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This 21-year-old superhero has an amazing idea to help save people who get periods.

Many Americans don’t have access to tampons and pads. Claire Coder is fixing that.

This 21-year-old superhero has an amazing idea to help save people who get periods.

Anyone who has ever gotten their period at an inopportune time knows the scramble to find a menstrual product.

There's the “sneakily ask all co-workers for a tampon” move. Or the frantic search for a quarter to use at one of those vending machine-style boxes in some restrooms. (Though, let's be honest, they're rarely stocked.)

Entrepreneur Claire Coder found herself in this very predicament at a cisgender male-dominated business event in 2016. There weren’t exactly a bunch of people rushing to help when her period arrived, so she had to come up with a reason to leave the event early.


When she got home, tampon now acquired, she had a brilliant idea:

Toilet paper is offered for free — so why not tampons?

But why not?! Photo by Aunt Flow/Instagram, used with permission.

While Coder has easy access to menstrual products, many Americans just don’t have it that easy. Tampons and pads are rarely donated to homeless people. And those who rely on food stamps to get by can forget about assistance in this department — SNAP doesn't cover menstrual products.

In the spirit of giving tampons to people in need, Coder created Aunt Flow.

Photo by Aunt Flow/Instagram, used with permission.

Aunt Flow sells 100% organic cotton menstrual products to businesses so they can offer products for free to employees and guests.

And Coder says it’s working:

“In just one year, I created a company that has stocked over 100 businesses across the USA with freely accessible menstrual products, and we have donated over 125,000 menstrual products to organizations that support menstruators in need.”

She’s worked with establishments of every size — from local coffee shops to companies like Viacom to colleges like Ohio and Brown Universities, respectively.

The goal is simple: To encourage companies to purchase more tampons and pads so that more menstrual products can be donated to people in need.

Aunt Flow donates one piece for every 10 pieces a business buys.

Aunt Flow donating to Dress for Success Columbus. There’s more where that came from! Photo courtesy of Claire Coder, used with permission.

Aunt Flow partners with local organizations who are already helping the community. Those organizations stretch from coast to coast, including the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, Dress for Success, Period Menstrual Movement, 1Girl, Tiger Pantry at the University of Missouri, Gracehaven, and I Support the Girls.

Coder wants to encourage positive menstrual education for young people, and often leads talks about the topic.

“When I was growing up, my health teacher handed me a ‘goodie bag’ with a tampon and pad,” she recalls, adding:

“I was forced to go home and figure it out by myself. The conversation was never brought up again at school, which contributed to the menstrual taboo. At Aunt Flow, we are committed to educating young menstruators about menstruation in a fun and engaging way.”

Coder talks #PeriodPositivity at Kent State University. Photo by Aunt Flow/Facebook, used with permission.

Coder has big goals: She hopes to reach 500,000 donated products in 2018. She’s excited about her business, but also about how things are changing in society.

California and Illinois have recently passed legislation requiring schools to stock freely accessible menstrual products — and Aunt Flow is actively working with schools to stay on top of things.

“I am working toward the day when I can be walking anywhere, suddenly get my period, and not feel frantic,” Coder said, “because I know that just down the road, a bathroom will be stocked with Aunt Flow’s products.”  

Everybody with a period should be able to feel that way too.

Coder speaking to a packed room at the Columbus School for Girls. Photo courtesy of Claire Coder, used with permission.

Visit Aunt Flow for more information or to order products for your business.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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