A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Reserve Stocks of Sanitary Towels.

All housewives using packet Sanitary Towels were asked if they kept a reserve by them.

Always Sometimes Never Total
394 296 183 873
45% 34% 21% 100%

No notable differences appear in these proportions as between different parts of the country or between urban and rural housewives.

Social Groups.

Always 64.0 (±9.6) 59.5 (±7.2) 41.3 30.6
Sometimes 25.0 (±8.7) 23.5 (±6.3) 37.2 41.1
Never 10.0 (±6.0) 17.0 (±5.6) 21.5 28.3
Sample 99 183 379 212

It will be seen that on the basis of the present sample it is not possible to differentiate A and B group habits. There are however clear differences between the lower income groups and the upper.

Age Groups.

20-29 30-39 40-50
Always 33.7 47.6 48.7
Sometimes 41.8 33.8 36.3
Never 24.5 18.6 15.0
Sample 249 328 139

These total figures on the age groupings do not check with the other totals, since ages were not secured from some housewives. This of course in no way invalidates the differences shown to exist between the different age groupings.

It will be seen that the main differences appear between the under 30s and the over 30s.


The Size of Reserve Stocks.

An attempt is made in this section to compare the size of reserve stocks held at present with the size of reserve held previously. The validity of the comparison rests of course upon the accuracy of housewives’ memories and information given to investigators. Two questions were asked of all housewives who always or sometimes kept stocks of S.Ts - “How many have you now?” and “How many used you to keep?”.

The averages of those keepings reserves at any time were:-

5.5 now 10.7 formerly

It will be seen that a sharp change has taken place in the size of reserve stocks. This change does not match any changes in the number used, which in a previous section was noted as follows:-

Using More Using Less Using the Same
5.4 8.0 76.6

The change in size of reserve is brought out strongly in the table below noting proportions of the sample holding reserve stocks of specified size now and previously.

Size of Stocks Now
Less than 6 25.3 20.2
6 10.2 15.4
7-11 3.1 4.8
12 14.5 36.0
13-24 6.9 11.5
More than 24 2.6 3.9
None at present 37.4 Kept no reserve previously. 8.2
Sample 608 Sample 515

The difference in the size of the sample is explained by the fact that housewives were in some cases unspecific in the size of stocks held previously.

Difficulties encountered by Housewives using Washable or Home-made S.Ts

All housewives using washable or home-made Sanitary towels were asked if they had encountered any special difficulties recently. 550 housewives replied to the question, of whom 88% said that no special difficulties were encountered.

No Proportion of those replying
No difficulty in getting toweling, lint, gauze, etc. 10 1.7
Uses old towels, sheets napkins, etc. 148 26.9
Good supply, bought some time ago. 129 23.5
No special comment. 200 36.4
Total with no difficulty 487 88.5

The 63 housewives who mentioned difficulties amounted to 11.5% of those replying to the question. These housewives were spread throughout the sample and mentioned as reasons for difficulty prices, quality, deficiency and shortages.

Since a large proportion of all housewives in the sample using washable and homemade Sanitary Towels replied to this question, the results noted above may be taken as representative.


Difficulties encountered by Housewives using Packet S.Ts

All housewives using packet Sanitary Towels were asked if they had encountered any special difficulties lately. Some 964 housewives answered this question, of whom 50.2% mentioned difficulties and 49.8% said that they had experienced no difficulty.

No. Proportion of Housewives Replying
No difficulty experienced. 462 48.0
Has not needed S.Ts Lately 18 1.8
Total With No Difficulty 480 49.8
No Proportion of Housewives Replying
Difficulty in getting usual brand. 164 17.1
Difficulty in getting large size. 32 3.3
Only managed to secure S.Ts after visiting several shops. 144 14.9
Cannot secure on some occasions 64 6.6
Have “some difficulty”(unspecified) 58 6.0
Can only get small packet at a time 22 2.3
Total With Difficulty 484 50.2
Total sample represented by both tables 964 100%

How was difficulty met.

Those housewives finding difficulty in securing packet S.Ts were asked how they managed. From the above figures it will be seen that 144 housewives managed by visiting several shops. These amounted to 14.9% of the total.

