls the blood to the hands and so helps to relieve the headache or backache."

At the critical moment, however, Mrs. Grant drops the buck, cryptically telling Nina that "there are some physical changes which take place at puberty of which I will more fully tell you as the time approaches." But she has many other important things to tell Nina right now. For example, "the battle of Waterloo was lost because of a badly cooked dinner and a consequent indigestion. You see it is possible that the fate of a nation might depend upon a woman's ability to prepare a wholesome meal." Shades of home economics texts to come! (See Mystery Date #2)

*What A Young Woman Ought to Know* continues the story, albeit without Mrs. Grant and Nina. And no wonder Dr. Wood-Allen didn't let Mrs. Grant tell Nina the details of menstruation at her young age! According to Dr. Wood-Allen, menstruating women shouldn't consider themselves semi-invalids or be "fussy" about their person, but should nevertheless "remember that at this time the uterus is heavy and engorged with blood and therefore susceptible to become congested by cold or undue exertion." Come to think of it, my womb's feeling a mite stuffy right now.

As in the earlier work, there's a good dose of moralizing, and readers were warned that a young woman who permitted "caresses and unbecoming familiarity . . .may be directly responsible for arousing a passion in the young man that may lead him to go out from her presence and seek the company of dissolute women, and thus lose his honor and purity." Dr. Wood-Allen did not, however, advocate that these young men run home and wash dishes, the better to draw blood away from certain pesky body parts.

Later authors advocated telling younger girls the facts about menstruation. "The Mother's Book" (New York: The University Society, 1927; St. VdeP, S.F., $1.00) included a section on What Mothers Should Tell Their Daughters, in which author Della Thompson Lutes bluntly described the "perils of ignorance":

I knew a girl whose mother had neglected to tell her anything regarding the menstrual period. The girl was of a reticent, solitary disposition, had never been on intimate footing with other girls, and had never heard any mention of what would happen. She was "kept innocent" with a vengeance. The menstrual flow came on suddenly and very profusely. The child was frightened, went into hysterics and then convulsions. It took her three years to recover, and then she was nervous and excitable as she had never been before.

I knew another girl who also was "kept innocent." When her time came she went to her room, bathed in cold water, took cold and died.

Then Ms. Lutes provided a narrative wherein a "Girl of About Ten" learned all about "The Monthly Sabbath" from her mother. After explaining about fish, birds, kittens and "seed-babies," mother takes a step up the evolutionary ladder:

"It's a wonderful story, isn't it dear?"

"Yes, mother. And is it just the same with babies?"

"Just the same - only more wonderful and beautiful . . . The uterus is filled with tiny blood-vessels which will feed and nourish the baby's body from the mother's body. But when there is no baby ... there is no use for this surplus blood, so nature has taken care of it by passing it out of the body every month, or about twenty-eight days. This is called the menstrual flow. It begins when a girl is about twelve years old, or sometimes a year or two later. Before this a girl could not be a mother."

Which, barring the wonderfulness factor, seems somewhat straightforward and informative. Then, not more than two pages later, all hell breaks loose:

[The mother] has taught her daughter the sacred office of the genital organs, and that to tamper with them will bring upon her slavery to a habit, undermining of health and vigour.

She has taught her how to care for herself during the menstrual period; not to get her feet wet; not to allow the bowels to become constipated; not to over-exercise; not to read too much [!!! - ed.], nor dance or play tennis unless she is a very normal girl indeed, which the majority of our girls are not . . .

Well, you get the idea.

According to Harry Finley at the Museum of Menstruation, a disposable menstrual pad was available as far back as 1896 [Hartmann's?, here]. Few publications would advertise Lister's Towels, however, and they soon disappeared from the market. It wasn't until 1921 that Kotex marketed the first widely successful sanitary napkin, after World War I nurses discovered that bandages made from wood pulp made a menstrual pad that was both absorbent and cheap enough to be disposable [ad here]. Prior to this, women used strips of fabric toweling which they washed and re-used (see note 3). Think about that. Now let's pause a moment to thank those inventive nurses of the Great War!

