Disney's 1946 menstruation film

Here's a fantastically horrible 1946 Disney film about menstruation, "The Story of Menstruation." Your period, according to Disney


  1. If you’d seen the films I saw in the 1970s… I don’t think you’d call this film fantastically horrible by comparison.

    It seems quaint, but quite surprisingly open about what menstruation is and how it happens. I’m not saying it couldn’t be improved, but for it’s time… what’s wrong with it?

  2. It’s better than the film I was subjected to as a 6th grader, we were taught about Aunt Flo by the girl that played Annie in the broadway show

  3. NOW I get it! brilliant. I’m taking it!

    *I also, in the fifth grade, was forced to watch the pms instructional video with Annie hosting*

  4. I remember this film. And the boys did go out for recess while we watched it. But I can’t see what is horrible. It is the drawings of the girls with the large heads and eyes? Do you think it is somehow sexist? It was done in 1946, I think it’s a pretty good explanation of a really weird thing that happens to a girl around 13, and then keeps on for years. It’s pretty reassuring actually.

  5. “Courtesy of Kotex Products”?

    I hate to think what Disney produced for the cigarette companies. Still, it was a pretty daring theme for the time. Especially since menstruation was a taboo topic for most schools. I wonder what other public education movies Disney made.

  6. Ditto Fee’s comment. Plus, for its time, and considering it is from Disney, I think it’s fantastically wonderful–acknowledging different body types, different feelings, different timings–and explaining that it’s natural as ell as suggesting ways to feel better about yourself.

    So, what is fantastically horrible? Pray tell!

  7. That wasn’t as horrible I’d hoped. Rather authoritative and reassuring, actually.

    I was expecting one of the Fairy Godmothers to have a woman-to-woman chat with Snow White, with little birds delivering sanitary pads on queue and woodland animals singing about the cycle of life.

  8. Yeah, I’m missing what’s fantastically horrible as well. It’s old-fashioned, sure, but it’s also old, and it’s honest and straight-forward. The worst thing that could be said about it is that it’s a bit treacly, but, um, consider the era.

  9. I liked this blog post.

    As many others have stated, this video is actually better than some of the videos they showed us in school.

  10. I wish my mother had seen this, so she was reassured when she got to it, she never understood the process or why it happens (other than: it’s messy, awkward, monthly and you can get pregnant and you don’t get information about it beforehand), so she got me a book when I was 9 (and I could tell her), and I was prepared for 7 years (I got carried away by the book and always had ‘protection’ with me, lol). I wish she got me the disney-kotex talk to pass on.
    And I don’t get the fantastic horrible either, but maybe I’ll get it later (I’m always late, I started menstruating at 16), or maybe it’s hormones.

  11. My mother-in-law says her dad wouldn’t allow her to take a bath for those 5 days. Melodramatic music aside, it’s more info than most women (or men!) around that time had.

  12. Seems fine to me too! OK – a bit too much about detail about constipation, but all in all, I actually thought it was excellent.

  13. @Mrsbug: Since it’s Disney, and a female voice, it’s likely June Foray. 1946 would be quite early in her career.

    Listening to it, I think it is, though. Foray’s most famous for being Rocky the Flying Squirrel. Strip out the high registers and imagine Foray aiming for “calm and mother-like”, and you might agree.

  14. I thought it was actually pretty progressive, especially for the time it was made. The bits about bad posture squishing your organs and stopping feeling sorry for yourself are pretty silly, but I rather liked the parts about how you should not be afraid to exercise and bathe when you’re on your period. Misogynistic tropes about the “unclean” nature of menstruation made people regard it as disgusting and freakish for a loooong time. This video is just all like, “Yeah, it’s totally normal, don’t worry about it!” I appreciate that.

  15. Count me in as one of the people who questions the “fantastically horrible” label. It’s factually correct and gives good advice: doesn’t expect women to coddle themselves or moon about but says get out and get exercise, keep clean, and eat right while drinking plenty of water.

