New this week: Zonite douche ad (1928) - "Traveling Menstrual Show" by Geneva Kachman, a cycle of menstrual songs - Menstrual humor - DIRECTORY OF ALL TOPICS - newest news

Call Your Congressman About the Proposed Tampon Safety and Research Act! Here's How and Why.

Your MUM Flings Open the Back Door of a Drug Company!

A male surfer sent this e-mail. I am concealing his name and the name of the firm he worked for, his position and when he worked there, as well as the name of another company. He IS from Planet Earth. Imagine his face pixeled out.

Hey, this is Drama with a capital D, right? Call it the Sludge Report!

I stumbled across your MUM Web page quite by mistake, but found it intriguing.

Many years ago I worked at X, a health care firm that held a strange portfolio of products, including some for feminine hygiene, including the following:

Lydia Pinkham [a famous patent medicine]. There was the elixir as well as tablets. The elixir had a terrible odor to it, but I guess the alcohol content was enough of an attraction to ladies, especially during Prohibition [a time, 1920-1933, in the U.S.A., when the sale of "recreational" alcohol was prohibited, but sales of Lydia Pinkham's medicine shot up, since it was one of the few legal sources of alcohol]. We dropped a pallet of the elixir in the warehouse one day and it cleared everyone out of the building in a hurry - what an awful odor. Both had the reputation of throwing off your cycle and it was captioned by some, "a baby in every bottle!" [Or maybe the alcohol drove up the hanky-panky quotient.]

Zonite and Zonitors. We sold the liquid douche as well as feminine suppositories. While I was there we changed Zonite packaging from glass to plastic and had to adjust the formulation. Oddly enough this upset a fair number of dentists who found that it made a great economical mouthwash (I doubt that the patients ever knew the name of the actual product). [I hope not, although the ad does suggest other uses. Another early douche liquid, Sterizol, also advertised itself as multipurpose.]

Zonitors were a less well-known competitor to Norforms, a product well advertised in women's magazines of the 1960s and 1970s. In practice, a woman would normally insert one and then insert a tampon on top of it, otherwise it would get quite messy. (Note that Cosmopolitan magazine ran a kind of landmark tongue-in-cheek article that also mentioned this and douching, about the mid 1970s).

Shy Syringes. While I worked for X we purchased Y, the seller of this item. This was a clever compact single piece 2-quart douche syringe - bag and nozzle arrangement without a hose. It actually sold pretty well and was still on the market within the past 5 years. Apparently it attracted many women who believed that they needed some quantity for a douche to be effective.

We had been working on a ready-to-use disposable product, but the prototypes didn't have much appeal as they held a whole pint of liquid, were expensive to ship, and others, such as Summer's Eve and Massengil, came out with a more attractive product.

[Megan Hicks, Curator of Medicine at the Powerhouse Museum, Australia's largest, sent yer MUM some turn-of-the-century Australian ads for douching equipment. While you're at it, browse among old Australian ads for menstrual napkin belts, also from the Powerhouse Museum. And a woman in Oregon, U.S.A., UPSed this museum many old models of douching gear, as well as other incredible things. I know you will want to see these to complete your sanitary, hygienic feminine education for those critical days.]

I don't know if this information is of much immediate use to the museum [it is, it is!], but it may answer some questions or fill in some blanks for you.



This is Not Menstruation, But It's Medicine, Sort of

In an article about the country-and-western singer Hank Williams, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel told how his two ex-wives went on a singing tour together after his death, but neither could sing very well.

Der Spiegel called them klinisch talentfrei - clinically free of talent.

MUM Gets Visitors

A couple on vacation from England visited this museum today - but almost didn't. The Mrs. stayed in their rented car in front of the house while the Mr. ventured in, saying his wife was too embarrassed to visit a home. He finally coaxed her in.

Faithful readers will recognize that the very same thing happened to the last English couple to appear in front of the house, but they never made it in, put off by that same idea. Either the English have a greater sense of propriety than Americans - quite possible - or they are simply not used to seeing museums in people's houses, common in America. Well, maybe not museums of menstruation.

