During girl talk with my 90-year-old mom and some much younger girls, the subject of in-kind gifts for the Tenth Triennial Gathering came up. I told them Days for Girls—a movement to provide sustainable feminine hygiene solutions for girls in more than 100 countries—is one of our in-kind gift recipients.
Why? Because millions of girls in these countries miss school on many days because they don’t have access to feminine hygiene products. Without proper protection during menstruation, the girls stay home from school.
Each time we in the Women of the ELCA office open an in-kind gift box with feminine hygiene kits inside, I know that women in units all over the country are thinking about it, too.
[bctt tweet=”If not for the Days for Girls movement, we might believe this problem is one of the past.” username=”womenoftheelca”]
I told my mom and friends about our plan for a Days for Girls cottage where participants will make sanitary pads at the gathering. The younger ones in the conversation asked why we would make the pads?
So, we Googled, “Who invented the sanitary napkin?” Blogger Brenda Aurora Verna Ysaguirre returned the most interesting search result.
Kotex or Cellucotton, an absorbent wadding of processed wood, was first manufactured for bandages during World War I. After the war, the manufacturer, Kimberly-Clark, had to decide what to do with the material. And disposable sanitary napkins were invented.
“The company hit upon the notion of marketing disposable sanitary napkins. Before this invention, women used and reused cloth rags–this was indeed groundbreaking stuff,” wrote Ysaguirre.
But, it was the following words as I read them that gave my mom pause: “By 1945, nearly all American women were using commercially made pads and tampons. … The days of the cloth rags were over.”
Nearly all? Not true. My mom was 18 in 1945, and she told us that there were no disposable feminine hygiene products available in rural North Carolina (probably most of rural America) and homemade pads were a monthly reality. It was not a class or race issue. It was an issue of access to the marketplace for women.
And, if it were not for the Days for Girls movement and stories told from one generation to the next, we might continue to believe that this problem is one of the past.
The vision of Days for Girls is that every girl and woman have access to feminine hygiene products by 2022. Days for Girls is one of the Tenth Triennial Gathering servant events, so we’ll do our part at the gathering and back home in our units to make that goal a reality.
Will you join us? It’s not too late to make a kit to bring or send to the gathering. Learn more here.
Valora K Starr is director for discipleship for Women of the ELCA and, with Eva James Yeo, is heading up the servant events at the gathering.