    I got my version of this in the early 1970s, and would be embarrassed to see it today. This is actually pretty sensible. And the woman’s voice is so soooooothing…!

  16. @7 The girls are done in the “Freddy Moore” style. Disney animators had pin-ups of “Freddy Moore Girls” at their desks. Its all a manner of taste. They seem a bit dated to me, though Moore’s drawings are always energetic and fluid.

    A Disney short that highlights this style a little better is “All the Cats Join In”. Sadly, Moore’s alcoholism ended his life at a pretty young age.

  17. The voice over was like velvet! What a beautiful, motherly, soothing voice!!!

    It’s not horrible. The “delicate female” image was pretty in vogue at that time so I’m not surprised to see references to “avoiding shocks to the system” and considering people were just coming off of rations and winding down from a war time mentality it’s no surprise to see a bit of “don’t feel sorry for yourself, powder your face, smile, and carry on!”

    I’m not sure when the posture police stopped harassing young women, but concerns over “squishing organs” are pretty typical for the time too.

    This is much better than similar films from the 70s.

  18. Actually, I thought this was rather sensible, mostly considering the era (I was shocked that the could actually say ‘menstruation’ and not ‘feminine effusion’ or something). I thought it was very thorough and, frankly, better than many modern information programs I’ve seen.

    I was really bracing for something fantastically horrible: I would indeed like to know why it deserved such a description…

  19. The shortcomings of this film include belittling a woman’s work or physical strength. You know, like powerful Mother Nature, women are content to slave hard keeping things running smoothly without being noticed. Yeah, right. It’s also telling them to suck it up, put some makeup on and don’t forget to smile even though one might have the worst endometriosis type of pains. Come on gals, stop feeling sorry for yourselves.

  20. I’m jealous that in 1946 all girl babies were born with mascara and lipstick.

    And I don’t think this was horrible at all. Women may have been exhorted to keep the home fires burning while bearing it all silently, but I can’t say that I think that’s any worse than being a man and having the financial responsibility for the entire family on your shoulders.

  21. Not so “fantastically horrible”! In fact, it’s so good that I doubt if you could get this past Sarah Palin’s school board pals these days. It’s WAY too informative. Nowadays, it’s shut up, suffer and don’t ask questions, little girls!

  22. Sorry, Cory, you got it wrong, for once. I’m with everyone else in appreciating this little film as quite progressive for its tume.

  23. Well I seem to be the only one, but it creeped me out. I did not like the narration. The tone struck me as patronizing, er, matronizing. It’s all about being normal girls, you wouldn’t want to not be normal, would you? NORMALNORMALNORMAL!

    And if you get cramps from hell, you’re not normal. And you wouldn’t want people to think you were abnormal, so chin up, put a perky smile on your vacant little face and think of other people. Normal girls are so self centered.

    Oh, it wasn’t gruesome. But it didn’t strike me as relaxing or reassuring.

  24. This is much better than when my mother explained the whole thing to me, although I still would have found the film somewhat puzzling, as I am male.

  25. Well, I found that the girl walking her dog at the end had NO FEET!!! That’s pretty horrible!

    …oh and, well, they obviously didn’t know much of anything about PMS except to shut up and smile.
    Oh and to be ever so perfect: hide that monstrous pimple that I shouldn’t see and exercise but not too much and…

    Stll t wsn’t s hrrbl s wht Pln hs n hd ‘m sr…

  26. Progressive for its time, sure, and surprising blunt. But still entertaining in the little exhortations of keeping good posture and a pleasant attitude.

  27. I have to confess that, when the endometrium sloughs off, I was expecting Cab Calloway to start singing St. James Infirmary Blues.

  28. The ovaries are glands?! (2:10)

    I thought they were organs.

    And why does it show the ovum being expelled before menstruation? I thought it came out along with the blood.

  29. the narrator sounded like Lady, from Lady and the Tramp to me.

    @Pipenta, the narrator said if you were experiencing something out of the ordinary to talk to your doctor; not to hide it and pretend like nothing’s wrong.