The gentleman, retired from the blood-storage program in England, mentioned that the AIDS epidemic had a curiosity about it: it was early on associated with people from Haiti, with hemophiliacs, with homosexuals and with heroin.

He also said that his 95-year-old mother suddenly asked him recently, "David, did we have you circumcised?" a question which rather startled him, and which she never would have asked 10 years ago. The times are changing!

Letters to Your MUM

A woman discusses menstrual cups [more comments here], male attitudes about menstruation, the Bob and Tom Show, and makes some valuable suggestions:

I have tried both [menstrual cups Instead and The Keeper]. I am 46 and periomenopausal [the time just before menopause]. I've had two kids. My menstrual cycle is a nightmare, as chunks of what looks like fresh liver, up to the size of half dollars, fall out of my uterus during my period. [I almost edited out that sentence, folks, but it's important to her story.] Pads absorb it but it's that feeling of its hanging there ready to drop that is hugely uncomfortable. These two products [Instead and The Keeper] get around this; I have experienced leakage with both but the comfort level is so much nicer.

My husband and I attend a lot of festivals and fairs where the only restrooms are port-a-pots. Rather than carry half a dozen pads, I use The Keeper and can put on one pad that'll last 24 hours. Instead is good when you want to have sex and not leave a huge mess on the bed or your man, but I must say my husband is totally cool in this area: if I have tampon in (he calls them mice), he just whips it out and throws it for the cats to chase [cats chasing mice!]. As I said, I'm periomenopausal and my periods are irregular - my husband actually tells me when I'm early or late; I am blessed with a man who isn't turned off or grossed out by all this.

I got my period at age 13 in 1962, and when I told my mother she told me to ask my eight-year-old brother about it - she could not handle it. [Now there's a cool and/or confused little kid!]

Men need to be educated about this; it's a natural occurrence that cannot be avoided and shouldn't be dealt with like the plague. [Are you ever right! For most of my life I had exactly the same kind of attitude as the vast majority of American men. Men CAN be trained! Just be sure to put plenty of newspapers on the floor.] I salute the Web site and hope many people learn from it. [Thank you, and I do too.]

By the way, you were on the Bob and Tom [radio] Show out of Indianapolis today and after the call they all talked about how they thought you were a latent pervert for establishing this museum, and said you probably kept a woman in a pit and had sex with the mannequins. [Actually, the woman's quite comfortable, and gets to go to the movies once a week. Don't be hard on Bob and Tom; they're only speaking from experience. What IS going on in Indiana? Somebody on a radio program in Ft. Wayne asked me if I hired menstruating prostitutes for sex. "No" is the answer.] As far as I'm concerned they're wrong and really uptight. You're a man who saw a dearth of information and who actually likes women. [You're right. Read here.]

Thank you - I intend to show the site to my 14-year-old daughter who was obsessed to get her period and now won't discuss it. [I've heard this before; it must not be unusual, and might be a clue as to what the problem is about menstruation in American society.]

Sorry for the length. [It was just the right length.]

This letter shows what the central problem is with menstruation, I think: shame. I discuss this in the odor page and elsewhere. The woman who directs the menstrual disorders clinic of a medical school on the west coast of the U.S.A. visited this museum and said that every women who comes through the door is ashamed of menstruating.

I learned about menstruation as an 11-year old from the boy next door, not from the movie the school showed just to the girls, which may not have been of much help in itself. But the secrecy which surrounded and still surrounds the subject guarantees it will be a load on women's backs.

And I'm convinced that part of this shame is imposed by a male-run society as a way of keeping women in their place. How can you really like yourself if you are ashamed of yourself? Men know that women are not sure of themselves.

As the power of women increases in our society, the shame of menstruation will go down. But women will themselves have to throw off this feeling, and not wait for men to change their attitude. In a sense, men are waiting for women to have more self-respect.

Here's one, probably from a man:

I originally heard about this site from a radio program that was using it for humor. The things they were saying were pretty funny, too. They ought to have given you a check for providing such ready material [it's never too late].

