As the mass-produced pharmaceutical industry grew in the early 1900s, specific products were developed for dealing with women's 'varied periodical experiences'. These were sometimes based on traditional herbal remedies. Manufacturers of pain killers also saw marketing opportunities but the wording in their advertisements was often very obscure.
Women – Relieve pain regularly with genuine Vincent's A.P.C.
advertisement in The Australian Women's Weekly, 2 July 1938, Homemaker section p3. PHM Research Library.
Should women dread the approach of a perfectly natural event? … Kalzana, the calcium-food. Advertisement in The Australian Woman's Mirror, 25 November 1930, p17. PHM Research Library.
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When we had period pains Mum would give us a bit of gin, about a teaspoon, and hot water, although Mum never allowed drink in the house … We would put the ironing board up on the bed and lie sort of downhill, head down, bum up.
MV, Sydney, NSW
Booklet, Aspro Year Book 1936, published by Planet Publicity Co. Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Australia, 1935.
Packed with entertaining and practical information, the free Aspro Year Book would have made popular household reading, but its main purpose was to sell Aspro analgesic aspirin tablets. Its articles are liberally interspersed with advertisements and testimonial letters promoting Aspro as the solution for a myriad of ailments. Menstrual pain is referred to indirectly in an advertisement on page 45 recommending that 'for pains and depression, brought about by physical condition … 'ASPRO' is women's best friend and should always be carried in the handbag ready for any emergency'.
PHM collection 85/852. Purchased 1985.
Patent medicine, Nyal Vegetable Prescription, bottle and contents in box with leaflet, Nyal Company, Sydney, Australia, c1915.
According to the information on the box, 'Nyal Vegetable Prescription is a combination of pure vegetable drugs reputed to exert an influence on the organs peculiar to women'. Several tablespoonfuls a day are recommended for painful menstruation as well as 'Disordered Menstruation, Ovarian Neuralgia and Bearing-down Pains'. Its ingredients include 'Life Root, Black Haw and False Unicorn Squaw Vine' in a mixture 'not more than 28 Percentum of Proof Spirit'. This amount of alcohol, about the same percentage as in wine, would no doubt have contributed to the medicine's effectiveness as a 'valuable tonic and sedative'. PHM collection 85/698-4. Purchased 1985.
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Medicinal powder, Karna Vita Desiccated Ox Liver, bottle and contents in box with leaflets and booklet, Karna Vita Co. Ltd, Australia, 1930-1940.
Hailed in its promotional booklet as 'a triumph of Australian medical research', Karna Vita was manufactured from dried ox liver with sugar added to make it palatable. It was recommended for building up the blood of 'adults or children suffering from pernicious anaemia, secondary anaemia, or any reduced blood condition'. Anaemia brought about by menstrual blood loss is referred to indirectly in the booklet's discussion of 'secondary anaemia' where it states that 'Nature has placed a heavy strain on the blood stream of the woman'. PHM collection 85/698-2. Purchased 1985.
Antiseptic, KAG brand, in bottle packaged in cardboard box with booklet, Australia, [1910-1940].
KAG 'Kills All Germs'. The manufacturer recommended it for everything from disinfecting drains to stopping sore throats. It was also suitable for 'Female use' being non-poisonous, non-irritating and 'Absolutely Safe'. Under 'Feminine Hygiene', the booklet lists 'douches' and 'the relief of vaginal irritations', adding that 'it should be used at the conclusion of the menstrual period'. PHM collection 2002/10/3. Purchased 2002.
Vaginal douche, in box, The Hygena Spray Syringe, [1930-1950].
The Hygena Spray Syringe brand has been available since the late 1800s. The instructions under the lid of the box describe it as 'Invaluable to ladies'. Different kinds of rubber or glass douche (or syringe) have long been used in 'vaginal injections' for cleansing, treatment of infection, and birth control. The Wife's Guide and Friend, published in Melbourne in the 1890s, advertised various rubber syringes, declaring that 'Great comfort and benefit to health is derived by using one with about two pints of slightly warm water after the periodical use of the Sanitary Towel'. PHM collection 2002/10/2. Purchased 2002. Click image to launch zoomable high resolution version