  30. #35: “Well, I found that the girl walking her dog at the end had NO FEET!!!”

    Foot binding hadn’t quite died out in the Toon community by that time.

  31. #33:

    Not to argue, but nowadays, many people accept severe PMS (meaning very painful cramps, serious mood swings, anything that would actually perturb your regular activities) as a ‘normal’ thing. They often are a sign of disorders ranging from hormonal imbalance to polycystic ovaries so it is not a good thing to write them off as regular PMS.

    The video never says to just grin and bear it through severe symptoms: It actually says to check with your doctor if they occur, not to ignore them. And in the cases where just a bit of fatigue, mild depression or heaviness settles in, it is not a bad thing to kick oneself a bit, smile and keep your chin up. I do it myself ;)

  32. “Schoolgirls in the 1950s were shown ‘educational’ films, such as ‘Figure Forum’ and ‘Facts About Your Figure’ (made by the Warner Brassiere Company) and it helped create ‘needs’ for such things as foundation support, cosmetics, and a variety of ‘sanitary’ products in young girls as early as eleven years old.”

    This is what’s horrible about this.
    FYI-Use common sense, don’t ride horses while menstruating ladies, and if you’re feeling down, why just put on some makeup. It’ll boost your moral and give you that fresh feeling.
    I agree with Cory.

  33. Why is this horrible? It encourages exercise, and American women are woefully lack in this area even without their period (and I’m not excluding myself there either). And best of all the film stressed the importance of regularity. A woman with an irregular cycle could be suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – a very over looked condition but one with all sorts of health ramifications for a woman.

    I rather liked the film exhorting women not to let their moods run away with them. I have so many female friends who think that having PMS or being on their periods entitles them to act like a witch towards everyone. Then they wonder why no one wants to spend any time with them.

  34. Kryspyjo, Pipenta, and others – Yeah, the video definitely has some problems in it, especially from a feminist viewpoint, but I maintain that for the time it was made, it’s actually pretty good. I wouldn’t call it “fantastically horrible” – just “kinda wonky.”

    Zombie – Thanks for making me realize that this video is more problematic than I originally thought. I was seeing that “stop feeling sorry for yourself” line as an outdated mode of thought, but nope. Apparently some people still actually subscribe to the “overemotional uppity witch” school in regards to PMS. If only that kind of attitude had been left in 1946 where it belongs, along with the exhortations not to squish your organs with bad posture.

  35. It’s a lot less horrifying than the video I watched in elementary school, which had a mother at a sleepover create a female reproductive system out of pancake batter, and then everyone ate ovaries for breakfast.

  36. @ Antinous – correction, ovulation usually occurs around the mid point of the cycle (approx day 14 of a 28 day cycle), not the opposite end from menstruation, day 1 of which is counted as day 1 of the cycle.

    I was expecting something much more creepy given the tag line. Deeply disappointed.

  37. @ Lauren O – So, because we get our period it is perfectly acceptable reason to scream at a waiter who didn’t bring the entrees quickly enough? Or rip into a boyfriend or husband for, say, not wanting to go see the latest romantic comedy? Or maybe give their kid a smack for making too much noise while playing?

    This is what I’m talking about, the women who use their periods or PMS to emotionally abuse other people. Not the genuine cases of pre or post menstrual syndrome who end up not being taken seriously enough by family, friends or doctors because of those who cover horrible personality flaws with, “oh, it must be PMS/I’m on my period”.

    I know a handful of women who treat people badly on an everyday basis, then use the excuse they must have been suffering PMS after they made some poor clerk at Starbucks cry.

  38. Whew! I watched the video and thought to myself, “What’s so horrible?” aside from it being rather dated in presentation. It was done (it seems to me) with dignity and the advice seems reasonable and common sense, by and large. I was relieved to see that BB’s readership generally agree.

    That said, it is pretty exceptional that I find myself disagreeing with Cory.

  39. It’s a misconception that PMS happens during menses. It’s the 2 weeks leading up to menses where the hormonal imbalances occur. When a woman is menstruating, she is more hormonally closer to a male than any other time of the month.

