Remember that day in fifth grade when they split up the boys and girls into separate classrooms? The way kids learn about how their bodies change in puberty has, itself, changed over the years. In my own experience, the school outsourced much of that job to a little booklet issued by a maxipad company.
I don’t recall which company it was, but there’s a good chance that booklet, or one like it, is in this online collection of sex ed pamphlets from the Museum of Menstruation, which Erin Blakemore recently wrote about at the Washington Post.
In one 1932 booklet from Kotex, fictional Marjorie May gets a birds-and-the-bees talk from her mother. In 1940, Kotex updated the booklet to take a more casual tone, and this time they included life hacks like marking the dates of your period on a calendar.
The books are a curious study of what feminine hygiene companies think that parents want their kids to be able to read about. Yes you will have your period; here is how to use a maxipad; please don’t ask any more questions about sex. Helpful, in a sense, but hardly a complete education on what a young person with a uterus needs to know.
I haven’t yet found a booklet in the collection that matches my memories from fifth grade, but perhaps you will. And tell us: did your PE teacher just pass them out and awkwardly answer questions? Or did you get a more useful education than what’s in these books? And also, since I’ve wanted to know for years: what did the boys get?