In July, I did a post about the Disney film, “Understanding Menstruation.“
Someone, I think it was Patti, mentioned the “thing we used to wear.” It was a sanitary belt, although to me, the whole concept never seemed that sanitary. The one above is dated about 1945. When I searched “sanitary belts,” it popped up, along with a lot of other pictures that kind of turned my early morning stomach (from other sites).
But the belt above led me to the amazing site of the Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health. I corresponded with the museum’s curator, Harry Finley, and he kindly gave me permission to post the picture above.
Turns out the museum is in Harry’s home, but he’s now closed it to the public because the stress of running the museum and working full time wore down his health. Several institutions have offered to house the collection, most likely only making it available to researchers/scholars. Harry wants the collection on display, where everyone can see and study it.
I asked Harry how he got started collecting items relating to periods. He’s what he wrote:
After I got the best job of my life, art director of a small magazine in Frankfurt, Germany, I bought magazines from all over the world to get ideas for laying our magazine out. I saw zillions of ads, among them ads for menstrual hygiene, which differ across country lines. It’s a taboo or semi-taboo subject, which made it more interesting. So I collected many ads as well as ads for everything else and started researching the companies involved.
Back in the U.S., when a job got awfully boring, I thought about opening a museum in my house – and did. The rest was a roller coaster ride. I was criticized by liberals and conservatives but also supported by liberals and conservatives. Quite an experience.
Harry, in the next email, added:
If you want, write that I totally believe a museum would attract many people, and I would hope, families. I experienced the discussions in the museum in my house, and there’s no reason to think many visitors would be any less shy in hashing things out with strangers, especially with something like a real menstrual hut from Africa or South America present; they’re still used there.
You could also add that I estimate the chances of a museum getting funded are tiny, microscopic. Men have told me in person or through e-mail that the government had better not use THEIR tax money! It’s hard enough to defend the National Gallery of Art, my second home.
Do check out the museum’s site. Incredible information here.
Thanks, Harry, for collecting these pieces of women’s period history. I hope you find a place for your collection, so we can visit.
In fact, if you do, we’ll come to the ribbon cutting! No doubt that ribbon will be red.