News Letters

Saturday 23 August 2014

First, Tampax . . .

Published 21/01/2013 | 05:00

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• In 1944, John Charles McQuaid, archbishop of Dublin, wrote to Dr Conn Ward, parliamentary secretary to the minister for local government and public health, and informed him that at the "Low Week meetings of the Bishops, I explained very fully the evidence concerning the use of internal sanitary tampons, in particular, that called Tampax. On the medical evidence made available, the bishops very strongly disapproved of the use of these appliances, more particularly in the case of unmarried persons". 'Unmarried persons' was a euphemism for women.

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This reflects the cultural anxieties of the era.

McQuaid's medical adviser was Dr Stafford Johnson, who had studied in Clongowes Wood College and graduated in medicine from UCD in 1914. He took a particular interest in medico-moral issues and was an enthusiastic advocate for Catholic ethics in medicine.

Early in 1944, Stafford Johnson wrote to McQuaid requesting the return of the 'Catholic Medical Guardian', which he had earlier lent to McQuaid, "in which there was given the pronouncement of the English hierarchy on internal tamponage".

With an ill-disguised sinister tone, Stafford Johnson explained that an "interesting development has occurred. Tampax has been off the market here for over a year and a half. One of our Knight Chemists (Stafford Johnson was a Supreme Knight of Columbanus) has just rung me up to say it is about to be in stock once more, but has not been delivered from the agent". The 'moral dangers' of Tampax were pointed out to the chemist, and the crisis was averted.

The text above is from Irish history, anno 1944. Please compare this to the ongoing discussion about free abortion in Ireland in 2013.

Pi Storm
Galway

Irish Independent

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