Discover the unique history of tampons in the last century.
Tampons as we know them today were invented in 1931 by a male physician based in America, Dr Earle Haas. But it took decades of trial and error to invent effective modern tampons that truly address the needs of women around the world. Considering that over 300 million women and people with periods are menstruating on any given day, tampons (and other period products) are a necessity. Now that we know who invented tampons, we can dive into the turbulent history of tampons as it unfolded each decade. From major design innovations during World War II to the tampon protests of the ‘80s, there’s so much to unpack!
Modern tampons were invented in 1931 – not too long ago! When we say “modern tampons” we’re referring to cylindrical cotton and rayon tampons with a string attached to the bottom. Nevertheless, women around the world have created their own tampon-like devices for thousands of years.
In the 15th century, Egyptian women used softened papyrus wood as a tampon while Hawaiian women used the furry part of the native hapu’u fern. And those aren’t the only creative tampon innovations from the past. Women in ancient Japan fashioned tampons out of small bandages and women in Equatorial Africa used rolls of grass.
As a highly experienced medical physician and loving husband, Dr Earle Haas couldn’t shake the desire to develop a period product for his wife and other women. That’s why he chose to put in the hours and come up with an effective design that actually absorbs period blood. In his eyes, the available products in the 1920s were essentially rags and women deserved a far more comfortable option. Long story short, Haas had our backs.
Although Haas had the right idea, he was met with plenty of social challenges. In the 1930s, the idea of a woman touching herself to insert a tampon was not widely accepted. What if they felt sexual pleasure? What if their hymen broke? It just wasn’t fathomable at this conservative time in history, especially because women were considered “pure and sacred” before marriage.
Considering the societal concerns around tampon use for pleasure, Haas developed a tampon with a tube-shaped applicator. That way, women wouldn’t have to “touch” themselves.
Although tampons with a string attached were first seen in nineteenth-century Europe, they were typically used as contraceptives. At the time, doctors believed you could wear them to reduce the chances of sperm entering a woman's reproductive tubes and fertilising eggs. However, they couldn’t be more wrong. As the tampon history timeline suggests, the best use for tampons is absorbing menstrual blood.
Learn more about us and how we got where we are today.
We have come a long way since the early days of tampons. From non-applicator tampons to organic cotton tampons, there are plenty of options for women and people with periods. But at the end of the day, the future of tampon use is a hot debate, especially with new innovations such as menstrual cups and reusable applicators. As consumers become more environmentally conscious, the demand for products that align with these values is a top priority.
Lil-Lets non-applicator tampons are a great example of period products made with less plastic.
Considering the need for more sustainable tampons, our non-applicator range has these incredible qualities:
Everyone should be able to manage their period without exposure to harsh chemicals. It’s our job to make using tampons a breeze.
*Lil-Lets non-applicator tampons are made from 94- 96% less plastic than other leading brands with compact plastic applicators.