Last fall, we stumbled upon the The Kirkwood Historical Society at Mudd’s Grove, a 150 year-old house located in the heart of Kirkwood. They have an all-volunteer not-for-profit organization that preserves and promotes Kirkwood’s long and storied history. It is one of the many historical homes in and around St. Louis.
We were just in time for a free (donations-welcomed) tour to learn about Henry T. and Sarah Elizabeth Mudd. We strolled around wondering how often the Mudd’s used their fine china or who dusted all those beautiful treasures from Europe?
One bedroom in particular, made me curious. It was adorned with petticoats, finely decorated Victorian hair wreaths, and of course–corsets! Imaging the lengths to which women went to maintain the svelte appearance of a Victorian doll, it is easy to forget that they were real women. Real women underneath delicate layers upon layers of clothes with impossibly tiny hands and feet. These real women also had real periods. I wanted to know about what women went through to take care of their menstruation. Did Jane Austen ever mentioned that in her novels?
The ladies who volunteered at Mudd’s Grove filled me in. Much to my surprise, I found out that women used cotton cloth, folded into a T-shaped belt that would be tucked into their petticoats. This reusable cloth would be, washed, rinsed and reused. (By the way, one drawback was that if you sent your cloth pads to a washing service, the whole neighborhood would know when you were pregnant or not!) This system was the exact way my grandmother and mother described and experienced menstrual hygiene in Nepal, which was only 30 years ago. It seems simple enough.
It made me think of eco-friendly, chemical free version of what we have today. It’s not particularly advertised in the isles of the grocery store, or on television, “Wash your Own…Pads!” Maybe we should. Close to 20 billion sanitary napkins, tampons and applicators are dumped into North American landfills every year. We can’t always blame corporations for supplying us with these items. I mean, during my grandmother’s, my mother’s, and Mrs. Mudd’s time, one had to really plan ahead or be wealthy to have someone else clean up the mess. I know my mother told me how freeing it was to not be tied down to her bloody period. But the world changes. Because we have access to washing machines, I feel like now it’s actually freeing to wash my bloody rags!
In addition to the waste, many brands of “feminine hygiene” products, in order to neutralized odors, contain artificial fragrances and synthetic chemicals. One’s reproductive organs are very sensitive and are potentially most vulnerable to toxic chemicals and irritants. Guaranteed a guy would not put this stuff on his junk!
Furthermore, the amount of money saved on the notorious “pink taxes” are quite a game changer. A recent NY Times article points out a frequent refrain: Why are tampons taxed when Viagra is not? It delves further into law makers efforts on eradicating the tax, and proposes one of the solutions to be reusable products.
I’ve officially made the switch to Glad Rags and they are really amazing! It beats petticoats, you can wash it yourself, and no one has to know your business. With Mindfulness Living, it is sometimes useful to look to the past to see how our ancestors solved their problems, which in turn is still our problem. Yes, with the advent of new technologies we have learned more about hygiene, but we’ve also learned more about how we effect our environment. Maybe we can’t all have tiny feet, but we can make our ecological foot-print smaller!