In this week's Claire Chats video I talk about the different views on menstruation in Tudor times and how women coped with it.
- Crawford, Patricia (2004) Blood, Bodies and Families in Early Modern England, Pearson Education Ltd.
- Hindson, Bethan (2009) Attitudes towards menstruation and menstrual blood in Elizabethan England, The Free Library (September, 22), http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Attitudes towards menstruation and menstrual blood in Elizabethan...-a0209577950
- Licence, Amy (20012) To Bring on the Flowers: Medieval Women Menstruating. at http://authorherstorianparent.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/to-bring-on-flowers-medieval-women.html
- Mikhaila, Ninya and Malcolm-Davies, Jane (2006) The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Dress, Costume and Fashion Press
- Medieval Underwear, HistoryExtra - http://www.historyextra.com/lingerie - photos and articles about an archaeological find of medieval lingerie in Austria.
I’m so glad you hit this topic. It’s something that I’ve wondered about myself. We’ve become so attuned to body odors and bodily functions in modern society, with many cultures finding it to be disgusting, almost verging on paranoia-just look at all the television commercials devoted to mouthwash, deodorants, feminine hygiene, soaps etc. I’m also of the “age of belts” (hated them) and not dressing out for gym class if you’re on your period (which was almost humiliating since all the boys would KNOW). When I’m reading a book on the Tudor times, or even early 20th century, and the subject turns to sex or even kissing, I catch myself thinking “ew, he just came in the front door from a battle and has been gone for weeks without a bath. How can you possibly stand being within 10 ft of him much less hop into bed straight away?” It’s a wonder mankind survived past cave dwelling based on our current ideals! And the thought of menstruating without all of our modern conveniences…men may have thought women were subordinate, but it’s obvious just how strong we really were. And now we know that the idea of birth control through breast feeding (hah) isn’t an old wive’s tale, it’s an old Charles’ tale. We’ve come a long way, baby ☺️
Still it could be worse Margaret. I believe there is an African tribe somewhere, that when a woman is menstruating, they are shut away from everybody else in a little hut filled with straw. The hut is cleaned out every day and fresh straw is laid down. The old straw is burnt.
Worse still the men of the tribe go through a terrible ordeal when a woman is giving birth. The woman is led to a birthing hut and in the wall is a hole, by which the man stands by on the outside of the hut. A string is fed through the hole and tied to the man’s dooberry. Every time the woman has a contraction, she pulls on this string which makes the man go a bit red in the face, as he experiences the pain that his wife is suffering at that moment.
We certainly had some very strange ideas back then, that’s for sure. I believe that when the men finally did decide to have a bath, the whole household did as well. First he would have his bath, then the missus would, then came the kids, oldest to youngest, then the servants. Bear in mind they all used the same bath water, so by the time the servants did get around to their turn they were probably filthier when they got out, then when they went in.
little-known fact: in some Native American tribes, the reason for containing menstruating females was/is down to the fact that her power at menstruation negated all other.
(just putting it out there after learning of the depressing state of contempt in which women were held during menstruation in Tudor times.)
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