Is that even allowed? Naming your tampon after Anne Frank? And why would sanitary pad manufacturers do this? At first sight there seems to be no connection at all between the Jewish girl who went into hiding during the Second World War and tampons or pads. But what makes Anne Frank an inspiration for tampon manufacturers, is that she wrote so candid about her menstruation.
In the diary that she kept from 12 June 1942 to 1 August 1944 – and that she called Kitty – can be read: ‘PS. I forgot to mention the important news that I’m probably going to get my period soon. (…) I can hardly wait. It’s such a momentous event. Too bad I can’t use sanitary napkins but you can’t get them anymore, and Mama’s tampons can be used only by women who’ve had a baby.’ Also this entry from 5 January 1944 focuses on her menstruation: ‘Every time I had my period – and that has only happened three times – it feels like I’m carrying with me a sweet secret, in spite of all the pain, misery and dirt. And therefore, though I have only suffered from it, in a sense I am always delighted to look forward to the time I will feel the secret in me.’
In the 1960s, her diary was translated into Japanese. Soon the books became incredibly popular there. Anne Frank’s enthusiasm and frankness about her periods led to a culture shock and even to a new synonym. In Japan, the phrase ‘Anne’s Day’ (Anne no hi) is used as a euphemism for menstruation. Manufacturers also wanted to cash in on the Japanese obsession with Anne Frank: in 1968 o.b. came with ‘Anne tampons’ (with finger cots for inserting) especially for the Japanese market. The production of these tampons was discontinued when the Anne Frank Fonds in Switzerland heard about it and wasn’t pleased at all. Vintage boxes of these tampons can sometimes still be found on Etsy and Ebay.
Nowadays Anne Frank’s candour still inspires tampon manufacturers. Entrepreneur Valentina Milanova says she wants to turn menstruation into something you can look forward to, just like Anne did. Her company Daye (she first wanted to call it Anne’s Day as an homage) will produce tampons with 30% cannabidiol (CBD) against menstrual cramps. (Not to be confused with the vaginal suppositories against menstrual cramps that are already on the market.) Milanova herself read Anne Frank’s diary when she was 13 – Anne’s positive view on menstruation and becoming a woman impressed her deeply.
Anne Frank censored?
In some American school libraries, the diaries of Anne Frank are banned or censored. Not, like one might expect, because of the horrors of the Holocaust. No. It’s because she writes bluntly about her menstruation. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania discovered this when exploring the ongoing censorship of literature. When it comes to menstruation, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl isn’t the only blacklisted book. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume is still in the top 100 challenged books. Just like the rather tame growing up guide What’s Happening to my Body? by Lynda Madaras. And even Harry Potter. To combat censorship in literature, the American Library Association has been organising the Banned Books Week since the 1980s. It’s held every year in the last week of September. Must-read: the yearly Top Ten Most Challenged Book Lists.
Want to know more about Anne Frank? Visit annefrank.org/