Q Dear Miss Abigail:
I want to explain to my daughter what puberty is. Could you help me go about it?
A Dear Nancy:
In our continuing saga of “vague and slightly scary old advice to help teach children about sex and puberty” (see this other question), I bring you a little chat between a mother and daughter. Jane, “now eleven years old” has some questions that are probably similar to your daughter’s. Dr. Edith Hale Swift wrote Step by Step in Sex Education in 1947 for “those parents who feel their responsibilities and are perplexed about a proper approach to the subject of the sex education of their children,” so I’m sure it will help. And by the way, “Bert” is Jane’s brother.
1947: What’s In Those Machines?
JANE. (talking to Mother in a women’s restroom) What’s in those machines? I saw a woman drop a nickel in one and pull out a roll of something.
MOTHER. A gauze pad.
JANE. What did she want it for?
MOTHER. To soak up a flow that women have, once in a while, from the vagina. I have some pads home on my closet shelf in a box marked ‘Sanitary Pads.’ You see them in drug store windows frequently.
JANE. Why won’t toilet tissue do?
MOTHER. Because the flow lasts from four to five days, and the woman needs to protect her clothing.
JANE. When will I have to wear one?
MOTHER. When you have changed into a young woman ~ in two or three years. I’ll tell you all about it some day. Changing a girl into a woman is one of the most interesting things a body does. But we have a dress to buy now for a certain girl I know. What are you laughing at?
JANE. I was just remembering about Bert last Christmas, when we went shopping with Aunt Harriet for your presents. She wouldn’t let him buy those pads, at a special bargain. He said you used them somehow ~ he’d seen the boxes. But Aunt Harriet said he’d better buy something you didn’t really need, something pretty for the house. Remember how he bought the bed lamp?
MOTHER. I must explain to him, then, and also thank Aunt Harriet for steering him toward the lamp. I just love to read in bed.
Source: Swift, Edith Hale. Step by Step in Sex Education. New York: Macmillan Company, 1947.
~ 92-93 ~