Why Reusable?
Cloth Pads
About Cloth Pads
Cloth Pad Styles
How to use them
Cloth Pad Washing
Pros & Cons
Cloth Pad FAQ
Tips and Help
Where to buy Pads
Pad Fabrics
Starting a Stash
Make your own pads
Selling Pads
Cost of Pads
Pad History
Menstrual Cups
About Cups
Brand info
Cup Folding
Tips & Help
My First Experience
TSS & Cups
Cup History
Other Products
Sea Sponges
Reusable Tampons
Interlabial Pads
Free Bleeding Underpants
History of the Menstrual Cup

Cups are certainly not a recent invention!
I've managed to track down references to menstrual cups and similar devices (then called Catamenial Sacks), to as early as 1867. Catamenial meaning menstrual {Google knows everything!}
These following 5 early devices I have found on a patent reproduction website, and I shall endeavour to find more information about them
1867 saw the invention of perhaps the first menstrual cup-like device. The Hocket Catamenial Sack consisting of an internally worn pouch like item that was connected to a belt. (why the cord and belt? I have no idea - so you didn't lose it if it just fell out maybe? who knows). To empty it you would remove the pouch and reinsert it again afterwards. (Another reference at MUM
Then in 1876 there was a rubber cup device, with the Johnston Catamenial Sack. It was an internally worn rubber cup that would seem to collect the blood and allow it to travel down a tube into a collection pouch worn outside the body. As the 2 components appear to be separate, to empty this device you would presumably empty the collection pouch while leaving the cup in place.
In 1884, along a similar design, was the Farr Menstrual Receptacle. Which appears to be a metal cup which is worn internally, that is connected to a collection pouch worn outside the body. This device would presumably be emptied when the pouch was full, and it would seem the device would need to be removed from the vagina to do so.
An interesting design feature of the 1892 Vernier Catamenial Sack was that it was extendible, to give adjustabilty to fit each individual woman better. To empty this device it would appear that you could remove the collection pouch while leaving the cup part in place.
Then in 1895 the Dautrich Catamenial Sack, another pouch-like belted device was invented. It was a pouch that was worn internally, that protruded out to join onto an externally worn belt. The end that joins the belt can be emptied so that removal of the device was not necessary for emptying. Interestingly, this patent talks about supporting the uterus, something I've seen many references to in early patents, and it explains that the lowering of the uterus causes the back pains women suffer during menstruation......
The Coke Mallelieu Catamenial Sack was patented in 1903 by L.H. Mallelieu and M Coke. This is actually a very interesting design, as it is very different to the cups we know of today, but also the first of the early cups to actually hold the menstrual blood itself, and not be connected to a belt like the pouch-like versions. I would consider this to be the first of the "Menstrual Cups". Longer and slimmer by appearance, it would seem to have an internal lip to help limit leakage, and the diagram and instructions talk of a ball which floated ontop of the blood, and formed a seal against the internal lip when the cup was full. I don't imagine it would be possible to fold it for insertion as you would any of the other cups, so I wonder how wide this was and what it actually felt like to wear.
In Leona Chalmers 1937 book, "The Intimate Side of a Woman's Life", she claims that in 1900 a frenchman by the name of Mallalieu designed and patented a rubber menstrual cup, and that several versions existed after this. She comments that these early experiments were probably made from hard rubber, as opposed to the soft rubber of her product (She was, afterall, trying to sell her menstrual cup!). Using the name Mallalieu, I was able to track down the only reference I found for it (that above patent), and that was the reproduction of the original patents. From there I found the other early devices.
The Museum of menstruation has examples (photos) of actual menstrual cups dating back to 1932. Which would seem to be where the more modern cups (Similar to what we know today) started.
The first of these menstrual cups was most probably the Daintette, patented in 1932. Made from rubber, it is essentially the same in design and purpose as the menstrual cups of today.
Then there was the Foldene, which claims to have been made from the Daintette's patent, but appears to be a different company. Probably dated at around 1930s-1940s. The box at the Museum of menstruation has the words "Junior size" stamped onto the bottom, and could indicate this cup was available in 2 or more sizes. The Museum makes the comment that this item is hard as rock (that the rubber has hardened over time) which may be why the stem is at that angle, it may once have been the same as the Daintette.
