A Journal of Menstruation and Culture
Why is it called ragtime? Itinerant pianists, most of whom were black, spread a new, fast, vibrant musical form up and down the Mississippi Valley beginning about the 1890’s, or at least that is when it began to get some attention from the white world as a unique form. According to an African-American woman whose name I do not know, ragtime began in southern brothels and road houses. Whenever the sex worker women were “on the rag” they tended to bleed together during the same few days, due to the phenomenon of menstrual synchrony, and so none of the women could work for several days out of each month. To compensate the economy of the house, during “rag time,” the madam would urge the musicians to play more vigorously in order to induce customers to stay around dancing, eating, drinking and spending money. So the enthusiastic music the house musicians produced during those periods was called “Ragtime Music”. When the new musical form spread out into the country at large over the next few decades, the menstrual meaning was left off, and now “nobody knows” why it is called “ragtime”.
Tidbit was submitted by Keri Wayne, a graduate of NCOC Women’s Spirituality Program. She was told this story by a woman she met in Nebraska.