See a modern bowl, this one for soaking used washable pads.
See menstrual artifacts from Almora, Uttar Pradesh state, India; Rajasthan state, India; 19th-century Norway; Italy; and instructions for making Japanese and German washable pads from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
See art by Mayra Alpízar | Carlota Berard | Jennifer Boe | Roz Bonnet | Luiza Brown | Nikoline Calcaterra | Judy Chicago | Selin Cileli | Maldoror Capvt Corvi | Maribel Cruz | Thomasin Durgin | Natalie Aniela Dybisz | Elvira | Anne Encephalon | Hélène Epaud | Quiara Z. Escobar | Fanni Fazekas | Pat Fish | Julie Gaw | Gina | Kat Grandy | Martina Hoffmann (1 & 2) | Jelena | Judy Jones | Margaret Kalms | Brina Katz | Lorraine Lamothe | Ria Lee | Sharon Lee | Lana Leitch | Sarah McCutcheon | Isa Menzies | Megan Morris | M. Parfitt | Petra Paul | Ana Elena Pena | Melina Piroso | Elentye Paulauskas-Poelker | Leigh Radtke | Jacquelyn Rixon | Isa Sanz | Vladislav Shabalin | Nelson Soucasaux | Paula Speakman | Melina Szapiro | Von Taylor | Jean Tracy | Joseph Tonna | Jessica Wagner | Jennifer Weigel | Terry Wunderlich | Tamara Wyndham | New Guinea menstrual hut carving
Art of Menopause by Coni Minneci
Ancient Peruvian menstrual art
Read about the washable pad project for the neighboring Indian state, Rajasthan.
Ads for the Kotex stick tampon (U.S.A., 1970s) - a Japanese stick tampon from the 1970s.
Early commercial tampons - Rely tampon - Meds tampon (Modess)
CONTRIBUTE to Humor, Words and expressions about menstruation and Would you stop menstruating if you could?
Some MUM site links:
MUM address & What does MUM mean? |
Email the museum |
Privacy on this site |
Who runs this museum?? |
Amazing women! |
Art of menstruation (and awesome ancient art of menstruation) |
Artists (non-menstrual) |
Asbestos |
Belts |
Bidets |
Birth control and religion |
Birth control drugs, old |
Birth control douche & sponges |
Founder bio |
Bly, Nellie |
MUM board |
Books: menstruation & menopause (& reviews) |
Cats |
Company booklets for girls (mostly) directory |
Contraception and religion |
Contraceptive drugs, old |
Contraceptive douche & sponges |
Costumes |
Menstrual cups |
Cup usage |
Dispensers |
Douches, pain, sprays |
Essay directory |
Extraction |
Facts-of-life booklets for girls |
Famous women in menstrual hygiene ads |
Feminine napkin, towel, pad directory |
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, towel, napkin directory |
Patent medicine |
Poetry directory |
Products, some current |
Puberty booklets for girls and parents|
Religion |
Religión y menstruación |
Your remedies for menstrual discomfort |
Menstrual products safety |
Sanitary napkin, towel, pad directory |
Seguridad de productos para la menstruación |
Science |
Shame |
Slapping, menstrual |
Sponges |
Synchrony |
Tampon directory |
Early tampons |
Teen ads directory |
Tour of the former museum (video) |
Towel, pad, sanitary napkin directory |
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 |
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.

Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health

Ancient art: Pre-Columbian bowl from the Nasca culture on the coast of Perú, c. 200 BCE - 600 AD, showing a menstruating vagina

A remarkably explicit exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, here in Washington, D.C., showed an earthenware bowl enclosing images of menstrual blood (drawings, below) and what appear to be pubic hair and either a clitoris or the remnants of the hymen. The pubic hair occupies a raised portion, probably indicating the mons pubis.

