A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


A Survey of Housewives’ Habits for the Board of Trade.

Wartime Social Survey (New Series 11) March, 1942



This survey was undertaken at the request of the Board of Trade. Its main purpose was to secure basic data on the use of Sanitary Towels by housewives.

Prior to this survey some 1500 completed questionnaires had been secured by the Wartime Social Survey in factories and offices. This material was analysed by the staff of the Board of Trade, and the results are not incorporated in this report. It may be said however that great differences were found between the habits of housewives and working women.

Interviewing was carried out during February, and reception, though on the whole good, was occasionally somewhat embarrassed.

The main results are summarised below.


  1. About one-third of all housewives used washable Sanitary Towels and about two-thirds used packet Sanitary Towels. There are sharp differences in these proportions in the different social groups.

  2. The overwhelming majority of housewives use four main brands of packet Sanitary Towels. Some indications are given that considerable numbers of housewives are not using the brand which they prefer.

  3. Some 53% of housewives get their Sanitary Towels at Drapers, 45% at Chemists, and about 12% use other retail sources. Some housewives mentioned more than one source.

  4. The average number of Sanitary Towels used each month is 10.5. One quarter of the sample used 6.3 or less, and one quarter 11.8 or more each month. There are sharp differences between the number used each month by housewives in the different social groups.

  5. Some 15.4% of housewives were using more Sanitary Towels each month than formerly and 8% were using fewer. The main reason for using more was the change in quality or size of Sanitary Towels.

  6. Some 45% of housewives always kept a reserve, 34% sometimes kept a reserve, and 21% never kept a reserve of Sanitary Towels. The average size of the reserve kept by housewives at any time (i.e, excluding those who never kept a reserve) was 5.5 now and 10.7 formerly. This size reserve is much smaller than average use each month, and the decrease in the size of the reserve does not match the excess of those using more towels each month.

  7. Some 50% of housewives using Sanitary Towels had experienced difficulties in securing supplies.

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