A state lawmaker in Trenton has introduced a bill to establish "Menstrual Empowerment Day" in New Jersey.

The bill from State Senator Teresa Ruiz of the 29th District states poor menstrual hygiene, "undermines the opportunities, health, and overall social status of millions of women and girls around the world, often preventing them from reaching their full potential."

The legislation would establish May 17th as "Menstrual Empowerment Day," as that is the birthday of Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner.

Kenner, who holds the most patents of any Black woman, was born in 1912 and she earned her first patent in 1957 for the sanitary belt, described as "an invention that aimed to prevent menstrual blood from leaking onto clothing, which was a common problem for women at the time."

Per the legislation, "The Sonn-Nap-Pack Company contacted Kenner intending to market her sanitary belt, but when they learned that she was Black, they declined."

State House dome
State House dome (Michael Symons, Townsquare Media NJ)

Once beltless pads were invented in the 1970s, women stopped using sanitary belts.

It is the sponsor's [Ruiz] intent that designating an annual 'Menstrual Empowerment Day' will help recognize and promote efforts taking place at the local, State, and global levels to promote good menstrual hygiene, ensure equitable access to feminine hygiene products, end period poverty, and eliminate stigmas associated with menstruation.[/pullquotes]

The bill, introduced in the Senate, has been referred to Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee for discussion.

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