history of women
Health and fitness

The History of Women: How Hygiene Products came into Existence?

In the 21st century, we have lots of option to keep ourselves clean especially during periods. Companies are coming up with different pads or tampons to make sure that we stay clean during this period.

Moreover, there are soaps and powders that are specifically made for female intimate hygiene. The market is overflowing with such products. We as women of the 21st century should be glad of these inventions.

The History of Women: The Journey of Hygiene Products


Ask your grandmother or great-grandmothers what they used to maintain their hygiene and you will be shocked to know that the products we use are such an improvement. In older times women all over the world used cloth or rags as pads to absorb the blood flow and clay to clean their body and never complained.

It is fascinating to know about the evolution of these products so I dug a little deep into the history of hygiene products for women and this is what I found.

1700- The History of old rags

  • In the early 1700s, women usually used old rags as a substitute for pads. They simply used to wash it and re-use them again.
  • Women living on the farm used sheepskin as pads. They boiled it after every use and kept using it the next month.
  • While travelling, they used cheesecloth sack that had flattened cotton in it. The cotton was thrown away after every use, and a new one was inserted in the cheesecloth.

1896- The History of First sanitary pads

  • In 1896, Johnson and Johnson came up with first pads “Lister’s towel’s”. They were not successful as women were horrified about buying these towels in public.
  • Since women didn’t want to admit about their menstrual cycle, they didn’t buy or even try them.

1900s- The History of bloomers

  • In the early 1900s, women still used old rags and cotton.
  • They used to take folding fabric with cotton padding and pin it to their underwear. These things were washable and were used by them again and again.
  • Sanitary aprons and bloomers with thick padding were made available for women that would not absorb the blood but prevented any staining thus keeping the clothes clean.

1920- The History of curads

  • During the First World War, French nurses founded that Curads bandages by Kotex were more absorbent of blood than the rags they used. Thus, many women started using that. They had to be worn with a sanitary belt which was re-usable.
  • Also, to avoid embarrassment on both ends, most shopkeepers kept a box near curads so that women could purchase them without having to ask about them.

1929- The History of tampons

  • Earle Hass in 1929 invented the first commercial applicator tampon named ‘Tampax’ that also had a handle to remove it. By 1936, the product made its way into the market.

1930s- The History of menstrual cups

  • In the 1930s, menstrual cups came into being. But, were criticized by women who saw re-using the same cup again and again as a setback to disposable pads and tampons.

1950s- The History of tampons without applicator

  • Due to the popularity of tampons, in the 50s a company named Pursettes came up with tampons that didn’t need applicators.
  • They also promoted their product in a fancy way to attract women from all classes by selling their product in a black carrying case.

1970s- The History of pads with backing

  • During this period there were many pad selling companies which provided adhesive backing in their pads thus outing the need for belts and pins.
  • Winged pads came into existence during this period and also cloth menstrual pads came back due to their cost-effectiveness.

1978- The History of the absorbent tampon

  • Proctor and Gamble came up with a tampon that was extra absorbent and was made with a material that when inserted took the shape of a cup.
  • This also raised some concerns amongst health experts as they found cases of women dying due to this material causing toxic shock syndrome in them.
  • This called for more strict rules and approval methods for giving the green light to any new hygiene products for women.

1980- The History of advertising

  • The continued use of tampons and pads were there, but the advertising for the same saw a shift. Most companies showed women who were playing or working during their periods.
  • Also, the ads showed a blue liquid that would be absorbed by the pad to show credibility.

1990s- The History of discretion

  • There were some changes in the material used, but the tampons and pads were still there.
  • The only thing that changed in the 90s was how the companies started making the pads thinner and insisting on keeping it discreet. Thus, they started using packaging to hide their products.

Present scenario- 2018

  • In the last few years, the companies, as well as women, have worked hard to remove the taboo around periods and pads. Thus, the discretion is lifted. More companies are coming up with pads that fit every woman. Also, now they are within the budget of women from every walk of life.
  • The recent development is coming back from menstrual cups like Divacup. Now they are slowly gaining popularity as they are safer, absorb more blood, keep the environment clean.y and can be used longer than tampons and pads.

This has been an eye-opener, we are lucky to have access to stuff that makes our life a little easy. So, everyone who reads this must share this article so as to lift the stigma that surrounds period. Let every woman know that it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.