Nineteenth Century popular belief–wholly supported by Medical Doctors’ and scientists’ claims–genuinely believed that educating females in the same manner as males invited an entire host of disastrous results. Those terrifying results included everything from destruction to the woman’s reproductive system, mental breaks (yes, insanity!), and a long list of physical diseases. Because the vast majority believed these consequences to be true, women weren’t allowed to seek education in a male-dominated classroom. The battle over co-education continued long after the late 19th Century for these reasons. Not only was the woman’s mind and body at terrible risk, should she be educated like a male, but everyone knew a female mind couldn’t take in significant learning.
Open discussion of a woman’s menstrual cycle (and hygiene needs) are a relatively new development, but women have been coping without modern feminine hygiene products for millennia. The Victorian-era American women had many conveniences for their day, including ready-made, catalog-ready products marketed specifically for them. Hygiene often included douching with specially designed syringes. The timing of the first truly disposable product just might surprise you. This article contains images from the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog and Montgomery, Ward & Co. catalog of the day.