Some women even used tampons, pads ("rags" and commercial ones), sponges, grass and other absorbent materials that were very probably popular for thousands of years. And very possible most American and European women used nothing: they were bleeding into their clothes or wore nothing!? Sabine Hering and Gudrun Maierhof, in Die unp liche Frau ("The Indisposed Woman," Pfaffenweiler, Germany, 1991) write that most women made their own pads. Besides, German women almost never used commercial menstrual pads in the late 19th century. Or in some cases, just like rural German women, urban women wore nothing at all which means when they were menstruating, they were leaving a trail of blood behind them.
I would also like to bring out that we should keep in mind that prior 20th century due to life style women menstruated less frequently comparing today. To begin with, they started menstruating later most often in late teens and they also stopped earlier, of course if they lived long enough to experience menopause. Women married earlier, used less contraception and had more children, which reduced menstruation for longer periods of time. Additionally, they breastfeed their children for longer time which also contributed to the fact they weren't menstruating every month. I never thought the history of menstruation could be so interesting? It is shocking to be remembered that what seems to be completely normal and necessity today, seemed a luxury and even non-existent century ago.