The next product on the market was the Chalmer's menstrual cup ("Catamenial receptor") which was patented around 1937 and made from "vulcanized rubber". Apparently production stalled due to a rubber shortage during the war. After this, it would seem that Leona Chalmers teamed up with Robert Oreck to manufacture the cup as a Tassette, a Reusable menstrual cup (using the Chalmer's patent) made from rubber with an antibacterial treatment (1959-1963). The Tassette did not sell particularly well, and later (in 1970) a disposable Tassaway was brought out to try to overcome the two main problems Oreck found with the menstrual cups (Women not wanting to wash and reuse a menstrual product, and the fact you only need to buy one every few years - making less ongoing profit for the company). The Tassaway was made from "elastomeric polymer" (whatever that may be). Interestingly, the Tassaway was tested for possibility of causing TSS back in the late 1970s, and found not to be a TSS cause. Its demise was primarily because of the company going bankrupt after fraud charges, and they appear not to have been sold after 1972-1973
Unfortunately for the early pioneers of those early Menstrual Cups is that they were fighting a battle that was almost impossible to win.
Society has, for many years, had taboos over discussing menstrual health and considered menstruation to be unclean. This is shown in the fact that many publications had refused to advertise early tampons and menstrual cups - and those that did, disallowed mention of specific words such as "vagina" or "menstruation", some even refusing to print images of the devices themselves.
Imagine trying to sell a product when you can't show it or even mention what it is used for!?
As if that isn't bad enough, in the 1930s tampons and disposable pads were now on the market, enticing women with the "convenience" of being disposable. Just as society was starting to shift towards disposable products, cup manufacturers were trying to produce a reusable product. Added to that, when the earliest cups came out, women inserting anything into their vaginas was not seen to be appropriate (hence the invention of applicator tampons) So menstrual products that involve a woman inserting a device into their vagina, washing it and reusing it, was unfortunately bound to be unsuccessful for several reasons. Not only for the fact that to do so would mean a woman had to be comfortable with her body enough to use the cup, and overcome the "unclean" mentality of its reuse, but how would those women actually find out about it?
From the point of view of the companies, they were trying to sell products that in most cases they couldn't advertise properly. If they did sell one, they would not get repeat custom from that woman for years to come (and due to the short lifespan of the companies, probably never). In the early days, a woman would probably not discuss her menstrual protection with friends or neighbours, so the company couldn't even rely on word of mouth from satisfied customers.
Luckily for the Keeper, over time it has become more socially acceptable for women to become both more aware of our bodies, and more vocal about menstruation. Probably helped by the cups that had gone before it, and the prevalence of tampons on the market, the Keeper, brought out in 1987, is the first menstrual cup to have been commercially viable.
Also in 1987, an Australian product, Gynaeseal, ("Diaphragm tampon") was invented. This was a disposable latex item (looking somewhat like a balloon/condom) with an applicator, that could be worn for up to 24 hours. More info. Apparently this never went into large scale production and while they reported plans for overseas production, it would seem that it was never taken up. Not a menstrual "cup" as such (and disposable), but I thought it was interesting enough to mention here, as it would not seem to be widely known about (and I have Australian pride in an Aussie invention - even if it wasn't viable!).
Then we have the other modern cups...
Instead softcups [disposable] (1992), Mooncup UK (2000), Divacup (2004), Lunette (2005) Moon Cup USA (2006), Femmecup (2007), Yuuki (2007), Lady Cup (2008), Miacup (2008), Alicia (2008), MPower (2008), Green Donna (2009), MeLuna (2009), Fleurcup (2009), Iriscup (2010), Naturcup (2010), Shecup (2010).
There seems to have been a Chinese cup, called "the menses cup", but I cannot track it down, so I have no idea when it was around and for how long. It would not seem to be available now. It would seem to be a cup that emptied without needing to be removed (like the early menstrual cups). I wonder if the reason it had not been heard of is if it was copied from the keeper patent which also features a draining stem - that the actual cups don't use (perhaps in practice they found the viscosity of the blood doesn't allow for easy drainage in practice), and that's why it stopped being produced?
"Speaking of Menstrual Cups . . . Can someone tell me where to get the menstrual cup apparently made and used in China? I'm told it has a drain emptying out of the vagina, which would probably kill it as an item used by American women, as well as in many other places."
"OBJECTIVE: To determine whether the menses cup is well tolerated by menstruating women."
"I found the article mentioned, which mentions the name of the company that apparently made the "Menses cup." The company is called "Shanghai New Asia Medical Rubber Factory Ltd.""
"Abroad, women in China use The Menses Cup , made of silicone rubber, which has a plug that can be opened without removal to empty fluid (Cheng 33)."
http://www.coursehero.com/file/2258804/tierrashowcasepaper013100/ (from a google link, but the link doesn't work).
www.ecomenses.com/www.clothpads.org (C) Obsidian 2002-2010. All rights reserved
This website (including all images or text) are covered by copyright and cannot be reproduced without permission.
By using this website, you agree not to hold the creator of this website liable for any harm as a result of using information from this website.
Swirly image edited from Lilla Mirabavutti | Dreamstime.com