We Now Know What The Very First Menstrual Cup Looked Like

Today marks a momentous occasion in period history: It's the 131st birthday of the first-ever menstrual cup. The device as we know it now became available in 1932, but U.S. Patent 300,770 — the Improved Menstrual Receptacle — was invented in 1884. If you're looking at the image above and thinking, Uh, how exactly did this "receptacle" work?, let's ease your mind by telling you that only section (a) went inside the vagina. Section (B) led outside of the woman's body to section (A), which would collect the menstrual fluid between her legs throughout the day. Then, she could empty it (not unlike a contemporary menstrual cup) after unscrewing the cap, section (e). The Receptacle's inventor, Hiram Farr, designed it to be able to hold multiple cups of menstrual fluid — not exactly necessary, but definitely a bonus for the lazier ladies of the time.
It's pretty clear by now that menstrual cups are a good idea. Not only do we admire the foresight of Farr's invention, we also applaud what it implies about the women who would have used it: In the 1880s, these women would have been engaging with their bodies during menstruation in a way that many women today refuse to. How each woman approaches her period will always be a matter of personal preference. But, the increasing popularity of modern menstrual cups speaks to what an innovation Farr was onto — over a century ago. The first tampon was invented before the common era, and we can only hope the menstrual cup endures just as long, if not longer.

More from Body

R29 Original Series