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The History of Tampons

September 29, 2015 . careyo-machinawa

What did the first tampon look like? And who invented it? The Atlantic wrote a comprehensive article on the history of the tampon which shows the ingenuity of women but also the cultural and technological forces that shaped it throughout the times. You can take a look at the full article here but if you don’t have time here are two highlights.

Wool and grass

Throughout the ages, women had to find ways to care for themselves during their menstruation. These are only some of the ingenious examples of what were used as tampons. Ancient Roman women used woolen tampons, whereas in Africa they used little rolls of grass. Hawaiian women worked with the furry part of the native fern and Japanese women made tampons out of paper and secured them safely with cloth bandages which had to be changed up to 12 times a day. Quite a laborious process. But when did the commercial tampon come about, you ask?

In the 1920s a Kimberley-Clarke employee, John Williamson, made some holes in a condom and filled it with soft absorbent filling used for commercial pads. He showed it to his father, who was a Kimberley-Clarke medical consultant, to which he exclaimed ‘Never would I put any such strange article inside a woman!’. It seemed that the world was not ready yet for the arrival of the tampon.

The first commercial tampon

A decade later the tampon, as we know it, was born, you can read about it on the Tampax website (link). In a nutshell, Earle Cleveland Haas, a Colorado GP, heard from one of his women friends that she used a small piece of sponge that she inserted during her period. With his wife in mind (who they say was a ballerina) and her struggle with the bulky sanitary pads that were on the market at the time, Haas developed a tampon made out of compressed cotton. For optimal insertion and removal, he created a shell made out of different paper rolls. And so that tampon with the trusty applicator was born!

This was really a short intro to the article. What would you like to know about the history of the tampon? Let us know and we will find it out for you!

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