The tampon has already been around for centuries. Here’s a tampon timeline.
1550 B.C.: In the old Egyptian times, women used soft papyrus tampons.
500 B.C.: Hippocrates documented how Greek women would wrap lint around pieces of wood to control their menstruation. Also around this time (give or take a couple of hundred years) women everywhere improvised with different materials. In ancient Japan, they created tampons out of paper, in Hawaii, they used ferns, in Indonesia vegetable fibers and in Africa rolls of grass.
18th century: The tampon was used as a medical device. Antiseptic cotton rolls were used to stop bleeding from bullet wounds.
1776: A French doctor described a tampon made from tightly rolled, vinegar-soaked linen that was used to stop the flow of non-menstrual vaginal discharge.
1879: The British Medical Journal published a report on ‘Dr. Aveling’s Vaginal Tampon-Tube’, a complex applicator contraption with a ‘small unsilvered glass vaginal speculum, with a wooden rod’.
1900: An entry in the British edition of the Nurse’s Dictionary of Medical Terms and Nursing Treatment Compiled for the Use of Nurses, defined tampons as plugs of antiseptic wool enclosed in gauze, and used for introducing into the vagina.
1914: During World War 1, nurses produced their own tampons that were made of cotton wool.
1920’s: A Kimberly-Clark employee named John Williamson allegedly poked some holes in a condom, stuffed it with the fluffy absorbent filling used in commercial Kotex pads, and pitched it as a menstrual solution. It didn’t catch on.
1931: American doctor Earle Cleveland Haas applied for a patent on Tampax, which comes from the words ‘tampon’ and ‘vaginal pack’. He sells this pattent to business woman Gertrude Tendrich, for 32,000 USD. She starts a company named … Tampax.
1945: The Journal of the American Medical Association published its first substantial research on tampons.
1947: German engineer Carl Hahn saw an American tampon advert and came up with o.b. (which stands for ‘ohne Binde’, or ‘without (a) pad’).
1960’s: New innovations emerged, like Kotex’s Kotams Stick that looked something like a tampon on the end of a lollipop stick. Magazine ads tell that you don’t have to skip your dream date and that you can use tampons when you’re single.
1973: Tampons were considered common sanitary products. It was estimated that over 70% of American women used tampons during their menstruation. Magazine ads tell that you can swim, shoot and hike in a white bikini if you use a tampon.
1975: Procter & Gamble began test marketing a new tampon called Rely. It was engineered to expand both width wise and lengthwise, shaped like a teabag and made of entirely synthetic materials which made it hyper-absorbent.
1976: Stricter regulations on American-made tampons were imposed by switching their categorisation from cosmetics to medical devices.
1978: The Berkeley Women’s Health Collective accused manufacturers of withholding information about the substances used in tampons. At this time, nearly all manufacturers had super-absorbent synthetic tampons.
1979: 55 cases of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) were reported to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People began to suspect a link between tampon use and TSS.
1980: CDC investigators linked tampons to TSS.
1983: Over 2,200 cases of TSS had been reported. Over 80% of them were menstruating women using tampons. Also in 1983, tampons went to space. Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was asked by NASA engineers whether 100 tampons would be the appropriate amount for her weeklong journey on the space shuttle Challenger.
1985: The American actress Courteney Cox (Monica Geller in the television series Friends) was the first one using the word period in a tv commercial for Tampax.
1986: The editors of Consumer Reports magazine chose the tampon as one of the ’50 small wonders and big deals that revolutionised the lives of consumers’.
1989: The FDA ordered tampon manufacturers to implement a standardized system of absorbency ratings: ‘junior’, ‘regular’, ‘super’ and ‘super plus’.
1990s: Major tampon brands switched from dioxin-producing chlorine gas bleaching methods to elemental chlorine-free or totally chlorine free bleaching processes.
2015: Worldwide protests against the tampon tax (#stoptaxingtampons ) and social media actions to tackle mesntrual taboos (#justatampon). Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York calls for more research on feminine-hygiene-product safety. Also in 2015 the tampon scene in the ‘Fifty shades of Grey’ book was cut from the movie version. Allegedly it was too controversial.