Fact: the modern-day tampon was invented by a man. His name was Earle Cleveland Haas and, unlike Mel Gibson, he didn’t need to slip in the bathtub whilst holding an electric hairdryer to understand what women want.
In 1918, shortly after celebrating the big 3-0, our friend Earle graduated from Kansas City College of Osteopathy. He set up shop as a general medical practitioner in Colorado, and in his free time sold real estate, was president of a company that manufactured antiseptics, and served on the board of a few philanthropic organizations. (Note: you have the same number of hours in a day as Earle Haas).
Haas was not only a successful doctor-preneur-itarian, but a dedicated husband, too. He empathized with his wife’s woes – among them, having to handle her period using a piece of cloth held in place by a belt. (Not ideal for swimming). Haas was committed to developing a product that was comfortable, convenient, and could be mass-produced, helping women everywhere. Talk about sympathy pains.
Haas visited a friend in California who, unlike most other women, used a sponge internally to absorb menstrual flow. Haas was inspired. Rather than using a sponge-like material, though, Haas chose compressed cotton – quite like the pads of compressed cotton used to absorb secretions during surgery, called, not surprisingly, tamponades. Haas was fiercely dedicated to making the new-and-improved tampons as sanitary as possible, and didn’t want women to have to touch the cotton prior to insertion. Thus, the “cardboard telescoping applicator” became a critical component of the invention. After spending much of his spare time perfecting the invention in his basement shop, the modern-day tampon was born.
Haas patented his creation of the “catamenial device” (Greek for “monthly”) in November of 1931. Three years later, the patent was sold for $32K to Gertrude Tenderich, who founded Tampax, serving as the company’s first president. But it was Earle Haas – doctor, businessman, humanitarian, husband-of-the-year – who invented the tampon we all know and love.
Oh, and he invented the diaphragm, too. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.