A Brief History of The Tampon

Now I may be missing the point but are politicians really trying to win the election based on scrapping the tampon tax? Don’t get me wrong as a woman sometimes the dreaded monthly cycles can be a proper pain (literally) in the backside and if you’re on a low income I’m guessing it can be a financial nightmare too but is that the best solution the Green Party can come up with? As a female myself, every month I see the price of some branded products and think to myself is that really the price we have to pay? But then I glance along the shelf and find a Supermarket own brand for a fraction of the price and yes, I’ll admit I think “bargain, they’ll do”. The point is the tax on products such as Tampons apparently goes to women’s charities. I suppose the tax could actually be used to give sanitary products to those who are in desperate need and can’t afford them. That’s just my thought. Maybe that’s the Green party’s thought too because I’m also just wondering if they go on a prescription type system then how much will that cost the NHS. Hey, another bone of contention for the political parties to fight over.

As a woman, there’s a part of me that thinks, I didn’t ask for this every month, but don’t get me wrong I am 100% glad that it does and one day I hope it’ll all be worth it when I have a family of my own. Let’s face it the science behind the menstrual cycle and beyond is pretty incredible and for that reason there’s a part of me that thinks “yes sanitary products should be free”. But then there’s the realist side of me who knows that nothing in this life comes for free. Maybe it’s just because I can afford them that I don’t mind paying for them. Just because I can afford them doesn’t necessarily mean I go for the most expensive. Unless, for whatever reason I think “I’ll treat myself this month”.

These are my opinions and this isn’t meant to be a political post, I’m not really one for politics but reading about the inclusion of free sanitary products in the Green party manifesto got me thinking about my next blog post. Where did the tampon come from? We all know where it’s going but what is the history behind this little tube that females across the world rely upon every month for the majority of their adult life.

In the US it is estimated that the average woman will use around 16000 tampons in her lifetime and I’m under the impression that the figure won’t be too different for us Brits. It doesn’t matter which brand, which fit or which absorbency you choose the fact of the matter is the little tampon you carefully hold in your hand transcends history. They are also a symbol for feminism and arguably secrecy. In reality, they’re really designed to keep all that “inner female” hygienically secret from the rest of the world even if your mood tells a completely different story.

So where do they come from? Well, it’s not really a secret that women throughout the ages have found ways to help control their periods. Women in Ancient Rome are said to have used wool to make their own tampons. Yet, it’s believed the Ancient Egyptians (of course) are credited with producing the first disposable tampon…out of papyrus! According to Hippocrates, Greek women made their own version by wrapping a small piece of wood in lint.

The modern tampon, the kind we may be more accustomed to, wasn’t patented until 1929 by Dr Earle Haas. His idea for a tightly compacted cotton tube with a string came from a conversation he had with a friend. She told him she had come up with a way if stemming the flow by inserting a sponge rather than using the more conventional pads worn externally. So, after a bit of experimentation, Haas came up with the tampon we know today and to keep it clean he added an applicator tube, which allowed the woman to insert the tampon without having to handle it. Clever, right?

The “catamenial device”, derived from the Greek for monthly, was patented in November 1933. Later Tampax was patented and sold to businesswoman Gertrude Tendrich who formed the Tampax company. The tampon was now in mass production. By the way if like me you’ve always wondered where the name Tampax comes from, well it’s a clever mix of tampon and vaginal packs.

Whatever the name, whatever the brand, females across the world have the Egyptians and Earle Haas to thank for inventing probably the most convenient female product in the world.

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