MERCER ISLAND, Wash. – A 14-year-old self-described feminist at Islander Middle School is drawing inspiration from her idol Hillary Clinton to campaign for free tampons in school bathrooms.
Eighth-grader Cordelia Longo had a rough day at school this year when she went to a school bathroom and found it did not have a sanitary napkin/tampon machine. She went to another bathroom that did and paid a dime for her feminine protection, but the machine ate her money, the Seattle Times reports.
She tried again at another machine, which also ate her money, before realizing she had a sanitary napkin in her backpack.
The experience apparently convinced her to launch a campaign for free tampons for all, which her school already provided at the nurses office and locker rooms, NBC News reports.
“I just didn’t want other girls to have to experience this. I just wanted to make people’s lives better – girls’ lives easier,” she told the news site. “They already have to deal with so much and this seemed like something I should fix.”
So she started a petition and got 100 people to sign on to demand officials put free tampons in school bathrooms.
She also sent a letter to administrators that outlined why she doesn’t think it’s fair that girls have to pay a “pink tax” to control their periods.
“Why are tissues and toilet paper provided free at school, but not sanitary pads and tampons?” she questioned in the letter. “As toilet paper and tissue are used for normal bodily functions, sanitary pads and tampons are also necessary to address normal bodily functions that happen naturally. The only difference is that only girls need pads. Girls do not choose to have periods. So girls are being penalized and made to pay for a bodily function they cannot control.”
Next, Longo put together baskets with tampons for her classmates that included quotes from her role model, Hillary Clinton, NBC News reports.
“Women’s rights are human rights,” one of the notes read. “Human rights are women’s rights.”
The teen said she learned how to take action against the corrupt system through her school’s social justice class, which teaches all about oppression, race, gender and other social justice things.
“Hillary Clinton inspired me because she kept being strong and she didn’t take any of the insults people threw at her and didn’t let it affect her,” she said.
“It inspired me in a way that I can’t really describe,” Longo continued. “I realized even if I didn’t succeed in getting equal rights for men and women, that I had tried and all that mattered was that I tried my hardest to get equal access to education.”
Longo’s efforts convinced school officials to fix the broken tampon machines and make the sanitary napkins available to students for free.
Longo said it was a big win for social justice.
“I feel like if we all get together, all of the people who are in favor of social justice and equal access to education, I feel hopeful. I feel satisfied that I created this petition and wrote this letter and made a difference in our school,” she said.
A district spokesperson told NBC News officials are “very proud” of Longo for speaking out about the injustices of broken tampon machines, and “for putting into practice the skills she gained in the social justice class.”
“We have repaired any broken or empty machines and they (no) longer require any coins for feminine hygiene supplies,” the spokesperson said. “Ample supplies are also available in the heath room and locker rooms.”
Islander Co-Principal Mary Jo Budzius told the Times Longo’s social justice crusade is also reverberating to the high school, which will also now offer free tampons for students.