If it weren't for the patient help of my best friend Kelly chanting motivation through the crack in the bathroom door: "You can do it Amanda. If you don't do it now, you'll never do it! " I would have never used a tampon. I understand that most men cringe over the topic of periods, tampons, and blood. I get it. For men, the fact a body part so essential to sexual enjoyment is responsible for discharging blood for a span of five to seven days a month is beyond them. Never mind all the baggage a period comes with including females' monthly excuse of acting a little crazy. Males' frustration is reasonable enough and I'll accept it. However, I would like to point out as a female with a regular cycle that women have a right to be frustrated as well. Fortunately, we are lucky enough to carry on with our daily activities because of the invention of the pad, and even better, the tampon.

Imagine it is the year of 1920 and you're a female in America. You would most likely be a homemaker, taking care of children and land if you had it, or if you were lucky, working in a factory or as teacher. Now, picture going through your day on ‘that time of the month' without the invention of the tampon. Rough. Usually, most women carried on with their days with no means of protection. That's right, nothing. On the other hand for those women who did not want to stain their clothing they used rags. I guess that is where the saying, "She's on the rag, " came from. Typically, women used cotton menstrual rags which were soaked in a bucket overnight to reduce the stain and were then washed the next day. Envision an American or European society where such period rags were a regular element of the landscape that hung alongside drying clothes in everyday backyards.

For thousands of years the evidence behind wearing nothing to soak up menstrual blood is striking and makes me twinge out of discomfort for those women, yet I gain utmost respect for those women who were inhibited by the time, lack on invention, lack of knowledge, and men. Sabine Hering and Gudrun Maierhof, in Die unpäßliche Frau ("The Indisposed Woman," Pfaffenweiler, Germany, 1991), wrote, "Most women seemed to have made their own pads or, like rural women, wore neither pads nor underpants. When they menstruated, they left a trail of blood behind them." This trail of blood journeyed across oceans, coming all the way from Germany, Europe, and other countries. Considering that the second largest group of last names in America is of German origin, followed by European and Britain, we can recognize that most women were of lower class coming to America looking for opportunities. A large fraction of these women migrated west as pioneers. In her PhD dissertation, Menstrual Technology in the United States (1994), Laura Kidd examined seventeen pioneer women diaries and discovered a passage in one diary that hinted most women wore nothing to absorb blood. The women in the diary spoke of her white underwear that were now dark and stained with blood insisting women buy dark underwear rather than white. All other diaries simply did not mention it at all. Earlier records were mostly written by men and generally never consisted of women, nevermind their menstrual problems. Records are even harder to find because most women could not write and I don't expect literate women to record such details out of fun.

Speaking of fun, I would not consider a period fun, especially for those women who had no other choice but to bleed into their clothes. In the 1700's both men and women wore long shirts that hung from their shoulders down to their calves. Of course the rich wore fancier versions of the dresses but underneath no one was wearing underwear, rich or poor. Yes, our nation's history consists of women bleeding into their clothes if not right out onto the floor. The universal saying that "a man wears the pants in the family, " or "a man wears the pants in the relationship, " could very well be the cause for such a serious trail of blood. As a symbol of authority only men wore pants, only after the French Revolution did women begin to wear long legged underpants, which were of course concealed under their dress. It took decades to gain acceptance of such underpants.

Now, the whole ordeal of bleeding into your undergarments or chemise not only became a societal issue but it became a health issue in the 19th century. Women wore undergarments to catch blood for up to eight days without changing, meaning that an infection was certainly underway. According to "Zur Geschichte der Unterwasche 1700-1960 " by Almut Junker and Eva Still "Washing and changing underclothing was regarded as unhealthy, because women feared it would block the bleeding or cause more infections. " Man, were they wrong. It was time to start cleaning up and that they did. Menstruation patterns and customs of course come from our women ancestors so we must bear in mind that most American women who journeyed overseas were usually part of the lower class who came to America looking for opportunities. In the 19th and 20th centuries most middle-class or lower-class women made clothing themselves. Therefore, instead of wearing nothing, the 19th century women took matters into their own hands and began knitting together menstrual pads that were usually made from cloth. Most women would wear a belt with steel springs to hold the pad. They would also make items to protect their beds from discharge especially after childbirth. These home-made pads derived from home-made diapers they made for their children. I can only imagine women and children waddling around with these home-made diapers, or should I say pads.

