The Unsung Hero Whose Invention Transformed Women's Health

The Ladies Home Journal advertisment
Via Flickr
Abeni Jones
March 8, 2020

When “that time of the month” comes, women today have countless options. But 100 years ago, things were MUCH more basic. 

Unsatisfied with the rags, clumps of GRASS, sponges, and the like that people had been using, a new solution was needed. Mary B. Kenner had the perfect idea.

Tampons had existed for a while, but they were considered taboo because of sexism. The pads on the market didn’t work well, and women were still often stuck at home, or ruining clothes, every month!

In 1926, Kenner invented the “sanitary belt,” which kept a pad secured in a waterproof “pocket.” So why wasn’t it patented for 30 YEARS?

When she invented the device, a company interested in producing it came to see her. But as soon as they discovered she was Black, they backed out.

For decades, women continued to suffer - because of racism. Eventually, Kenner raised the money to patent the product herself - and it transformed women’s lives!

With her invention, women could go out, leave the house, and hold down jobs without being stopped by their periods. 

Inspired by her invention, companies like Kotex copied her, and menstrual pads as we know them were born.

Mary Beatrice Kenner used ingenuity and innovation to shape our world, all while keeping our community in mind and pushing through barriers! Many of us take menstrual products for granted - but we salute this unsung women’s health hero who prioritized Black women’s needs!

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