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Under Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology [Kindle Edition]

Sharra L. Vostral
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Menstruation provides one of the few shared bodily functions that most women will experience during their lifetimes. Yet, these experiences are anything but common. In the United States, for the better part of the twentieth century, menstruation went hand-in-glove with menstrual hygiene. But how and why did this occur? This book looks at the social history of menstrual hygiene by examining it as a technology. In doing so, the lens of technology provides a way to think about menstrual artifacts, how the artifacts are used, and how women gained the knowledge and skills to use them. As technological users, women developed great savvy in manipulating belts, pins, and pads, and using tampons to effectively mask their entire menstrual period. This masking is a form of passing, though it is not often thought of in that way. By using a technology of passing, a woman might pass temporarily as a non-bleeder, which could help her perform her work duties and not get fired or maintain social engagements like swimming at a summer party and not be marked as having her period. How women use technologies of passing, and the resulting politics of secrecy, are a part of women's history that has remained under wraps.

Editorial Reviews


In this influential book, Vostral tackles what is often viewed as a taboo subject....Written with academic rigor and filled with keen insights....Under Wraps is a fascinating book to read. It provides a detailed history of an often overlooked aspect of the social history of American women. (History In Review, January 2009)

Under Wraps is a valuable addition to our understanding of gender, technology, and consumer culture. (Linda Layne, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

While other writers have discussed the hidden nature of the menstrual process, none, to my knowledge, have used the analogy of passing with such consistency like Vostral has.
(Journal of the History of Sexuality)

About the Author

Sharra L. Vostral is associate professor of gender and women's studies and history at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1325 KB
  • Print Length: 202 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0739113860
  • Publisher: Lexington Books (March 25, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00D3IP6R8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,002,660 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Many Shapes and Forms of Advertising January 25, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Readily disposable and highly absorbent catamenial devices were a direct result of global war due to the highly efficient wound dressings developed from cellulose wood pulp, "cellucotton" , by the Kimberly-Clark Corporation in the United States during World War One. As this rather interesting book notes women who served as combat nurses during that war adapted such wound dressings for personal use and in correspondence with the manufacturer remarked with positive candor on the suitability of that material for their purpose. This resulted in the well accepted Kotex product not three years after the war and many subsquent competitive products. The book is a rather academic and well researched description of the history, research, and commercial development of both external and internally applied catamenial devices. In addition it delves with considerable detail into the marketing research and advertising methods that effected womens' attitudes toward their menses and their correspondent purchasing habits in a way that continues to this very day. In summary the book really points out how attitudes toward personal hygiene have been nutured by the technical sophistication of a maturing industrial society and how commericalization of products that meet those needs can shape social attitudes. This book presented that issue in a poignant way based on a commercial product that clearly influenced modern industrial society.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VERY interesting!! December 27, 2013
By Ekko
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've looked EVERYwhere to find a book that deals with the history of feminine hygiene, and this book has it all! I've read many autobiographies of pioneer women, and no mention has been made on this topic. Thanks, Amazon! You truly have everything I want and need! :-D
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