Other ways of managing mentioned were as follows:-

Make S.Ts out of old linen, sheets. 3.2
Make S.Ts out of toweling, old towels. 1.9
Make S.Ts out of cotton wool. .83
Make own S.Ts (unspecified) .83
Use washable sort. 1.94
Use other brands. 18.4
Use small if no large obtainable. 2.2
Use babies’ napkins. .4
Borrow or get gift from friends elsewhere. 1.2
Manage by keeping reserve. 2.6

It will be seen that the use of other brands and visiting several shops is the solution adopted by housewives amounting to 33.3% of the sample, or 66% of those finding difficulty in getting packet Sanitary Towels. Housewives numbering 6.7% of those using packet S.Ts solved their difficulties by makeshift devices in their own homes.


Change in Type of Sanitary Towel Used

All housewives interviewed were asked if they had always used the types of S.T. now being used. Some 1382 housewives out of 1468 interviewed replied to this question.

Always Used Present Type Not Always Used Total
1183 199 1382
85.6% 14.4% 100%

No marked variations in these proportions appeared as between housewives in bombed, reception or other areas or between housewives in different age groups. Whilst statistically significant differences do not appear as between housewives in different social groups, there is a tendency for the upper income groups to have changed the type more than the lower income groups.

All housewives indicating that they had changed the type used were asked to say when they had changed and the reason for the change. These two sets of figures are given together in order to show up possible inter-relations.

Reason for Change When Did You Change?
Shortage 36 42.3% A month or less, recently. 5 38.5%
Away from home 38 1-6 months 26
Deterioration of usual sort 6 6 months - 1 year 44
Economy 19 48.1%
More Hygienic 9
Health Reasons 7 1-2 years 33 49.7%
More Comfortable, Fashionable 13 2-3 years 17
Advertisements 8 3 years 47
More Convenient 18
Easy to dispose of 17
Miscellaneous, Indeterminate 18 9.6% Don’t Know , Miscellaneous or Indeterminate 23 11.8%
Sample 189 Sample 195

If the first groups of reasons be regarded as wartime changes it will be seen that the proportion mentioning these roughly corresponds with the proportion changed within the last year.

The second groups of reasons might be regarded as normal reasons, and the proportion here corresponds with the proportions mentioning 1-3 years as the time of change.

The sample available here is, of course, too small for these remarks to be more than of some guiding value.


What Changes Were Made

Some indication of what changes in habit were made is to be found in the analysis made below

All housewives indicating that a change had occurred were asked what type was used previously.

Type Proportion Now Using Proportion Previosly Using
Washable 33.7 35.3
Soluble 26.3 24.4
Insolube 40.6 44.1
Home-made 5.2 3.5
Others 3.0 0.7
Sample 1382 1382

These proportions now using vary slightly from the proportions given on p.2. This is because answers to this question were not secured from some 86 housewives.

It will be seen that with either set of figures the changes are very small and only barely significant statistically.

Changes can be followed in greater detail on the table below. This is based upon the types mentioned, and since some housewives mentioned more than one type, there is duplication.

Washable Soluble Packet Insoluble Packet Homemade Others
Total at Present Using 466 100% 363 100% 551 100% 72 41
Used to Use
Washable 423 90.8 25 6.9 28 5.1 8 4
Soluble Packet 9 1.9 296 81.5 7 1.3 7 19
Insoluble Packet 33 7.1 40 11.0 513 91.4 11 12
Home-made 1 0.3 2 0.4 45 1
Others 1 0.2 1 0.3 1 1.8 1 5

From these figures it will be seen that largest transfer has been to soluble Packet Towels.

Those housewives who had changed were asked if they were satisfied with the type they are now using, 186 housewives replied, of which 82.8% were satisfied 13.4% were dissatisfied and 3.8% were unable to express an opinion. The main reason for dissatisfaction was the size of quality of the Sanitary Towel now used.

The Use of Belts with Sanitary Towels.

An attempt was made to ascertain the extent to which belts were habitually used by housewives. Some 1130 housewives answered a question designed to elicit this information.

Bought Belt 487 43.1
Used Home-made Belt 78 6.9
Used Belt, but gave no indication of source 31 2.7
Wore No Belt 507 44.9
No Belt because Tampons used 27 2.4
Sample 1130 100.0

It will be seen that the proportion stating that no belt was used because Tampons were used corresponds closely with the proportion noted on p.2. as wearing other kinds of S.T. (2.8%).

Of those saying that no belt was used, some 115 (26% of no belt wearers or 10.2% of sample) stated that they used tape, elastic, pins, etc.

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