In the 19th century, German people cared less about odor than Americans and because most women traveled over from Germany, I presume the smell of menstrual blood was seemingly familiar, nevermind the sight of it on the backs of women's dresses or legs before they started knitting together pads. Women would use strong perfumes to cover up the odor. They used strong perfumes to also cover up odors consisting of: bad breath, sweat, skin infections, gas, and residue from, yes, defecation, urination, and of course vaginal discharge. Taking into account the lack of products we take advantage of everyday: Pepto-Bismol, deodorant, and toilet paper, and not to mention their less frequent practices of bathing and wiping, I'd rather not stick my nose in a 19th century home. Fortunately, women menstruated less often prior to the 20th century.

American and European menstruation started much later than today. Frequently, a woman's period would begin during their late teens and would stop earlier in their lifetime. Somehow today, periods start as young as ten years old and expand into the late forties if not fifties. I beg to differ if 19th century women had it easier than us. Thank God for the tampon. Women also died at a younger age, and a short life span stopped a period dead in its tracks, quite literally. A nineteenth century woman was also expected to marry at a young age near her mid to late teens into her twenties, and let's not forget that not only were there fewer means of contraceptives, but most people didn't use them anyway. Therefore, babies were popping out left and right before a woman even turned thirty, stopping menstruation for longer periods of time. Whether women wanted this lifestyle as caretaker or not, it was the way the man who wore the pants wanted and saw things. Nineteenth century men saw the period as a sign of infertility; if a woman was on her period then she wasn't playing her role. The idea that women should stay at home and do their "job " was strongly tied with her period. At the sight of blood, a man would determine she was doing wrong; she was not having children and playing her role as the housewife and caretaker. The whole idea of associating the period as something bad and evil in the 19th century was linked with the sign of infertility, which ultimately was linked to a man's controlling demeanor upon women.

The strained relationship between men, women, and periods is relevant throughout history, cultures, and religion. I can understand present day males' frustration with periods but what I do not understand is males' excessive disturbance on the matter. The menstrual cycle is a part of life; without it, there would be no human existence. Men should appreciate the period not scorn it, yet even the most brilliant of men have some outrageous views on the matter. Believe it or not, menstruation is the most written about subject in folklore. Primitive minds could not wrap their heads around the subject as they associated blood with injury. Maybe that is why the ancient mind of a man was so interested in the matter. These traditional beliefs are considered folklore because they are false and only stand now as legendary myths.

Let us first look at a myth from a religious standpoint. Famous primitive mind Mustitamus (1751) claimed that after Eve ate the forbidden fruit she seduced Adam and that was recorded as the first act of intercourse to ever take place. Obviously, this seems impractical but here comes the good part: because of Eve's seduction, future generations are now stained with her sin and God gave Eve the menstrual flow as a warning to women. This may have been one of the first ideologies that gave periods a bad name. The ancient monastery idea basically was that menstruation was the punishment of the original sin. Now it doesn't get much worse than that.

From primitives to philosophers, menstruation ideas flowed (get it, flowed.) For whatever reason, menstruation blood in a man's point of view was suggested to have supernatural powers. I could only wish my period had powers beside the power of giving me cramps and cravings. Aristotle believed that a glance at a menstruating woman could take the polish off a mirror and bewitch anyone who looked directly at the blood (oh boy, here we go. ) He also said that if menses occurred during an eclipse, all sorts of evils would occur. Philosopher Pliny had some amusing theories such that a dog would go mad if he touched menstrual blood, plants would die if approached by a bleeding woman, and that hailstorms, whirlwinds, and lightning could be scared away if a menstruating women became undressed. Other philosophers believed menstruation was the work of the devil and considered it poison. Some cultures restricted women from looking up skyward while on their periods because they would insult the heavens. Apparently, our periods are not only uncomfortable but they are evil and detrimental to the world. After all, it is the great minds including Aristotle who are saying it right? Give me a break.

Alongside philosophers many ancient cultures and religions added to the list of comical and even vicious ideas. Many Hindus believed men would lose all their energy and wisdom if they approached a menstruating woman. The Pomeroon Arawaks believed a man's legs would swell and plants would dry and shrivel up when approached by a woman on her period. In Africa, the Kaffirs deem if a menstruating woman drank milk, the cows would die. In France, women weren't allowed to enter the sugar factories because, of course, she would spoil the sugar. In many religions such as early Christianity, women were not allowed to go to communion, and the Ancient Jews burned everything a menstruating woman touched. A woman was also not allowed to go to church and she had to bring a sin offering after menstruation because, as you know, it is such a sin to menstruate. Intimacy was naturally off limits because, as many believed, it would bring forth monsters. Duh. The list of offensive and despicable theories goes on and on: violin strings would snap, clocks would stop, and glasses would break. Okay, now we are getting a little out of hand. I don't even understand where these men came up with such obscurities.

