See more Kotex items: Other first-campaign ads: May 1921 - July 1921 - November 1921. Ad 1928 (Sears and Roebuck catalog) - Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday (booklet for girls, 1928, Australian edition; there are many links here to Kotex items) - 1920s booklet in Spanish showing disposal method - box from about 1969 - Preparing for Womanhood (1920s, booklet for girls) - "Are you in the know?" ads (Kotex) (1949)(1953)(1964)(booklet, 1956) - See more ads on the Ads for Teenagers main page
And read Lynn Peril's series about these and similar booklets!
Even more Kotex items: First ad (1921) - ad 1928 (Sears and Roebuck catalog) - Lee Miller ads (first real person in amenstrual 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.

The first Kotex sanitary napkin ad campaign, 1921, and almost-the-first Kotex ad (prototype, about 1920)

The First World War changed our notion of war, paved the way for Hitler and Stalin, reduced the power of the European aristocracy - and gave birth to the first widely successful disposable menstrual pad, Kotex. There had been others, both in Europe and the United States, but I suspect women in the English-speaking world and in Europe, ready to enjoy increased opportunities, saw a way to freedom from storing and washing the often cotton pads.

The Kimberly-Clark Corporation made bandages for American troops in Europe and had many left over after the war. Apparently American nurses in France found that the cellulose (which comes from trees, not cotton plants) wrappings made very absorbent menstrual pads, and were fairly cheap, so they could throw them away. K-C saw an opportunity, and created the Cellucotton Products Company to sell them. The word Kotex retains its cotton past: it means [K]Otton-like TEXture, a ruse that was supposed to make it easy to buy menstrual pads because clerks supposedly would not snicker at the word Kotex; but of course they did after a while. (Read a report about problems women had buying Kotex and other brands and see a way Kotex tried to get around this.)

The first magazine ad series for Kotex appeared in 1921 (see ads for January, May, July, and November). Kotex invested more advertising dollars in The Ladies' Home Journal than any other magazine in Kotex's first 20 years, starting in January. Wallace Meyer (honored at this museum), who led the campaign and wrote the copy for at least the first ad, had to assure the publications printing the ads that the ads would be dignified, which they were, as you see.

By the way, here are excerpts from a long letter to the 28 February 1949 Advertising Age that discussed the "feminine angle" in ad writing, an alleged woman writer for the early Kotex ads, and women in advertising in general. The male writer, advertising manager for the Tupper Corporation, in Farnumsville, Mass., described himself as a "scarred, gray and grim veteran of this profession." (I left his writing style alone. The word "copy" means the writing you read in an ad - the text.):

[A man who supports women in advertising has] a lean-on-mother inhibition [which] assures the gals that they and only they can contribute that "feminine touch" to copy that will make other women buy. And they believe it. . . .

There is a well substantiated piece of advertising history with which you may or may not be familiar. When Kotex was launched, it was considered necessary that a very delicate approach be made; indeed it was wondered whether ethical publications would even accept the copy. [Read the case of the first real person in a menstrual ad, Lee Miller.] So, a woman was employed to write the copy - an ex-registered nurse. Perhaps she had no flair for writing. In any event the advertising and merchandising and sales flopped until a man was put on the account; I do not recall who he was, but Kotex went over. [As I understand it, Kotex succeeded when the company told merchants to display it on the counter, with a coin box nearby, allowing women to buy it without talking to a clerk.]

I am of the opinion, and conviction, that the success of the average gal in business and particularly in our profession is gauged by this: If a woman manages to do a half way intelligent job she is hailed as a wonder. Put a man in that same job and his performance if only comparable to hers would result in his getting the well known gate or being barely tolerated at the most.

In my book there is a biological and mental difference between the sexes and that is like Kipling's East and West. For which I am grateful. You see I am twice married. I played out the first string until death did us part . . . .

But please, Lord, deliver us from career gals and and other women in business who cannot resist throwing their sex around to accomplish ends and objectives which damn fool so-called males fall for. To paraphrase Puck, "What fools we men be."

And now I am reminded of the teen-ager, Mary-Lou, on the Ozzie and Harriet program. Her gushings and extravagances are only slightly modified in the feminine copywriter once she takes a pencil in hand or begins to beat the typewriter. That's just the feminine angle. . . .

John Craig Heady

Paramedics have told me that menstrual pads - "Kotex" - make good bandages; they wouldn't be amazed at their origin. I wonder if Ernest Hemingway, an ambulance driver in the First World War and seriously wounded, knew that perhaps his bandages had an unusual future.

(Not to get away from the subject, but I've learned that Hemingway loved cats and had a herd of them on Key West. You cannot have enough cats. )

(After a car ran over the hind legs of his oldest cat in Cuba, the heartbroken writer shot the cat in the head to end its suffering. Witnesses said Hemingway cried inconsolably, not our image of him.)

Above and right: Prototype for the first Kotex ad (about 1920). This example in negative form, maybe the only form, from the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, might be unique. I created the positive image at right using Photoshop. The irony about saving men's lives is huge. But true. Read the words.
Below: Below is the full-page ad from one of the many American magazines carrying the first series of Kotex ads in 1921. See it enlarged and read the words.
Meyer said in a paper deposited in his archive at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (where the prototype ad is found) that the admen rejected the prototype shown above and at right because there were too many men for a product designed for women. The group effectively reversed the proportion of men to women in the actual first ad, below, and greatly altered the ad words.


Other first-campaign ads: May 1921 - July 1921 - November 1921

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