But when I examined the site I found it very edifying. Who knew that the amount of menstruation discharge was so small? From talking to some women you'd think they were bleeding pints. [Some women do lose a lot of blood. And see the letter above for what else is lost besides blood, and how this makes a woman feel.] I think the subject you raise is one that benefits from a good airing. [I'm not sure if this was meant to be witty, but it's true in the figurative sense.]

From a Canadian woman interested in the history of contraception:

Wow. I'm a huge social history fan, and I can't tell you how fascinating I found your Web site. It's very well researched [hey, do you work for the New York Times, which used those same words?], and covers a lot of truly fascinating stuff, especially about the late Victorian sanitary aprons. I still have a lot to see on the site, but I didn't see a mention anywhere of menstrual sponges. [See the Directory for all subjects in the museum.] Are you aware of these items, and do you have any examples [yes]?

I'm referring to a "back to nature" approach in the early 80s that involved using natural sea sponges as tampons. I used to use them, and remember that the company that distributed them encouraged their being washed and rinsed of all possible sand, and that a piece of dental floss be attached for removal. They were reusable, and had to be washed and boiled between uses. Not a very sanitary approach, and a real pain hassle to keep boiling, etc., but great for the environment.

A few things that might interest you: Did you know that there is a museum of contraception here in Toronto? They have a booklet about the history of contraception and a small exhibition that parallels it.

I also have a fascinating old book (1936, first printing) called The Medical History of Contraception, which has the following passage:

"According to Jaworskij, the South Russian women of the Skaler mountain range in Galicia use the following magical contraceptive recipes:

1) A young girl, in order to prevent children, takes a few drops of her first menstrual blood, and lets it flow into a hole in the first egg of a young hen. She then buries the egg near the table in the room. There the egg remains for nine days and nine nights. When the egg is taken up, it will be found to contain worms with black heads. She will have as many children as the egg contains worms. If she throws the egg with the worms in it into water, she will have the children, if she throws it into the fire, they will burn up once and for all.

2) The menstrual blood of wives is taken and put on flax lint. This is then tied into ten knots in ten "corners," rolled together, and worn for nine days and nine nights. During the night it is carried under the right arm, and during the day under the left knee. Thereafter it is buried in the earth in the main corner of the room while these words are recited three times: "I do not bury you for one year, but for eternity!" Then this woman will not have any children."

Sounds like a lot of work!

Anyway, best of luck with the MUM, and I'll keep my eyes peeled for any more tampon trivia.

Read About a New Idea for a Menstrual Pad

Virginia Grein has patented MedPad [called Daisy Fresh as of June, 2000] and writes,

I currently have a Web page at which is the site of the newest and most comfortable innovation in feminine products. Here, I am conducting a survey to help get this product to the market. So far, 99% of the over 900+ surveys would like to see it on the market.


Do You Have Irregular Menses?

If so, you may have polycystic ovary syndrome.

Jane Newman, Clinical Research Coordinator at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard University School of Medicine, asked me to tell you that

Irregular menses identify women at high risk for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which exists in 6-10% of women of reproductive age. PCOS is a major cause of infertility and is linked to diabetes.

Learn more about current research on PCOS at Brigham and Women's Hospital, the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State University - or contact Jane Newman..

If you have fewer than six periods a year, you may be eligible to participate in the study!

See more medical and scientific information about menstruation.

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New this week: Zonite douche ad (1928) - "Traveling Menstrual Show" by Geneva Kachman, a cycle of menstrual songs - Menstrual humor - DIRECTORY OF ALL TOPICS


Take a short tour of MUM! (and on Web video!) - FAQ - Future of this museum - Tampon Safety Act - Visit or contact the actual museum - Board of Directors - Norwegian menstruation exhibit - The media and the MUM - Menstrual odor - Prof. Mack C. Padd: Fat Cat - The science and medicine of menstruation - Early tampons - Books about menstruation - Menstrual cups: history, comments - A Note from Germany/Neues aus Deutschland und Europa - Letters - Links

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