This is what primitive and philosophers swore to, so now what? Will you men create methods of purification considering menstrual blood is so evil? Ancient Egyptians and Turkish's approach towards a solution was not so bad. They had women bathe around three times a day during menstruation. I could have dealt with that; however, here comes the worst part: the huts. ‘Special homes' were created in cultures like Persia where women were forced into huts for a period of about five to ten days where they were isolated outside their communities and bled for week, either on a rock with no undergarments or in some cultures into undergarments that were usually not allowed to be changed during their whole period. Some cultures even made women wear white undergarments just to show their conditions. I will never comprehend this white law of undergarments. If you do not want to see it don't put us in white underwear. It is just cruel and guess what, you're going to see our period at its finest if you do.

I reflected on menstrual huts and tried to take it in on a lighter note. I even tried to find the benefits in it. I suppose it serves a fine purpose, in spite of everything women are allowed to separate from their world for a week each month. For a week: no children, no chores, no work, no worries, and no husband. Sally Price, Professor of American Studies at the College of William and Mary calls into questions whether "menstrual huts provide relief from male restrictions and maybe even a chance to have a little ‘fun' on the side. " Price spent many menstrual periods in menstrual huts in Suriname but instead felt the discomfort and isolation women have felt for hundreds of years. Now my picture of a place to go relax, meditate, gossip with the girls, and, of course, have a massage therapist on hand isn't quite accurate.

Particularly in Japan, women would normally stay secluded in a menstrual hut for around 11 days and could only eat raw food. Menstrual huts ended in Japan in the 20th century but women are still required to eat leftovers when on their period and of course stay in an isolated corner of the house. It doesn't end there. While most isolated tents disappeared, unfortunately there are places like India and Africa that still use huts today.

The Dogon people of West Africa who still use the huts situate the huts outside the village but keep them open so the men can keep their eyes on the women. Dogon men consider periods impure, ideologies of the past. According to anthropologist Beverly I. Strassman, the women who are required to stay in the huts must also work during the days in the fields. Seemingly, the huts enforce male domination, and sadly it is an occurring practice in the 21st century.

All the unfeasible past assumptions of the period are silly, and even somewhat hurtful. Luckily for modern day women, science took a hand at it. As we once hid blood using sponges, grass, wool paper, vegetable fibers, rags, and cups, we have finally moved onto our friend cotton. Given every name you could think of, menstrual napkin, menstrual guard, sanitary pad, etc. , the invention of the tampon first advertised by Tampax and Kotex has finally found a ‘cure' for discomfort that comes four to seven days a week. The Kotex pad derived from bandages made in the First American War by nurses in France. Our trickle and gush no longer has to be a phase of time of inactiveness. There is nothing evil about a little gadget of absorption allowing everyday activities to be done with ease and comfort, especially sports and swimming. Doctor Earle Haas created the first modern tampon with an applicator. Wow, a man has done something positive for the period. He wanted to create a tampon that could be mass-produced. The change from external to internal protection that is safe is an invention I consider praiseworthy.

Women could buy the first successful pad in 1921. That is an extreme step up from the once universal purchase of a menstrual kit consisting of an apron, several washable menstrual pads, and belts where the usual pad was about three feet long! Most college students and business women could be caught rolling up their pads and using Vaseline to coat the pads to reduce chafing. You would think women would be overly ecstatic with the introduction of Kotex into the market but women in the 1920's were reluctant to buy the pads because clerks usually kept them behind the counter and they were embarrassed to ask. Soon with the demand, Kotex was kept out in the open.

The idea of a sanitary napkin worn internally was the jump point for all early tampons. The earliest types of commercial tampons had no strings but had extra gauze that twisted at the bottom, and were introduced near the 1930s. Dr. Haas's tampon with an applicator came soon after. No more homemade pads were necessary. This intimate feminine problem was on its way to getting solved and there was no reason why women should suffer with discomfort any longer. With the perfecting of tampons over the years and the availability of the tampon, I would consider them now close to perfect. An instruction once insisting to leave your tampon in for forty-eight hours to the now instructed no more than eight hours goes to show just how far the tampon has made it, not to mention the first disposable tampon made of softened down papyrus by the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Greek's lint wrapped around a tiny piece of wood (ouch) tampon in fifth century B.C. Periods no longer need to be disguised under dresses and chemises, stained away from the sense of smell by perfumes. I'm glad that is all over with, and that women who were once scrutinized for their natural flow, can carry on their days with nobody knowing they have their period but them. From papyrus, to gauze, to cotton, the invention of the tampon and the push of my friend outside the bathroom door have forever changed my life.