    In regards to the video, I thought it was a lovely piece of kitsch in the same vein as old Betty Boop cartoons. They are of course a reflection of the times.

  40. In 6th Grade us boys got to see a really lame film strip* about testicles, sperm, changing voices and nocturnal emissions. It covered breasts and periods too, in a how-the-other-half-lives sort of way.

    If it was a Disney production the art and music would have been better.

    * The kind where the soundtrack comes from a record player and has BEEPS to tell the operator to advance to the next frame.

  41. My mom gave me that booklet and a feminine hygiene ‘kit’ Kotex sold in the mid-late 60s, with a terse, ‘you need to read this’.

    Then again my mom was, and still is the Queen of Denial.

  42. Re: #48 (Brian Damage) – Wow — I’ve been studying Polish for over a year, and the “Kotex/kotek” konnection didn’t occur to me! The use of “cat” words in reference to a woman’s privates shows up in a number of cultures. Alas, my dear Polish pen-pal died last February (cerebral haemhorrage during chemotherapy), so she can’t tell me if vulgar Poles use such a slang. I wonder if the products were named by a Pole with a naughty sense of humor, or were innocently meant to convey the softness of a cat, or if it’s just coincidence, like the “Barf” brand detergent sold in Poland.

    Anyhoo, I found the video pleasantly informative. A little dated, but not to the point of steering girls wrong. A perusal of the Educational Films Archives (check out their DVD sets!) reveals that there actually were a few really good classroom films from the late ’40s and the 1950s. Not every school would show them, but they were out there. I think a great deal of our perceptions about those decades come from family & folk beliefs that persisted even if sounder information was available. I teach, and have noticed that a great deal of what is taught in school gets easily undermined by parents who set a bad example. Consequently, my Mom, whose mother was a nurse, explained menstruation much like the video did (only without the chirpy “chin up!” bits — she feels that PMS is more mental than physical unless there’s a serious medical problem). Meanwhile, my ex-fiancee’s mother (just a few years younger than mine) was still telling her daughters quite a few superstitions about not bathing, and how if you could look in your uterus you’d see how many babies you are meant to have by the number of eggs waiting there, each one waiting for just the right sperm cell to come along (menstrual flow apparently had something to do with “Original Sin”…) It was as though she’d fallen asleep in health class and tried to piece it all together later in Sunday school.

    The thing that bugs me about this video is the repeated mispronounciation of “menstruation” as “menestration.” Right up there with “arthur-itis,” “defribble-ator” and “nucular.”

  43. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I remember from 10th grade Biology that the eggs are the only cells in the human body that CAN be seen with the naked eye…

  44. A Disney menstruation video? How wonderfully decadent! And just when I was beginning to lose interest…

  45. “After all, no matter how you feel, you have to live with people. You have to live with yourself, too.” That’s actually pretty good advice, even if you don’t have a vagina.


    I don’t know if my copy is quite as old as 1946, but they must have continued to use those illustrations for several years, because I remember the little bobbleheaded girl. I don’t know where it is, and it’s probably not worth any money, but I still did a mini-Squee.

    I don’t see this as horrible, either. Sure, some of the advice is outdated now, but for the times, it is surprisingly frank and undramatic.

  47. My period video was 80’s in all it’s glory, ala crimped hair & side pony tails, woo hoo! In the 5th grade we watched in the gym with our moms, and a few of the boys were jealous because they wanted their mothers too.

    The part I remember most from the video was the mom in the kitchen making pancakes and answering period questions with her daughter and the rest of the family. She actually made ovary pancakes that she then served! Our mothers cracked up and it was at that point I felt like a part of the club. Like most of adolescence, it was awkward, but looking back, also sweet.

  48. I thought the movie was quite sweet, and quite progressive for young teen ladies of that era.

    I can imagine the final few sentences about it all being about a woman’s (only?) job bringing new life into the world would have feminists (like me) up in arms, but hey – as people have been saying, it’s appropriate to the era.

