Imagine menstruating for 18 weeks.

I can’t.

But that’s what the Mademoiselle la Comtesse de Wedel, dame de cour at the Palais de Roschild close to Copenhagen, experienced. She had been treated by the best doctors around. And finally, it stopped, only to be followed by two subsequent heavy and long – 4 to 5 weeks! – periods.

And now, having left the court to live a more restful existence in the hope that this might cure her, she finds herself attacked by yet another concern, observing that:

“la maladie est d’autant plus terrible que la tranquilité ou je dois me tenir me rend hipocondre a l’excés.” (BCUL, Fonds Tissot, IS3784/II/

Shades of The Yellow Wallpaper…..

Add to this a family history of heavy blood loss – both her mother and her sister experienced this, with her sister dying of “epuisement” after a year of menstruation, and it’s no wonder that she’s in distress.

She sums up her situation succinctly in a second letter (written a month later after having been “deux doigts de la mort”):

“je ne suis pas si malade que les fois passé …mais je ne suis pas sure d’un moment a autre a le devenir.” [BCUL, Fonds Tissot, IS3784/II/

Menstruation — too little, too much, too frequent, too rarely, too red, not red enough — is a pretty common topic in these letters. It was also a question that Tissot wanted his correspondents to be able to answer. But this is the first time I’ve seen bleeding to this extent….


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