Just in case anyone wants to know, it appears the likely implication of
this discussion to anyone in archaeology is as follows:
1. Baby Nappies ... appear to be virtually unknown before the 20th
century. The most likely scenario is that children wore loose clothing
and parents would recognise when children needed to go to the toilet and
take appropriate action. Often any spills would be left to the fowl or
dogs to eat up.
2. Menstrual cloths. Again appears to be an innovation around the turn
of the 19th century. A good source is this article:
http://www.mum.org/whatwore.htm from which (and other sources) it
appears that not only did babies not wear nappies, but neither did women
wear sanitary towels and instead the red was just allowed to flow:
"When working in the cotton mills circa 1900, she (Mrs Cooper) 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."
"there is a culture on the Amazon river in which the word for a woman is
'the person with a red streak down the leg.' I suspect there are many
such cultures. If so, why could that have not been the case in Europe?"
Merryn Dineley wrote:
> I have been told similar tales dating from the 1940s, Lincolnshire.
> Apparently it was really important to keep everything to do with
> menstruation well hidden from men.
> Jez wrote:
>> Cloths are not the sole province of archæology - my mother, born
>> 1915, used folded towelling held on with safety pins, which had to be
>> washed each night and dried out of sight of the menfolk of the family.
>> This in the late twenties/early thirties in the Eastwood area of
I tried to find any Greek, Latin, Hebrew or Anglo-Saxon references to
menstrual. As far as I can tell there is no word in English before the
14th century. The bible has one passage (pun not intended) and most
Greek and Latin dictionaries are so coy that it requires a degree in
English Euphemism to discern any trace of menstrual in the Latin and
I have however made some progress. Almost all the words used for
menstrual have these sense as a sub-use and would be more accurately
translated by us as "toilet/cesspit/excretia" or "monthlies".