Sanitary pads in packaging (7), opened bag originally holding 12 pads, 'Modess', paper / cloth, made by Johnson & Johnson Pty Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, probably 1960-1970
The American company Johnson & Johnson commenced manufacturing sanitary napkins in the 1920s. Modess were introduced to the Australian market by Johnson & Johnson in 1932. A huge marketing campaign saw advertisements in newspapers and women's magazines emphasizing 'style and quality', expressed through illustrations of women in elegant evening gowns. Since then, developments in such technologies as nonwovens and plastics have seen many changes in the design of menstrual products. Absorbency and softness have improved, for example.
Menstruation has been a private and, until the recent advent of explicit television commercials, almost unmentionable subject. It is therefore not surprising that the artefacts of menstruation are not well represented in Australian museum collections, even though they are an intrinsic part of women's lives. When cupboards are cleared out or when the effects of elderly relatives are being sorted through, personal items like these are usually amongst the first things to be thrown away.
The Powerhouse Museum has a small but growing collection of items relating to menstruation. It includes manufactured products like this bag of Modess, home-made washable sanitary towels, advertising material, and advice booklets for girls.
Written by Erika Dicker
Assistant Curator, 2007.
Made by Johnson & Johnson Pty Ltd, Sydney, Australia, probably between 1960-1970.