Other objects in the show, called Divine and Human: Women in Ancient Mexico and Peru, included more images of the vulva than you'd find in several months of Playboy. And Playboy would never publish anything like the Kama Sutra-like sculpture of couples, um, going at it in every which way, if you get my drift. A Washington Post review hinted that men created most of the sculpture, which figures, but to what end? A sign warns mommies that they might not want their kids to see these clinical works. But after the numerous visiting children took in the genitalia scattered about - all female except for those of half the copulating figures - it was but a baby step to see one of the things women used them for. Hm, maybe that was an adult step.

The ladies at the information desk stopped me from using my camera to illustrate the bowl for MUM but encouraged me to draw it, so I trotted to a Utrecht art store a block away and returned with Prismacolor pencils and paper. Although it wasn't easy drawing in semi-darkness and standing up - any sacrifice for my MUM visitors, which included a $6 entrance fee and vegan lunch with non-vegan chocolate mousse! - the drawings, below, give a good idea of what some of our ancestors employed to hold - well, what? Peanuts? The catalog doesn't say. Could it have caught menses for some ritual?

Neither does the catalog explain the images in brown on the sides.

(A boy about 10 watched me draw the bowl and afterwards asked me if I was an artist (I am). An hour later I saw him and his mother and brother in the same store I had bought the pencils and paper, where I was standing at the cash register with Arches 300-pound watercolor paper for a double portrait I took a commission to do. The boy's mother was buying him Prismacolor pencils and paper.)

One museum sign reported that these early Americans called childbirth - depicted in the exhibit in three dimensions many times - "the time of death," I assume a reference to the horrors sometimes awaiting mother and child. One argument against Intelligent Design, by the way, would be that an Intelligent Designer would make childbirth easy, not hard, even fatal.

And in a detailed story of a sacrifice winding around a large bowl, I saw what must be the ur-Saul Steinberg dog in profile, the pooch that delighted readers years ago in the New Yorker magazine (and in an exhibit at the Smithsonian's Museum of American Art). I laughed until I realized that the Steinberg dog often made me shiver then as it did here, where it accompanied ghastly acts.

The exhibit closed 28 May 2006.

A MUM visitor kindly e-mailed more information (Sept. 2009):

I inter library loaned this book [below].

Amazon listing [and see Google books on line] with more info:


The picture [a photo, which I was not allowed to take in the museum] is on page 38 and on page 39 it reads

"The Museo de la Nacion in Lima holds an exquisite, small Nazca bowl with curved sides, painted all around with graphic vaginas, and another powerfully graphic Nazca bowl, with folded sides like vaginal lips, has in its interior space moulded in relief in the raised shape of the 'Venus mount,' inscribed with stylised pubic hair and showing the mentrual flow in red, oozing toward the lip of the bowl, possibly implying, here again, some pouring or even drinking ritual."

It is referring back to the previous page where the author refutes the interpretations of these sculptures as purely humorous and states a belief that they involved some sort of inebriation rituals, since many of the sculptures were also vessels and that their pour/spout was always the urethra, vagina or anus, so that the user was ritualistically taking in the fluids and/or vicariously engaging in some form of oral sex.


The bowl's greatest dimension is about 4.75" (c. 11.4 cm) but was hard to measure from outside its glass cabinet; I eyeballed it with a ruler because the catalog gave no sizes. The Banco Céntral de Reserva del Perú owns it; the stockholders would revolt if Wachovia owned such a thing. Brown, red - ! - and cream color it, which I left out of the drawings below to speed the download. The menstrual blood pools out of sight to the right. I was not allowed to photograph the object but the museum docents encouraged me to draw it (I'm an artist).
The shadow under the "clitoris" is just that, not a depression that might form the entrance to the vagina.


I dropped the color from the drawings above and below to speed up download. The menstrual blood in the cup is red as shown in the first drawing.
The drawings are copyright 2006 Harry Finley.

See a modern bowl, this one for soaking used washable pads. 

Next artist of menstruation: Mayra Alpízar

See menstrual artifacts from Almora, Uttar Pradesh state, India; Rajasthan state, India; 19th-century Norway; Italy; and instructions for making Japanese and German washable pads from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

© 2006 Harry Finley. It is illegal to reproduce or distribute any of the work on this Web site in any manner or medium without written permission of the author. Please report suspected violations to