The history of underwear sheds light on what women used for menstruation.
What women used in earlier times: See nineteenth-century Norwegian washable pads and an Italian washable "rag" from before 1900 - German patterns for washable pads, about 1900 - Japanese patterns for washable pads (early 20th century) - Contemporary washable pads - Women sometimes wore washable pads with a sanitary apron - Egyptian hieroglyphics telling of tampon use - The first commercial tampons, (U.S.A., 1930s) - Menstrual cups (1930s) - Special underpants
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 |
Artists (non-menstrual) |
Asbestos |
Belts |
Bidets |
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 |
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, some current |
Puberty booklets for girls and parents|
Religion |
Religión y menstruación |
Your remedies for menstrual discomfort |
Menstrual products safety |
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) |
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.


Out of the Past
Articles and comments about women and menstruation in 17th century England as well
as centuries ago in other places

In response to an American TV inquiry that I received in July of 2013, I contacted English Renaissance scholar Dr Sara Read (more about her below) for expressions and words that the Puritans used in the 17th century. She wrote:

There were a few expressions in use at this time (including actually 'terms' itself).

  • The most common ones were: flowers, courses, and terms. However, they were unlikely to be used in open conversation where instead women tended to say things like 'those' or 'nature' that type of thing. The expressions, then, imply menstruation rather than say it, so if for example she was telling another woman she thought she might be pregnant she might say, 'I haven't had those for a while' and assume that the other woman knew what she meant. Men tended to be more direct and say terms or courses 'she hasn't had her course' for example. They also used the biblical 'custom of women' so an older woman might be described as no longer having the custom of women, for example.

The whole of Chapter One of my book [which appears in September 2013] Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England is devoted to the language used for menstruation in the early modern era.

[See other words and expressions about menstruation.]


More from Dr Read, Loughborough University, United Kingdom:

Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England
Order in the U.K., U.S.A.

Notes and Queries article:
"An Expected Gift: Literary Resumption of Marital Intimacy from Donne to Updike," published April 13, available here:

"John Freind, the number 7, and why women have periods"

"Mrs King of Northfleet’s Menstruating Leg Ulcer"

Did many women intentionally menstruate into their clothing in 17th-century Britain? "Thy righteousness is but a menstrual clout: sanitary practices and prejudice in early modern England"

(See more of Dr Read's articles in the MUM bibliography.)

Dr Sara Read recommends Prof. Helen King's
blog post The History of Menstruation, where she discusses ancient Greece and Rome among other things.


"When they menstruated, they left a trail of blood behind them."
What did European and American women use for menstruation in the 19th century and before? (With additions about Muslim law and Jewish law.)

copyright 2013 Harry Finley