Leona W. Chalmers was born in the early 1900s. She is known for inventing the menstrual cup. She was also an author, who wrote the book The Intimate Side of a Woman’s Life. The menstrual cup is a reusable, funnel like feminine hygiene product designed to collect the menstrual flow by insertion into the vagina during menstruation. With a menstrual cup, one wouldn’t need to use a tampon or pad. At the moment, reusable menstrual products only make up of 2% of feminine hygiene products used by women around the world. However, these items are increasing in popularity, due to their reusable nature, and comfort they provide women.
Before Chalmers’ invention, one reusable option was ‘catamenial sacks’, with which menstruators would don a belt that utilized either metal cups or flexible sacs. However these were uncomfortable and difficult to use. Thus, Leona patented a rubber cup that didn’t utilize a belt and was more comfortable than the prior innovation. More importantly, it was invisible, and was more discreet than the catamenial sack. The production of her first patent in 1937 was stymied by a shortage in rubber due to World War II. However, she still tried to sell her cups well into the end of the 1950s. People were generally reticant towards the idea of inserting the menstrual cup digitally into their vaginas, preventing most from trying these cups.
In 1959, Chalmers sold the rights to the design of the cup to Robert P. Oreck, who launched a new company called Tassette Inc. It was incredibly hard for the company to gain traction, as marketing the product was virtually impossible. At the time, utilizing the words ‘vagina’ and ‘period’ were almost forbidden to use in advertisement. As a result, the company shut down in 1973. However, menstrual cups are now making a comeback, over 25 years after the inception of Tassette. This is due to environmental concerns, as one cup purchased saves 2800+ tampons from going to a landfill.
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- Short History of Menstrual Cups. Retrieved from https://www.lunette.com/blogs/news/short-history-of-menstrual-cups
- Shure, N. (2016, July 06). Why Has It Taken the Menstrual Cup So Long to Go Mainstream? Retrieved from https://psmag.com/news/why-has-it-taken-the-menstrual-cup-so-long-to-go-mainstream