At any rate, Kotex wasted little time in producing several booklets aimed at young girls and their mothers. During the mid-1930s, Marjorie May Learns About Life and its companion booklet, Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday (both by Mary Pauline Callender) were available by mail from the International Cellucotton Products Company of Chicago, Illinois. MMLAL explained the facts of life, not of menstruation; the information revealed to Marjorie May on her Twelfth Birthday was imparted in much the same chatty manner. Using the same tried and true narrative technique as its predecessors, MMLAL allowed readers to eavesdrop as Marjorie May and her mother ask Mrs. Sherman and her baby "in for a cup of tea [and] sunshine cake." Soon Mrs. Sherman and child depart, gorged on goodies, and the subject of "where do babies come from" arises.

While the booklet more or less answered that question, MMLAL served most importantly as an advertisement for Kotex products. "When I was a girl," narrator/author Callender intones, "it was no wonder that menstruation days were annoying. We didn't have Kotex then, and we didn't have the narrow, invisible Kotex Belts." Of course, while Kotex was a great step forward in convenience, then as now there was little to differentiate one feminine hygiene product from another. They all basically performed the same function in the same way. Thus manufacturers had to find other ways to instill brand loyalty in consumers. One result of this need was the drive to "get 'em while they're young," via specialized advertising that masqueraded as "information" which every girl needed to know.

By the 1940s, Kotex was advertising its free booklet, As One Girl to Another [here], in teen magazines such as Miss America and Calling All Girls. "To A Lady In the Dark," began one 1944 ad, "Why be in the dark about the do's and don'ts of 'difficult days'?" Of course, all the reader had to do was clip and send the accompanying coupon for a copy of a "fact-crammed handbook" which provided the low down on "bathing, dancing, swimming, sports at certain times of the month." More importantly, it promised to set the reader "right on social contacts; mental attitude." And if that wasn't enough, the ad told girls that using Kotex "improves your poise." Alas, just how the sanitary napkins went about doing this was never adequately explained.

The connection between "poise" and hygiene was also made in another series of Kotex ads. Each featured several quiz-type questions and an accompanying illustration. Oddly enough, whatever the question, Kotex brand sanitary napkins somehow figured in the answer. Table-seating etiquette decreed that ladies be seated across from one another. Thank goodness they didn't have to worry about "tell-tale outlines . . . thanks to those special *flat pressed ends*." "Jilted janes" could "fight off 'calender' blues, too, with the self-assurance" Kotex brought.

Kotex's competitor, Modess, also advertised a booklet aimed at pubescent girls during the 40s. A series of ads boldly asked "True or False?" and featured a period-related statement for readers to ponder. The answer was provided, and the reader's attention drawn to a coupon at the bottom of the page, by which she could receive a copy of Growing Up and Liking It [complete booklet, 1944]. Like Kotex's booklet, GUALI promised "fascinating tips on beauty, poise and health," in addition to information on menstruation. While the booklet itself may have provided more than re-hashed old wives' tales, at least one ad suggested that "most of us find [roller-skating] too strenuous for the first few days of the period."

Girls who weren't out roller-skating could read a special article in the October 1948 issue of Calling All Girls. "What Girls Want to Know" was written by a practicing psychiatrist, Dr. Marynia F. Farnham, co-author of Modern Woman: The Lost Sex (a work whose thesis, by the way, was that "contemporary women ... are psychologically disordered"). Not surprisingly, considering the way in which periods and "poise" were intertwined in the menstrual literature, the article appeared in Calling All Girls' "Teen Beauty Issue." "Menstruation," according to Dr. Farnham, ". . . is not the bane of your existence, the 'curse' as some girls call it, but a singular blessing." After discussing the mechanics of the menstrual cycle, as well other physical changes accompanying adolescence, Dr. Farnham concluded that "the basic event which indicates the deep and important changes in the body - your menses - remain as a regular part of your life for as long as you are young enough to have children. It is the key to the crowning achievement of your marriage." (Click here for the final part)

See more covers of Growing Up and Liking It booklets.


3. In fact, Lizzie Borden told police she had gone down to the basement the night after her parents' murder to put used menstrual clothes to soak in a bucket of cold water. This evidence was considered to be of such a delicate nature that both prosecution and defense agreed not to discuss it during the ensuing trial.
Just who IS the author, Lynn Peril?
Mystery Date costs $1.50 each for the five so far. Order from
Lynn Peril, P.O. Box 641592, San Francisco, CA 94164-1592
e-mail is peril at
and this is the Mystery Date Web site.

See some covers of Growing Up and Liking It , How shall I tell my daughter, and Personal Digest booklets, and see the 1928 booklet Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday and an advertisement for it.

©1997 Lynn Peril