From 1945 to 1951, Disney produced a series of educational films to be shown in American schools. How to bathe an infant. How not to catch a cold. Why you shouldn’t drive fast. Disney covered these subjects in its educational shorts, and then eventually got to the touchy subject of biology and sexuality. If there was ever a company suited to talk about “vaginas” in the 1940s in a copacetic way, it was Disney. Hence The Story of Menstruation.
The film runs 10 minutes, combining scientific facts with hygiene tips, and it was actually commissioned by the International Cello-Cotton Company, the forerunner of Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Kotex products. It was one of the first commercially sponsored films to be distributed to high schools.
It was distributed with a booklet for teachers and students called Very Personally Yours that featured advertising of the Kotex brand of products, and discouraged the use of tampons, where the market was dominated by the Tampax brand of rivals Procter & Gamble.
The Story Of Menstruation is believed to be the first film to use the word vagina in its screenplay. Neither sexuality nor reproduction is mentioned in the film, and an emphasis on sanitation makes it, as Disney historian Jim Korkis has suggested: “a hygienic crisis rather than a maturation event.”