Managing Awkward Bodies

Cramps, headaches, body odor, acne—all things that came with menarche and "the monthlies." Manufacturers and marketers saw girls and women as a lucrative market for products that could help alleviate aches and pains but also embarrassment.

Cramps

Cramps slowed women and girls down. Not everyone had them, but entrepreneurs found a lucrative market in "the monthlies."

Lydia E. Pinkham's Herb Medicine, around 1930

Products for Cramps, 1880–1960s
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Odor

Advertisers told girls to worry about body odor. Products flooded the market and reinforced the message that sweet-smelling bodies were healthy and beautiful.

Merrell's Dousan, 1930-1950

Gift of Mary E. and Joseph F. Melfi, Jr., Tupper's Drug Store, Summerville, South Carolina

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Body Products, 1910-1960

Queen Beauty Toilet Soap, 1908–1918

Gift of Bud and Sally Bassett

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Sylvan Violet Toilet Talcum Powder

Gift of Gary P. and Sandra Baden

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Armand Cold Cream Talcum, 1920s

Gift of Gary P. and Sandra Baden

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Avon Persian Wood Perfumed Talc

Orange Blossom Talcum Powder

Quest Deodorant Powder for Use on Sanitary Napkins, Unscented

Gift of H. Smith Richardson, Jr.

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Betadine Douche

Gift of Gladys Abell and Lester D. Johnson, Jr., M.D.

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Massengill Disposable Douche, Scent of Country Flowers, around 1980

Acne

In the early 1900s, acne or unhealthy skin could be a sign of puberty but also a range of diseases, including syphilis. Products said they could solve these problems.

Skin Products, 1880s–2000s
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