Marine sponge, for use as vaginal pessary, possibly English, 1920-1960
Sponges were widely used as contraceptives in the 1800s and 1900s. They were used in conjunction with liquids thought to have spermicidal properties to kill sperm. These included quinine and olive oil. This marine sponge was held in cotton netting to aid its extraction. During the 1950s and 1960s, sponges were often advertised under ‘feminine hygiene’ rather than contraception as for some parts of society contraception was a taboo. Many spermicidals were of little contraceptive value. Some even doubled as household cleaners. One was advertised as a dual treatment for ‘successful womanhood’ (contraception) and athlete’s foot.