“Will you be sick during the time of the trip?”

algonquin_park_canoe

From an excellent article by Jess Dunkin on canoe trips and menstruation in the 1920s and 30s for NICHE:

“In the fall of 1981 at the age of 72, Mary Northway found herself back at Glen Bernard (GBC), a private girls camp near Sundridge, Ontario, where she had spent almost two decades as a camper and staff member in the 1920s and 1930s. She had returned to share her recollections of these experiences with Doré Millichamp, a friend from Toronto. The two women recorded their conversation as they perambulated through the camp property. As they approached a small stream that ran through the centre of GBC Mary confided to her companion:

I don’t suppose I should put this on tape, but…Maria and I wanted very much to go on a long canoe trip…and we both thought that it was about the time we’d be under the weather. And Maria’s sister, a nurse, told us if we sat in cold water it would push forward. So, we’d go down every morning and sit in this stream that’s as icy as can be. [1]

If the meaning of Mary’s confession is unclear, an excerpt from Esther Keyser’s autobiography, Paddle My Own Canoe, may be helpful:

[Northway Lodge]’s approach to female hygiene, which I took for granted at the time, was that girls who were menstruating were not allowed to go on canoe trips. None of our modern sanitary supplies had been invented. Washable rags served the same purpose as sanitary napkins and tampons. Before a canoe trip, we would be asked if we would be menstruating. The question was usually asked, “Will you be sick during the time of the trip?” [2]

Which makes me curious. Those of you who went on long back-country camping or canoeing trips, how did you deal with menstruation? Did you begrudge the weight of pads or tampons to an already full pack?