Leona Chalmers was an actress/singer who gave up her career to develop a patent for a “problem”, which she considered to be “as old as Eve.” She is now credited as the inventor of the menstrual cup.
Prior to the 1930s, prototypes such as the “catamenial sacks”, a belt-like construction with a metal or flexible sack which was then inserted into the vagina existed, but was apparently uncomfortable and difficult to use.
Chalmers’s invention, a small cup-like container with an attached tail, was patented in 1937 and was made out of rubber. The cup was inserted into the vagina and created a vacuum (thus avoiding odor). Due to a shortage in materials during World War II, production had to be stopped, effectively ending demand for the cup.
Later on, she sold her invention to Tassette, but they also had problems marketing the product—especially when they used words like “period” or “vagina”. Additionally, most women did not yet feel comfortable using the cup. In 1973, the company was forced to close.