Yes, it’s true. Sanitary towels are a by-product from the war industry. During World War 1 cotton was in short supply, while the need for bandages for wounded soldiers was immense. A material called Cellucotton, absorbent wadding made of wood pulp, was mass-produced to serve as surgical dressing. Army nurses in a French hospital, however, soon found another, more personal, use for the new bandages.
In 1920 the small American company Kimberly-Clark – that was virtually buried under the amounts of surplus Cellucotton now there weren’t any more war victims – started to market the product as sanitary towels and called it Kotex. To buy it, you’d have to go to the clothes-making department; a place usually visited by very few men. There, boxes of sanitary pads could be found next to the stitch patterns.
The first German boxes contained a little note that women could give the shop assistant during their next visit. That way, by handing over this silent purchase coupon, women didn’t have to ask for Kotex, or worse, mention the words ‘sanitary towels’.