The Facts of Life

15-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, March 18, 1911:  I got up with a funny feeling this morning, not just exactly sleepy, but rather achy like I was to wash up the oil cloths today but I didn’t do it. Momma said something about she wouldn’t let us go to parties if we couldn’t do any work afterwards. Of course it was all rot.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later: 

Grandma was feeling achy and referred to oil clothes. I think that she has pre-menstrual cramps. In the old days pieces of sheep hides (oil clothes) were sometimes used to make homemade, reusable sanitary pads.

Mothers talked with their daughter’s about menstruation and the facts of life then as now. An article in the February 15, 1911 issue of Ladies Home  Journal gave mothers suggestions for talking with their daughters about the facts of life:

Many mothers are asking me, “Please tell me what to tell my daughter, who is approaching her teens.”

As in telling the “story of life” the main purpose has been that of awakening reverence for fatherhood and motherhood, so now it is reverence for self that must be taught.

The mother may say:

“Dear little Daughter, I’ve already told you what it is to be a mother, haven’t I? How mothers live for their babies and care for them; and you have begun to realize what a wonderful thing it is to be a mother. I want you to come and sit with my now while I tell you more about it.


First your figure will begin to change. Little by little you will lose the angularities of childhood and your body will begin to take on gentle curves. In time you will outgrow your boisterous ways and become graceful in all your acts, expressing that gentleness of spirit which a true mother must have. Your will begin to care more about your appearance because you will want your children to love and admire you in every way.

And there will be still other changes. The little room must be prepared for its great work; so each month, special nourishment will go to that part of your body. In order that this work may not be interfered with it will be necessary for you to take special care of yourself at this time.


 It will, of course, be necessary for the mother to give her daughter detailed instruction as to her own physical care, but there should be nothing in this teaching to give the child a shrinking from what is before her. This is not a disease, as some have characterized it. It is one of the natural, physiological functions of the body.”

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