Out for Blood: Feminine Hygiene to Menstrual Equity


Mon - Sat, Apr 4 to Oct 1, 9:00am - 4:30pm


The Lia and William Poorvu Gallery, Schlesinger Library 3 James Street Cambridge, MA 02138

Throughout the 20th century, the marketing and design of menstrual products often stigmatized menstruation as an unmentionable bodily affliction. Menstruation was wrapped in euphemism: that time of the month, a weakness, a nuisance. “Feminine hygiene” products offered sanitation, invisibility, and freedom—but at what cost? Out for Blood: Feminine Hygiene to Menstrual Equity shows how marketing and social norms around menstruation create a cultural construct with power to shape people’s lives.

Feminine hygiene product advertising, frequently in the form of educational pamphlets, taught women’s anatomy through diagrams while offering advice on what one could and could not do while menstruating. Curative medications for various women’s complaints were marketed to fix the troublesome female body; antiseptics and douches promised to sanitize offensive vaginas. Pad and tampon brands advertised guarantees of no leakage, no odors, no possibility of being found out.

With the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s, feminists responded to the incessant call for menstrual secrecy and cleanliness through transformative health publications, poetry, and artworks. The exhibition highlights the groundbreaking work of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, the words of menstruating girls and women, and the production of zines that challenge toxic products and gendered assumptions.  

Today, a worldwide movement for menstrual equity strives to end cultural stigma, to address period poverty, and to develop toxin-free, sustainable products. Menstrual equity activism centers class and race as well as gender. The movement fosters acceptance of all menstruating people. 

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study gratefully acknowledges the Helen Blumen and Jan Acton Fund for Schlesinger Library Exhibitions, which is supporting this exhibition.

Schlesinger Library Exhibition Committee Members:

  • Marylène Altieri, Curator of Published and Printed Materials
  • Erin LaBove, Cataloger, Published and Printed Materials
  • Lee Sullivan, Head of Published and Printed Materials


University guidelines limit the number of visitors in the Lia and William Poorvu Gallery, so visitors must reserve time in advance to guarantee access. To reserve a time slot, individuals will need to register via Calendly. Each reservation grants entry for the individual named in the confirmation only. Please make separate bookings for each member of your party.

The Lia and William Poorvu Gallery is open Monday–Friday, 9 AM–4:30 PM.

The health and safety of our staff, students, visitors, and community are deeply important to us. Please review Harvard Radcliffe Institute’s health and safety guidelines and protocols before confirming your booking at: https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/events-and-exhibitions/visit/covid-19.

All visitors will be required to demonstrate their compliance with our visitor safety guidelines. Please be prepared to show either:

  • your Harvard University ID (HUID),
  • a picture ID and COVID-19 vaccination card, or
  • a picture ID and proof of a negative PCR test result administered in the immediate 72 hours prior to your visit. 

upon arrival at the building.