A quick history of tampons and pads

Menstrual management during ancient times wasn’t as easy and sophisticated as it is right now, owing to the invention of sanitary pads, tampons, and menstrual cups. There was actually a time when menstruating girls and women couldn’t drive to the local pharmacy or grocery store to pick up these supplies! Here’s a quick look at the fascinating history of these period care products that we love and adore today.

Sanitary pads

Menstrual pads have been cited in history as early as the 10th century in ancient Greece, where a woman is believed to have aimed one of her used menstrual rags at an admirer to get rid of him. Prior to the disposable pads we use today, most women attached rags, cotton, or sheep’s wool inside their underwear to stem menstrual flow. Other materials used where knitted pads, rabbit fur, and even grass.

There was a time when it was deemed acceptable for women to bleed into their clothes, but it was eventually considered a health hazard because of the threat of infections. In the late 1800s, the Hoosier sanitary belt came to the scene. Nickel plated and made up of sheet brass, it was rounded to fit the female body, and washable cloth pads were inserted into the device as the earliest-documented form of sanitary napkins.


The earliest known predecessor of the modern tampon was invented in 1929 by Dr. Earl Hass – it didn’t draw too much interest and he sold his patent to Gertrude Tenderich, who turned things around and founded the Tampax brand in 1936. From here, tampons with applicators were born and are still being used today.

Interestingly, ancient women had their own version of the tampon: they wrapped lint around small pieces of wood, soft wool, and softened papyrus.

Menstrual cup

In the 1930s, Lenoa Chalmers from the United States patented and produced the first reusable menstrual cup. In the patent, she suggested that the cup be made of vulcanized rubber. Yet the advent of disposable sanitary products attracted women more, as they simply preferred flushing or throwing soiled items away rather than handle their own blood.

Menstrual cups are making a big comeback in light of environmental sustainability issues, with realisations that the planet is being burdened with staggering amounts of waste, including sanitary products.

Ultimately, it boils down to your own personal choice whether you are going to use sanitary pads, tampons, or menstrual cups. Consider the most convenient solution and what can best handle your menstrual flow and needs.

Tell us: what’s your favorite period care supply and why? Let us know in the comments!

Sara Bishop is an advocate for young girls and has a professional career that started at age 14. She worked a number of administration, research, and advisory positions before helping lead multiple companies, including a construction firm and a sales and marketing agency. She lives in Queensland with her husband Luke and their three children. She is the force behind Perfect Timing, a women’s wellness service that delivers customised parcels filled with feminine products to transform THAT time of the month into THE time of the month. Learn more on this page.

Posted November 9th at 4:56am