See a roughly contemporary pad, Society, and a "silent purchase" ad for Modess, 1928.
Other Modess ads: 1931,"Modess . . . . because" ads, the French Modess, and the German "Freedom" (Kimberly-Clark) for teens.
See a prototype of the first Kotex ad.
CONTRIBUTE to Humor, Words and expressions about menstruation and Would you stop menstruating if you could?
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Read 10 years (1996-2006) of articles and Letters to Your MUM on this site.
Leer la versión en español de los siguientes temas: Anticoncepción y religión, Breve reseña - Olor - Religión y menstruación - Seguridad de productos para la menstruación.


The perfect menstrual pad 2a (1 2 3 4 4a 5):
Using the right names - and the color blue

"Report of Gilbreth, Inc.," to the Johnson & Johnson Company, 1 January 1927, about how to
improve the company's menstrual products, especially with regard to competition with Kotex pads

Dr. Gilbreth reviewed scores of products that Johnson & Johnson sent to her for examination and comment, most of which don't exist today. You will get an idea of her style and judgment from the excerpts, below; she can be funny.

And if you ever wondered about the color blue in menstrual advertising - so did Dr. Gilbreth, in 1927! Read her comments in the excerpts toward the bottom of this page. According to "Shared Values: A History of Kimberly-Clark" by Robert Spector (1997) the Kotex blue is hospital blue - I wonder what the origin of that is. In a seemingly not-well-thought-out rationale for a menstrual product, blue in American colloquial speech equating blue with sad, like the musical blues.


If the company plans to "extensively" and "intensively" advertise the pad, then it needs to use only one word, recommends Gilbreth. If not, the words "sanitary napkin" should be part of the name. I added the red emphasis on all Gilbreth's pages (below and elsewhere).

1. "The name should be distinctive so that there will be no possibility of confusing it with that of any other product." You don't want the clerk to have to ask, "The soap, perfume or sanitary napkin?" Or, "What's that?" requiring you to say what is to be avoided in the first place, "sanitary napkin." And you don't want the clerk to have to send you to another department if the name is so general that it can refer to something else.

2. "It is better that the name have no significance at all than be misleading or suggestive. Venus [here] and Charm are good brand names, but used in connection with sanitary napkins, have no point. Flush Down Ideal, on the other hand, is offensive, too suggestive, and absolutely misleading. . . .

"Kotex on these grounds is an excellent name" but almost too well known. "Recently a German girl asked for kodaks [sic?] [She probably means the Kodak camera, but I didn't realize it could be lower case - maybe it was, being so common then] in a shop and was promptly supplied with a box of Kotex."

3. "Whatever the name, it should be short and capable of being easily pronounced by any customer and understood by any clerk. Its sounds should be definite and common to the languages of all nations. In Gimbro Nap [below], for example, one cannot be sure whether the G should be hard or soft. . . .

"Modess is excellent, better than Kotex in many ways as it is more pleasing and feminine. It suggests daintiness and modishness, but nothing else. Except for the first letter, it has practically the same sounds as Kotex, and if advertised as widely, should not only derive some benefit from that, but of itself prove more appealing to women."

I was surprised to find dozens of typographic errors - typos - in Dr. Gilbreth's report. Many of them were spaces after certain letters in the middle of words, something that used to happen when the typist typed too fast. Others I couldn't explain. None seemed due to ignorance. I wonder if people accepted typos because of the known limitations of the typewriter. [A reader comments at the bottom of this page.]

Some excerpts from Dr. Gilbreth's scores of comments follow.

The four below deal with boxes: size, shape, color, etc.



The color blue obviously has a long history with menstrual products; Dr. Gilbreth does not explain why companies chose it. The company history of Kimberly-Clark called it hospital blue for some reason.

The comments below are about names of pads.



See how she rated Johnson & Johnson's own Nupak pads.
May Kits was a do-it-yourself pad kit (Gilbreth thought little of the materials it provided), not popular among college girls and working women, who didn't have the time, but high school kids still bought them. The entry of women into the marketplace after World War I must have created a great demand for pads that required less time; who wanted to sit home washing pads at night - and think of the logistics of keeping used pads during the day - and making new ones?

NEXT: (belts & accessories)

Gilbreth Report: 1 (introduction) 2 (college student's design & Smith College 3 (belts & accessories) 4 (conclusions & recommendations) 4a (a perfect pad?) 5 (last recommendation)

The copy of the report that I read, which may be unique, rests in the special collections of Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, U.S.A. Dr. Gilbreth was the first woman engineering professor at Purdue.
© 2000 Harry Finley. It is illegal to reproduce or distribute work on this Web site in any manner or medium without written permission of the author. Please report suspected violations to

A MUM visitor comments on typewriters:

"I think yours is an interesting question (Did people accept typos?) and I wonder if you realize how important the historical context is here. If you read Cheaper by the Dozen, you'll know that the Gilbreth children were early students of the touch-typing method we take for granted today. They were filmed learning to type (on typewriters with unmarked keys). So 1927 was still relatively early days for typewriting as a speed task. But even when I first learned to type (in the mid seventies, which was after the development of the electric typewriter), fixing errors was still a horrendous job. You had to stop typing, roll up the platen and page to expose the error, erase it, carefully realign the page and type again. That chore depended on sturdy paper and a very abrasive specialized eraser skinny enough to get in to the characters without scrubbing out neighbours. (Our erasers had little brushes attached so we could dust away the eraser shavings rather than have them fall into the workings of the typewriter.) If you were using carbon paper (another vanishing technology) to make multiple copies--this would have been standard practice preparing a report, I'm sure, so Dr. Gilbreth could keep a copy for her own files--then you had to erase on each page, without pressing against the interleaved carbon paper. Sometimes, as a time savings, you might make corrections only on the top ("good") copy and leave the carbon copies unaltered.

"The invention of White-Out made a prettier page but took even longer because we had to wait for the cover-up to dry before rolling the page back into the typewriter.

"So I imagine it would be generally acceptable (efficient, economical) to put up with some typos in anything typewritten that wasn't intended for printing."

Linda Carson