the quote regarding the women in the factory was telling the story of a
suffragette who wanted the women to start using something to absorb the
red (the earliest English word I know). The women were against this
because they thought both the red and the smell attracted the men.
When studying the Suffragist movement and Selina Cooper [an Englishwoman
who lived from 1864 - 1946], I came across a very interesting story
about Mrs Cooper. When working in the cotton mills circa 1900, she was
horrified to discover that the mill women used no sanitary towels, the
floor of the work room was spread with straw to absorb menstrual fluids.
Mrs Cooper also mentions the smell. When Mrs Cooper made sanitary pads
for some of the women there was an outcry from some of the girls'
mothers as they were worried that their daughters would not find
husbands as the smell and flow attracted them, both being considered
signs of fertility. The passage is in Jill Liddington, A Respectable
Rebel: Selina Cooper, Virago (1984). One could interpret from this that
the use of sanitary pads depended on the cultural background of
This to me suggests that the women not only did not "per chance" use
pads, but they saw positive benefits in not having pads. I personally
have the same attitude when I cut myself - I don't put a bandage on a
cut (it just goes soggy) unless it will get dirt into it OR IT IS
BLEEDING ON THE FLOOR.
Perhaps modern women over-estimate the amount of red because of the
constant hammering by advertisers and if you think about it bitches
produce the red just as any other mammal, and I've yet to see a dog
wearing a menstrual pad (but I'm sure it will come!)
All in all it sounds a fantastic PHD for someone!!!
I did try a couple of hours looking through Greek, Hebrew and Anglo
Saxon dictionaries and texts to see whether I could find anything
written on the subject, but I didn't with these provisos:
1. There does not appear in any of these languages to be a word
specifically for "menstrual"
2. The words which could have a sub-meaning of menstrual did not appear
in the texts I had access to (mainly Perseus) with that meaning.
3. The dictionary writers themselves were extremely coy and circumspect
about menstruation, so even if ancient writers had openly written, the
translation might not have been obviously about menstruation.
Latin. The word in Latin was Menstruum (think that's the spelling). I
didn't check the Latin texts (because of the disparate uses and no doubt
each had their own euphemism for menstrual)
Caroline Tully wrote:
> Regarding the women menstruating on the straw in the cotton factory... I've
> been thinking.. They were in a cotton factory, couldn't they have *used a
> bit of that cotton to absorb their menstrual blood* instead of leaking all
> over the floor like some weird leaky animal? And as for women just bleeding
> into their chemise... surely not. Some people have quite a lot of blood,
> you'd be drenched. I really am feeling sceptical about this "no absorbent
> materials" theory now. I mean, if you had a big cut on your arm, an injury,
> you wouldn't have let it bleed all over the place, you would have tried to
> blot the blood up with something. Regarding menstrual blood, what about
> using some sort of sphagnum moss arrangement? Some would have used sea
> sponges, perhaps.
> Caroline Tully.