Nomination for the Al Copeland Humanitarian Award: Earle Haas

Greg has nominated Charles Montesquieu and I have nominated David Einhorn for this year’s Al Copeland Humanitarian Award.  Here is Anna Jacob’s nomination of Earle Haas, the inventor of the modern tampon:

An overlooked everyday convenience, the mighty tampon is a transformative technology, offering comfort and convenience to consumers. Women had been improvising for thousands of years prior to this revolutionary invention- in Ancient Egypt, using softened papyrus; in Rome, using wool; in Japan, paper; in Indonesia, vegetable fibers, and in Equatorial Africa, rolls of grass. Made of compressed cotton, the tampon as we know it was patented in 1933 by Dr. Earle Cleveland Hass of Denver, Colorado whose “catamenial device” included such modern conveniences as a removal string and insertion applicator. Dr Hass sold the patent and trademark to Gertrude Tendrich who went on to found the Tampax company three years later. The Tampax sales team realized that advertising alone would not ensure the success of their product and established an education department to dispel myths and misconceptions. Mabel Matthews, Tampax’s first full-time educational consultant, travelled to women’s colleges throughout the U.S. discussing the safety and effectiveness of her product.

At the beginning of World War II, the tampon industry faced a setback that could’ve killed this invention before it ever reached mass production. Production of cotton bandages for the troops exploded and Tampax had to assert its product as an essential health product if it was to secure the raw materials of cotton and paper that were need for its production. Company executives travelled to Washington DC numerous times to plead their case, basing their strategy on the lesser size of their product in comparison to its alternative, the sanitary napkin or “maxi-pad.” Tampax succeeded in ensuring access to these materials by asserting that both production and transportation of Tampax actually opened up shipping space and raw materials for the war effort.

Dr Haas’ invention has been transformational for women both personally and professionally, allowing them to travel, work, and swim, unhindered by a predictable restriction three to five days out of every 28. Thank you Dr Haas!

5 Responses to Nomination for the Al Copeland Humanitarian Award: Earle Haas

  1. Thanks for the nomination, Anna.

    There are some other interesting aspects to this story. First, consider how much of a positive impact this made in allowing women to work outside of the house and travel freely. Compare how much that improved opportunities for women relative to what Gloria Steinem or various other activists have done for which they have received numerous accolades.

    Second, the profit motive for Tampax motivated them to hire Mabel Matthews and develop a public education campaign to help women overcome irrational fears about tampons so that women would buy their product and then enjoy the greater opportunities that tampon usage offered. Note that this education effort was enormously successful despite (or because of) the fact that Tampax would make money by educating women.

  2. Tim says:

    I can’t imagine life without being able to tell that hilarious “thumbtacks or Tampax” joke. So add that to the “plus” column.

  3. Greg Forster says:

    I’d like to nominate whoever wrote the copy for that advertisement. To actually write “Tampax makes life truly worth living” clearly deserves some kind of recognition.

  4. SB says:

    How about some sort of PMS pill that, in effect, makes life better for men?

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