RSE Ending Period Poverty Research Project
2020 – 2022
The Ending Period Poverty Research Project was funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and was administratively based at the University of St Andrews.
The project explored conditions contributing to Scotland’s pioneering role as an international leader in menstrual policy.
Our interdisciplinary research looked at various influences and factors in order to consider ways in which Scotland is historically and contemporaneously situated regarding:
• international flows of knowledge about menstruation
• consumption of menstrual products
• innovations in menstrual management technologies
• attitudes to menstruation more broadly
Our main research question was: How did “ending period poverty” become a policy in Scotland, and what historical factors help or hinder this campaign?
The scholars contributing to the research project and the Special Collection are located at universities in Scotland, England, Russia and the USA.
Our research was published in 2022 as a special collection in the Open Library of the Humanities as “The politics and history of menstruation: Contextualising the Scottish campaign to End Period Poverty”.
Professor Bettina Bildhauer
Professor of Modern Languages at the University of St Andrews (UK)
Bettina is the lead researcher on the RSE Ending Period Poverty project, looking into the gendered conceptions of bodies underlying the current campaign. She has researched medical, artistic and social views of menstruation in the Middle Ages and has published on this at length in her monograph Medieval Blood (2006/2009), in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (2013) in Menstruation: A Cultural History (ed. Andrew Shail and Gillian Howie, 2005) and elsewhere. Her core argument is that menstruation was often seen as polluting and uncontrollable, marking women’s bodies and identities as less coherent and integral than men’s. She also works on modern conceptions of the Middle Ages (especially on film), and on material things in medieval literature. Her research has won the Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2009 and the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Prize in 2020.
ESRC-funded doctoral student within the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh
Jessica’s current research explores the relationship between madness, creativity and and patient expression through a historical enquiry into the nature of arts-based therapies in British psychiatric institutions since 1840. Whilst Jessica’s primary research focus lies within the history of psychiatry, she is interested in social histories of medicine more broadly, for example her previous work as a research assistant on ‘The Abortion Act (1967): A Biography‘, a joint project of Kent and Edinburgh Universities, stimulated wider interest in histories of reproductive health, gender and the body.
Professor Hilary Critchley
Professor of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and deputy director of the Centre for Reproductive Health
Hilary is also an Honorary Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Menstrual health is a main area of Prof. Critchley’s research, particularly with regard to developing new treatments for debilitating menstrual companies which avoid surgery. She acts as medical adviser for the project. Watch Hilary talking on menstrual health for the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Quiz-A-Wiz
Senior Lecturer in the History of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh
Gayle’s research examines the interface between reproductive health, medicine and the law in twentieth-century Britain, particularly Scotland. An important aspect of this is how clinical beliefs and practices have served to pathologise and psychiatrise female sexuality and their reproductive system, and with what wider social and legal consequences. Having published on the histories of abortion, contraception, stillbirth, and infertility, Gayle is currently co-writing – with Sally Sheldon, Kent Law School – an AHRC-funded biography of the 1967 Abortion Act. Recent publications include the co-edited volumes The Palgrave Handbook of Infertility in History: Approaches, Contexts and Perspectives (with Tracey Loughran; Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), and Abortion Across Borders: Transnational Travel and Access to Abortion Services (with Christabelle Sethna; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019).
Dr Bee Hughes
Academic, curator, and visual artist
Bee’s interdisciplinary work explores nonbinary approaches to menstruation, menstrual art history, materiality, and performativity. They completed their PhD ‘Performing Periods: Challenging Menstrual Normativity through Art Practice’ in 2020, and is currently Artist in Residence at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Instituted for Gender Studies & School of Art History at University of St Andrews. Bee is a Lecturer in Media, Culture & Communication at Liverpool John Moores University, and also contributes to the Education Studies programme.
Dr Saniya Lee Ghanoui
Program Director for ‘Our Bodies Ourselves Today’ at Suffolk University in Boston
Saniya’s book project is a transnational cultural history of twentieth-century sex and menstrual education in the U.S. and Sweden. She is the Senior Producer for the podcast Sexing History and an Editor for the blog Notches: (re)marks on the history of sexuality.
View Saniya’s website
Dr Lara Owen
Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews
Lara is currently conducting research into sustainability and menstruation. She has been writing and researching on menstruation for over 25 years, studying women’s lived experience in a range of contexts. An early advocate for destigmatised reframing of the menstrual cycle, she is the author of Her Blood is Gold (1993, 2008). Lara has worked in the women’s non-profit sector and for universities and major international institutions as a consultant and researcher on menstruation, menopause, and women’s health and rights more broadly. Her PhD (Monash Business School) explored the uptake of the menstrual cup and the menstrual workplace policy from a feminist socioeconomic perspective.
Lara was most recently published in The Conversation writing on menstrual product advertising.
Dr Camilla Mørk Røstvik
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews
Camilla works on the visual culture and institutional power structures of menstruation from 1970s to the present day. Her PhD is from the University of Manchester.
Camilla’s St Andrews University profile
Mixed-methods researcher pursuing her PhD in Behavioral and Community Health Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
Noelle earned her MSc in Gender, Policy and Inequalities at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Prior to beginning her Doctoral work, Noelle worked as a Clinical Research Assistant conducting mixed methods research centered around such topics as substance use in pregnancy and the opioid epidemic. Noelle’s interest in sexual and reproductive health began in undergraduate school, where she co-founded a comprehensive sexual health education program to provide reproductive health information to students at a local middle school. This experience led her to her first academic research project which aimed to create a sexual health education smartphone application to increase access to comprehensive sexual health education information for 12-17-year-old girls. Noelle’s current research interests include barriers and facilitators to menstrual product access, and diverse experiences of menstruation.
Dr Pavel Vasilev
Senior Lecturer at HSE University in St. Petersburg and a Junior Research Fellow at Siberian State Medical University
Pavel defended his doctoral dissertation on drug abuse and drug policy in early Soviet Russia at the St. Petersburg Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences in October 2013. Between 2014 and 2019, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the History of Emotions in Berlin and at the Polonsky Academy in Jerusalem. His recent publications include articles in Rechtsgeschichte – Legal History, Historical Research, The Journal of Social Policy Studies and Vestnik of Saint-Petersburg University. History. His current research project, tentatively entitled Red Days on the Calendar: A Cultural History of Soviet Menstruation, examines various types of knowledge about menstruation, diverse emotions associated with it as well as evolving bodily practices and technologies that Soviet women used to deal with their menstrual cycles.
View Pavel’s university profile, Academia.edu, Google Scholar and Research Gate pages.
Project Coordinator for the Scotland-wide Access to Free Sanitary Products Project
The project is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by the charities FareShare, Cyrenians, MoveOn, Transform and Community Food Initiatives North East. This project provides menstrual products free of charge to all charities, non-profits and community groups in an effort to address the issue of period poverty and ensure everyone has access to these essential items. She holds an MA in Gender Studies from University College London and is acting as an advisor and event collaborator for this project.
Professor of history at Purdue University
Sharra is the author of Under Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology (2008) and Toxic Shock: A Social History (2018) for which she earned a National Science Foundation grant to complete its research. She has appeared in interviews in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Wired, Newsweek, and Le Monde among others. Her current research revisits the meanings of language and technology surrounding menstruation.
Visit Sharra’s website [link dead] and blog.