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

(Final Part)

A Primer of Period Pedagogy, 1868 - 1996

by Lynn Peril
(©1997 Lynn Peril), (click for Part 1 and Part 2)




ABOVE: A menstruation education booklet by Kotex from Australia, probably from the 1920s, shown here by the kind permission of the Curator of Health and Medicine at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia. (Please direct any further enquiries to Megan Hicks at Click to see more of the booklet.

A decade later, Mary McGee Williams and Irene Kane took up this line of argument with a vengeance in On Becoming a Woman (New York: Dell Publishing, 1958; some thrift stores for not very much money). Employing the just-between-us-girls technique we've already observed, the authors ask, "So what's so joyful? Well, let's stop and think what menstruation . . . means." Which sounds oh-so-cozy, except that what it means, according to Williams and Kane, "is that for perhaps the first time in your active, tomboy life, you must accept that you are a girl":

For most girls, this acceptance is an exciting, who-wouldn't-want-to-be kind of thing, something you've looked forward to since you saw your mother nursing a baby brother, or dreamed about a kitchen of your own, or imagined yourself a well-loved wife . . . .

The girls who resent menstruation, who talk about "the curse" and the bother of "being sick," who get all mixed up about this time in their lives, are those who may have emotional doubts about being a woman . . . .Here's a time for some real soul-searching, if you find yourself deeply disturbed about being "stuck with" the role of a woman. It's a time for re-evaluating the role of women in the world.

Do not, for an instant, imagine this was a feminist re-evaluation of women's role:

When you know the deep, true love a woman feels for a man, when you experience the tremendous joy of comforting, sustaining and understanding a man you love, when you know the happiness of childbirth - you will be acting the role you were created for. To know this fulfillment, you must want it, learn about it and be ready for it. The teen years are the perfect time for learning to be a woman . . . for turning from dolls and and sandlot ball games to the feminine skills of cooking and sewing and prettying yourself (for this too is a feminine art). It's the time to practice the feminine role of the woman pursued by a man - by your first dating experience, by practicing your newly discovered womanliness on boys your own age.

Now, who could possibly feel "disturbed" about that, unless it was one of those female inverts discussed in an earlier chapter ("Teen Age Crush") or some kind of heathen communist. Few materials were as explicit as On Becoming A Woman in delineating the adult sex roles that girls would be expected to to fill once they started menstruating. But most hinted that the menarche was the great demarcation between girlhood freedoms and the restrictions placed upon adult women.

Like the other manufacturers of feminine hygiene products, Tampax viewed the classroom as an incubator for consumers, and in 1958 produced a teacher's guide on menstruation and "menstrual health" called From Fact to Fiction ($2.50 at The Magazine). Allegedly "written in response to countless requests from teachers," From Fact to Fiction describes itself as "a workable teaching guide for all who are helping girls grow into healthy womanhood." To this end, FFF focused on "fiction" (menstrual "superstitions and taboos" of "Primitive people") versus "scientific facts" (particularly the development of Tampax-brand tampons, started in 1936, as the apex of sanitary protection). FFF (and one would assume, the students' booklet, It's Natural, It's Normal) broke little new ground, stressing that menstruation's "purpose is to prepare the body for the biological function of all women - reproduction," and the need for a girl to accept "herself as a growing woman." It did, however, include something that few other guides dared to - a drawing of the external female genitalia that showed the location of the clitoris. (Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of It's Natural, It's Normal to see if the little troublemaker was pointed out to students!) Nevertheless, it was soon back to the same-old-same-old in the section entitled "typical questions your students may ask," a disproportionate number of which concerned tampon usage.

Similar sales tactics were employed in the 1966-67 edition of Modess's Growing Up and Liking It booklet. "You'll feel more confident if you know you can trust your sanitary napkin," it told readers, "see pages 20 and 21 for more information on choosing the right sanitary protection for you." These pages - surprise! - advertised Modess's product line, including a "Teen-Age" size which purported to be "narrower-shaped to fit younger figures." All totaled, GUALI devoted four full pages to advertising Modess products and provided coupons for a "Sanitary Napkin Purse Kit" or more copies of the booklet itself.

