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Fifth edition and a beautiful copy of this rare 1940s pamphlet on menstruation and Kotex products, illustrated by the Walt Disney Studios. Early editions in such nice condition are scare, with WorldCat locating only twelve institutional copies of the 1948 edition.
Modern sanitary pads were developed by First World War nurses who discovered that the new cellucotton they used to bandage wounded soldiers also did an excellent job of absorbing menstrual blood. Kimberley-Clark, the maker of cellucotton, took note and became one of the first manufacturers of this new generation of products under the brand name Kotex.
This advertising brochure for Kotex was first published in 1946 to accompany a ten minute Disney film titled The Story of Menstruation (on which its illustrations are based) and it remained in print with its design being updated regularly through the 1980s. Both the film and the pamphlet begin with an explanation of the hormonal changes of puberty, the female reproductive organs, and the stages of the menstrual cycle. They also discuss myths about periods and ways that women could relieve cramps and be more comfortable during this part of their cycle. And the booklet includes a one-year calendar so that the young woman could begin tracking her cycle.
In addition to the delightful Disney illustrations, this pamphlet is of particular interest in how it reflects contemporary thinking about menstruation, women’s health, and gender roles. While it debunks many popular myths - that women shouldn’t exercise or bathe during their periods - it also promotes a number of others: “Avoid getting cold or having wet feet”; “Certainly you can go to dances, but better save the jitterbug routine for another time”; “sometimes the flow has a little difficulty in getting started, and keeping active often relieves discomfort caused by congestion”; “its timing can be upset by a sudden change of climate or altitude. By a train, plane or boat trip. By a cold. And particularly by any great physical strain or emotional shock”.
Throughout the pamphlet the young woman is encouraged to keep herself well mentally and physically - for her own comfort but also to meet the social expectation that women be perfectly groomed and poised at all times. She is exhorted to make healthy choices and to practice “model posture” to “avoid middle age bulge” and “build a firm and graceful figure”. While periods are acknowledged as being “something of a nuisance”, women who experience difficult or painful menstruation are depicted as poor specimens of womanhood: “As for staying in bed the first day... that’s plain silly! The idea is a hold-over from bygone days when women used menstruation as an excuse for ‘gold-bricking’”. The woman is advised not to “dramatize” herself, but to “smile, sister, smile!” and “perk up that personality”. She is also told that discomfort is often “made in the mind - for modern doctors know that fretting can create sickness - even pain, when there’s no physical cause for either. And thinking about menstruation as being ‘unwell’ - or dramatizing little irregularities - have made a part-time invalid of many a perfectly healthy girl”. The text also advises that “daintiness is more important than ever on ‘certain days’” and advises the use of deodorant powders with Kotex pads.
The booklet exemplifies the vigorous, positive spirit of post-war America: “The Atomic Age moves at a fast clip, and has little time for girls who make a fuss about menstruation. So if you’re the alert, modern miss you want to be - you’ll take full advantage of every known comfort trick”. A superb early example of this scare and important hygiene brochure.
Chicago, IL: International Cellucotton Products Co., c. 1948.
10 page pamphlet, stapled. Original colour printed wrappers. Two-tone illustrations throughout. Only the faintest rubbing at the extremities. A superb, fresh copy.
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