I recently found this fascinating advertisement in a 1929 needlecraft magazine in my collection, and thought you might find it as interesting as I did.
It’s not the earliest advertisement for ‘feminine hygiene’ products in my collection (that’s in a 1911 Girls Own Paper), but it is the first to make it reasonably clear what the product is for. With most of the 1910s ones, it wasn’t until I’d seen enough of them in brands I knew to understand the coded language used enough to recognise a few more.
In addition to signalling a switch in how openly women talked about products associated with menstruation, it shows a clear change in the tone of advertising. 1900s & 1910s ads for personal products for women (soaps, perfumes, toothpaste etc.) tend to have a cheerful ‘this product is great value and will make your life better!’ bent. 1930s-50s advertisements are rather nastier:* ‘if you don’t use this product you won’t be popular and will literally offend the rest of the world with your disgustingness.’ This ad combines the two, but by leading with dire warnings of how no one is safe from offending others, it’s clear that fear as the main motivator is moving to the forefront.
On a happier note, on the same page there are some really cute examples of kids clothes. I’m particularly loving the two romper suits. How adorable are they! The older girls clothing is also lovely, especially because it really was just smaller versions of what an adult would wear.
* Obviously not all advertisements of this period fall into this category, but variations on this theme certainly represent a significantly higher proportion of ads.
I love the way you describe the “nastiness factor” coming into adverts for personal hygiene products. I have a Good Housekeeping “Brides Book” from 1925, in which Colgate toothpaste has a full page story on how Sue didn’t have a beau because … she had bad breath! Apply toothpaste and bingo, she got married! 😀
“…she need not be guilty.” Tuh. I remember that attitude and anxiety well. I was so lucky, for a woman of my time, to have a mother who was at the front of the game. She got me onto tampons after the first few months of menstruation. So liberating, even from nice ‘bought’ pads like the Kotex ones.
Fascinating to see this advertisement – so open for its time.
Hi, Not sure if this is just my computer but when I look at this post using Firefox I can only see the last picture so I was wondering where the ad was. I had to open your post in another browser to see all the pictures.
I’ve done some tweaking. Does it work now?
It’s now working for me in Firefox, which it wasn’t before
Yes it works for me now too. Thanks.
I can’t see the advertisement in either Firefox or Chrome.
Hrrrmmm…how odd. I can see it in Chrome on multiple computers. Don’t have anything with Firefox to check, but will see if I can fix it anyway.
So interesting, as you said. Neat little blog.
Very interesting to see early ads for this, and the emphasis on it being hygienic like hospitals. So much was changing!
We don’t really think about how messy the whole thing was in the past.
I’ve been looking at old Eatons catalogues from the 1910s, and along with huge diaper and belt looking contraptions, there were ‘sanitary aprons’; made of rubberized silk, you wore them under the skirt but over the drawers, with the ‘apron’ hanging over your bum. That could not have been fun, especially in hot weather.
My company has been around since the 1880s, and head office was built in the 1920s. I was suprised that such an old building has so many women’s locker rooms, with changing rooms and showers. According to the archives, it was so women could clean themselves up before heading home when they had period ‘incidents’. The language is all very coded, but the handbook for managers talks about women needing a half day off to deal with period stuff.
Wow, that’s really neat that your company has the archives, and information on it. And rather nice that they had facilities and ways to accommodate women’s needs. Did they have a lot of female staff/workers? I’m guessing so.
I’m amazed at the bust measurements on those teenage girls dresses! An eighteen year old with a 48″ bust in 1929 seems so anachronistic. Perhaps they were meant to be worn very loose? I’m used to seeing dresses of this period start at a 28″ bust, even for grown women.
There’s a Kotex one here in the Ladies Mirror https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/periodicals/ladies-mirror/1924/1/1/36
which actually uses the term ‘sanitary towel’ but for once avoids the term ‘daintiness’, otherwise very popular in theMirror for everything from needlework to ironing. This magazine is aimed at the New Zealand lady and contains some quite feminist editorials, including use of the word Feminist, in the 1922 editions. I’m loving reading them.
I saw someone – was it you? commenting on the lowness of the early 20s bust and noticed with interest that the many corset ads in this publication all use ‘low busted’ or ‘low fronted’ as a selling point. I guess it minimises the assets.
My favourite feature is the ‘advice to young writers’ , in which the ‘editress’ provides very frank feedback on submissions of poetry and prose.