    But, having said that, the opening lines about a woman keeping life trucking on behind the scenes had quite the progressive tones of “Hey ladies, dontcha know it *wink*”.

    There might be chuntering about the racism, overly patriotic, and propaganda in some other Disney clips, but this one sure shows that Uncle Walt had the best of intentions at heart for the kids.

  49. I also saw the ovary pancake video in the early 90s. Disney was decidedly less peculiar than that, especially given when it was made.

  50. Count me in the “not horrible” camp.

    Frankly I’d be surprised if a lot of current educational media looks this good in 60 years.

    Disney did all sorts of educational and training films during the 40s – 60s. You can be sure that, during the production of this, there were medical consultants out the …, well anyway, I’m sure the script was well vetted by the nmedical authorities of the time.

    I really love looking at old educational materials and considering some of the whoppers I’ve come across, this is quite progressive. Personally I love the look and the style of cartoons from this period (no pun intended.)

  51. #52: Yes they DO. All the time. That’s why bears are such assholes.

    On the subject of bad 80s/90s “coming of age” educational films, did anybody ever have to watch one where two girls are in a changing room in a department store, trying on dresses? The camera only shows the outside of the stalls, and one girl screams suddenly. Her friend asks her what the problem is, and she cries, “My breasts are lopsided!” Then, SUDDENLY, one of the employees in the store pops her head around the corner and exclaims, “Did somebody just say their breasts are lopsided?!”

    …Come on, I hope to hell I didn’t just dream that up.

  52. Presented by Kimberly Clark! I grew up in the same town as the K.C. factory (in CT) that’s still cranking out pads, toilet paper and other toiletries. Glad to see some things never change…

  53. I actually really liked the advise too – about living with other people and yourself. (We all need this now!) I also liked the diet and exercise advise and the do everything you usually do – within reason point. I mean – white skintight hot pants? – really not the best idea some times of the month. And horseback riding – really depends on how your body is feeling. May not be perfect but that was better info than we got in school up till about – what grade 12 bio.
    I was lucky enough to have parent in the medical profession – so I got an amazingly detailed explanation of everything at about the age of 4. (My mom was pregnant and didn’t want me to be confused!) Boy I had fun telling all my friends exactly where babies came from!

  54. Just FYI, Freddie Moore (the animator whose style this was based on), DID NOT die of alcoholism. He had some issues but had cleaned up his act, and died in a car accident (no he was not driving).

  55. Fantastically Horrible? Cory, you obviously have little experience viewing menstrual information films, and that is a gift. It only goes downhill after this.

  56. I feel I should chime in and agree with most of the posters, I thought it was well done, so well done that it almost completely lacked any entertainment value. Maybe that’s what you meant by ‘awful’. No dressing it up, no metaphors, no nicknames, just “this is what happens and why, and here’s some suggestions on how to deal with it” Also the sub-theme of doing things in moderation was good advice.

  57. Ha! This is great! Only slightly different from the one I watched in the school library in 1967 with construction paper taped over the windows so the boys couldn’t see in.
    My best friend’s mom asked her if she had any questions after seeing “the movie” and she said, “Well, it sounds messy and I’m not going to do it!”
    Little did she know….

  58. Though I can see there’s some sexist bits such as what the film portrays as a woman’s daily routines and activities I didn’t find it going to the point of being offensive.

    All in all considering the age of this production I’d say it did a great job.

  59. I don’t know, when it comes to films of this type, you just can’t beat this one:

    (yes I’m going to hell)

  60. Oh man… with the promise of a “fantastically horrible” Disney film about menstruation, I was hoping for Grumpy from the Seven Dwarfs sweeping out a uterus or something.

    As it is, I have to agree with the overwhelming majority of responders: this was actually tame, straightforward, respectful, and – oddly enough – charming in a way.

    And to those who are obsessed with it being a blatant marketing tool from an evil corporation, I have to ask: How do you get through modern life with such festering negativity?

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