Along with its shameless promotion of Modess products, GUALI displayed characteristics common to most pamphlets produced by manufacturers of feminine hygiene products during the 60s. "This is what you've been waiting for," it cooed as it assured readers that "someday when you fall in love and marry, you will want to have children." Menstruation was "part of being female . . .part of growing up . . . part of the wonderful process of changing from a child into a woman." And, in a fit of perkiness probably not matched before or since in menstruation education materials, it boldly declared just inside the front cover that "the fun is just beginning!" - leading me to doubt that the author ever menstruated. Photos depicted teenage girls dancing, shopping, playing ping-pong, hanging out with other smiling teens at the beach. Everyone fairly glowed with happiness imparted by proper menstrual education. Additional illustrations showed cross-sectional views of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, and represented the ova's monthly meanderings. Good grooming and proper diet were discussed, and it showed a series of exercises for "shaping up and staying that way," as well as to provide relief from cramps (though the text constantly minimizes both their severity and occurrence). Finally, GUALI, like most booklets, included a calendar where girls could plot their periods.

The women's liberation movement of the late 60s left little, if any, immediate mark on menstrual education pamphlets. After 1970, GUALI may have no longer suggested that the fun was just beginning, but nevertheless proclaimed that "it's wonderful being a girl . . . And even more wonderful to become a woman." The booklet also advertised Modess's "award-winning film, 'It's wonderful Being a Girl'," in which Libby and Jean, two close friends, help each other to understand about growing up." Otherwise, most of the earlier text was retained, although Modess bowed to changing mores by including a black girl on the cover, and tried to get hip with a photo of a white girl playing twister.

Kotex, on the other hand, was quick to incorporate new ideas and lingo into Very Personally Yours. While the 1973 edition (by the way, this was probably the the same edition of VPY that I got at school and later threw away in a fit of shame) is pretty much interchangeable with GUALI, the products advertised in the booklet include Kotex's nod to the women's movement - New Freedom, the "revolutionary self-attaching napkin." If that wasn't enough to seal the company's "with it" status, girls could order a "tampon introductory kit" that came with a booklet called Tell It Like It Is.

The "revolutionary" nature of the New Freedom napkin aside, the sanitary products industry was slow to come to grips with changes in social attitude brought about by the women's movement. They were hastened along by books like Period (San Francisco: Volcano Press, revised edition, 1981; Community Thrift, $1.00). Written by a health educator and a clinical psychologist, Period presented menstrual information in a radically different way from its predecessors. Instead of gushing about the wonderfulness of womanhood, impending marriage and motherhood, Period explained adolescent bodily changes in a down-to-earth manner, neither talking down to its audience nor assuming an artificial intimacy. On the other hand, Period also included life-size diagrams of girl- and woman-size uteruses, which the text suggested readers cut out and "hold . . . up to your stomach . . . [to] get a better idea of how big your uterus is." (You know, I just can't help thinking that if a young Ed Gein only had access to Period's cut-outs, his victims might be alive today.)

Period was so influential that Kotex actually listed it as "Recommended Further Reading for Parents and Daughters" in Becoming Aware - their menstrual educational booklet for the 1990s. At first glance, the 1992 edition of Becoming Aware bears little resemblance to Very Personally Yours. BA's narrator is 12-year-old Sarah, who's bummed out because she hasn't gotten her period yet. Then her best friend, the motherless Roxy, gets hers. This leads to a wacky sit-comish situation when Sarah's mom, Mrs. Schuler, catches Roxy and Sarah rummaging through her "off-limits closet shelf." Of course, everything ends happily with hugs and Kotex-brand panty-liners for everyone. Nevertheless, if you overlook the TV movie quality of the writing, Becoming Aware offers less advertising and more information than Kotex's earlier pamphlets. In fact, if I had read Period and Becoming Aware, I would have been better prepared - intellectually, at least - to face my own menarche.

I wonder how many young women anticipate menstruation the way the girls in these books and pamphlets do - with barely concealed enthusiasm? As for myself, I related to a character in The Long Secret, Louise Fitzhugh's sequel to Harriet the Spy. Beth Ellen wakes up one day feeling "extremely odd." She goes to the summerhouse and sits alone in shameful silence. "It was all a mistake," she thinks. "She would get up, go inside, and know it was all a dream." Later, she and her friends decide the only advantage menstruation might offer is the possibility of skipping gym. I doubt that the shame Beth Ellen felt about her changing body would have been assuaged by Very Personally Yours 's saccharin assurances. I know mine wasn't. END (Click for Part 1 and Part 2)

See some covers of Growing Up and Liking It , How shall I tell my daughter, and Personal Digest booklets.
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
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