A Timeline of Breasts

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A Brief History

Today, on October 1, begins National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities.

A partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries (now part of AstraZeneca, producer of several anti-breast cancer drugs) founded NBCAM in 1985 to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer.  This move follows the even earlier activities of October 1983 when the Race for the Cure, now the world’s largest fundraising event for breast cancer, was held for the first time in Dallas, Texas.  This article is dedicated to the many women and readers’ mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, etc. who have been affected by this horrific disease!

Digging Deeper

On July 10, 1040, Lady Godiva is supposed to have ridden naked on horseback to force her husband, the Earl of Mercia, to lower taxes.  Since Lady Godiva’s legendary ride, many other women have made great impressions on culture, society and history mainly because they were in the buff.

On November 1, 1896, a picture showing the unclad or bare breasts of a woman appeared in National Geographic magazine for the first time in the publication’s long history.

On August 7, 1908, the Venus of Willendorf, one of the earliest depictions of female nudity, was discovered in Austria.

On October 1, 1985, the United States began celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, founded by The American Cancer Society and Imperial Chemical Industries (later to become AstraZeneca).

On February 1, 2004, at Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, Texas, history was made when a “wardrobe malfunction” caused Janet Jackson to briefly expose her breast on live national television!

On June 4, 2010, attorney Brittney Horstman was prevented from meeting with a client while he was incarcerated at the Miami Federal Detention Center because her underwire bra had set off a metal detector. It was feared that the metal in the bras could be used as a tool to help prisoners hurt themselves or escape or even as a weapon against guards. Ms. Horstman removed her bra in a bathroom but was still barred from entering the Florida prison because she was now braless, a violation of the prison’s dress code. During an investigation of the incident, a memo was found allowing female lawyers wearing underwire bras to enter the prison; however, the guards on duty during Ms. Horstman’s visit were unaware of the modified policy. The incident was concluded to be “an aberration,” and it was promised that it would not happen again.

On September 14, 2012, in a major invasion of privacy, the French magazine Closer published topless photographs of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.  This incident led to a major outcry as “Kate” was vacationing at a private residence, and many thought the paparazzi had once again overstepped the boundaries of the socially and morally acceptable.

Question for students (and subscribers): What is the best way to fight against breast cancer?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please visit the campaign’s official website for the month and the official website for Susan G. Komen for the Cure which lets you know how you can donate to this important cause.  The following books might also be helpful:

Better Homes and Gardens and Tricia Laning.  Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book: Pink Plaid (Better Homes & Gardens).  Better Homes and Gardens, 2005.

Miracolo, Alessandro and Sandra C. Ruckdeschel.  FEMALE FORCE: Olivia Newton John – Breast Cancer Awareness issue!  Bluewater Productions, 2010.


About Author

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.