While many of her peers spend time on YouTube watching influencers, a chance interaction with a YouTube video when Lucy Patalano was 13 influenced her life in an unexpected way. She described how a video of the way homeless women lived on their period impacted her. “It seems so straightforward that, obviously, people who can’t afford to put food on the table can’t afford shampoo and conditioner or period products, but you don’t think about it in that way. Seeing that opened my eyes to a whole world and just helping people with their basic needs,” Lucy stated.
As the pandemic started and she saw people struggling to purchase hand sanitizer and face masks, Lucy, now a junior at WHS, realized that women would also be struggling to obtain period products, an experience known as “period poverty.” This prompted Lucy to sponsor a drive in April 2021 with the organization Her Drive. At the end of the month-long drive, she was able to disseminate over 13,000 donated hygienic products—including period products, bras, socks, and pregnancy tests—to community centers and nonprofits in Boston.
Before she began her advocacy work, period products were available for free at WHS, but only in the nurse’s office, and McCall students had to pay a small fee to obtain a menstrual product from a bathroom vending machine. Now that free period products are available in WHS bathrooms, Lucy hopes to install vending machines that will dispense period products for free as a sustainable way of ensuring that students don’t miss class because of access to period products.
While her efforts have largely been well-received, Lucy does acknowledge people don’t know what period poverty is and are resistant to hearing about it because the topic of menstruation continues to be taboo. It is the very reason why she does make a point to talk about it and post online about it, and she acknowledges that, in part, success with period poverty involves destigmatizing the topic and making the issue one that is for and about people, not for and about women. While she acknowledges that period poverty is one that will take years to fully address, she hopes to continue chipping away at it during her college years and be part of the global movement.
Lucy has been very inspired by the work of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization of Women (MASS NOW), a nonprofit for which she interned on the MA Menstrual Equity Coalition in support of the Increasing Access to Menstrual Products (I AM) bill, which will provide free menstrual products to menstruating individuals in schools, prisons, and homeless shelters.
In addition to period poverty, Lucy is interested in domestic violence prevention, and she previously volunteered as a youth peer leader at Casa Myrna, the largest domestic violence nonprofit in Boston. In her free-time, Lucy enjoys knitting and crocheting, as well as playing with her dog, Luna, and her three-legged cat, Gracie.
Lucy said that she is inspired by mom, Donna Patalano. Lucy described her mom as a powerful woman and a strong figure in life. “She’s always teaching me, and it’s awesome to have someone like that who you spend every day with.”
Lucy is currently sponsoring another Period Poverty drive, in honor of Women’s History Month. Find out more about that, including how to support her efforts, here.