Menstrual Products Innovations: A Brief History
Are Menstrual Product Innovations as shiny and new as what they appear to be?
Nowadays, we see menstrual inclusivity amongst influencers, brands, and publications, but what about innovation? Promoting inclusivity has been a game changer for the menstrual product industry and has brought education, advocacy, and accessibility. Why can't we group in innovation as well?
Menstrual cups are at the top of their game, and you can find them at your nearest CVS, Walmart, and convenience store. In the past few years, it is extraordinary how menstrual cups have shifted toward becoming a household name. Due to this, it is easy to think that the menstrual cup has been the innovation I keep referring to, right?
The concept of the menstrual cup has been around since 1867 yet never made it on the market. It had a sack inserted into the vagina and attached to a belt. This design is the "Catamenial Sack," meaning the menses sack. Following Hockert's patent came a whole array of contraptions, hanging purses between the legs, tubes, pouches, belts, metal rings, and floating metal balls. In other words, name something, and you can definitely find it on a Catamenial Sack patent.
It took a whopping 77 years before it hit the shelves in 1937. Leona Chalmers is the woman behind the first commercial menstrual cup. She promoted finding the "answer to a problem as old as Eve," which led to her invention, the "Tassette Cup." They tried to manufacture the cup, but they were shut down due to latex shortages during WWII. They relaunched in the 1950s, but people claimed it was too hard and heavy. The main hidden issue, I suspect, is the sheer fact women don't want to put their fingers into their vaginas or touch/clean the cup.
Doing so would obtrude the reality of menstruation, its messy, "uncleanliness" that is hammered into many menstruators' minds.
This concept of the social stigma of not physically touching with the "impurities" of menstrual blood then led to the invention of the tampon applicator. Earle Haas solved the moral dilemma and devised a cardboard applicator for tampons. Though it may have been developed with moral reasons in mind, the world today acknowledges the applicator's ability to provide ease of use; and, in my opinion, a luxury.
Catamenial Sack (American) from 1867 at the Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health. (n.d.). http://www.mum.org/1867Patent.htm
Fetters, A. (2015, June 1). The Tampon: A History. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/06/history-of-the-tampon/394334/
The Menstrual Cup, Part 1: The Leona Chalmers Patent, at the Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health. (n.d.). http://www.mum.org/CupPat1.htm