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The Making of Our Bodies, Ourselves: Founders' Corrections

The following is a list of corrections the founders of the BWHBC wish to make in response to Kathy Davis's book, The Making of Our Bodies, Ourselves: How Feminism Travels Across Borders.

A note from the founders of the BWHBC:

Kathy Davis’s excellent and prize-winning book, The Making of Our Bodies, Ourselves: How Feminism Travels Across Borders, contains the main historical record of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective written to date. Perhaps inevitably with a project of such scope, the book contains some errors related to key aspects of the group’s history.

We wanted to use the website to share our corrections and suggested changes. To do so, we've created a priority list of changes that the Founders of the BWHBC feel are the most significant to understanding what our group has done and cared about over the past four decades. A list of secondary corrections are on this page. These corrections, although important to us, are less critical. The starred entries are the ones that seem to us to be substantive. Thank you for your consideration!

In the following list, corrections or changes from the founders are in red. Suggested deletions are shown by crossing out the words.


  • Page 5, 16 lines from bottom

By the late 1970s, it had already appeared in Japan and most Western European countries, as well as Japan and a pirated edition in Taiwan.

  • Page 21, 4 lines from bottom of page

By the fall of 1969 It wasn’t until 1970 that they decided…

  • Page 22, 8 lines from bottom

, selling 250,000 copies in two years.

  • Page 24, 7 lines from bottom of first paragraph

And, finally, the contract included $3000 toward a simultaneous Spanish translation

  • Page 24, 6 lines from bottom of first paragraph

It was in the wake of negotiating this contract that the BWHBC was officially formed from by the core group of twelve women that had crystallized from the fluid membership of the first years.

  • Page 24, 2 lines from bottom of first paragraph

Became a legal non-profit corporation

  • Page 27,  top line

The BWHBC decided to include a whole chapter on lesbians.

There was lesbian content in the sexuality chapter of the newsprint edition (1970). 1973 was the first time there was a whole chapter devoted to lesbians.

  • Page 27,  3 lines from top

They relinquished handed over full editorial control to a local lesbian group, which wrote a chapter called “In Amerika They Call Us Dykes”

 The lesbian group insisted on full editorial control, which is why “relinquished” is more appropriate than “handed over.”

  • *** Page 27, 13 lines up from bottom

Some of the members began a parenting group, which led to several spin–off books, Some collective members also created related books, such as Ourselves and Our Children (1978), and Changing Bodies, Changing Selves Lives (1980) for teenagers, Ourselves Growing Older (1987 and 1994), and Sacrificing Ourselves for Love (1996).

  • Page 33, 2 lines up from bottom

The husband of another founder died suddenly in the same previous year.

  • *** Page 36, 4 lines from top

For the first time, the decision had been made to have the staff coordinate undertake the revision instead of having the founders. come back to work on the book.

Founders came back to work on the book in 1998, just not to coordinate (except for one original author on the coordinating team, see below).

  • *** Page 36, 6 lines from the top

A young African American woman on the staff was A group of three staff and one original author were given the responsibility for coordinating the update, and a concentrated attempt was made by the this editorial group to bring in the viewpoints of women of color at all stages of the production process (editing, reading, and contributing).

The responsibility for coordinating the update fell to the group of three staff and one original author.  An African American woman was hired later in the process by the coordinating group (as reconstituted part way through by the addition of two more original authors) to serve as Junior Editor.

  • *** Page 36,  15 lines from the top

When the update process seemed doomed to fail because the coordinator coordinating group “wasn’t doing a very good job” of handling the immensity of the task of the promised 30% revision of the book…

  • *** Page 43, 7 lines from bottom of longest paragraph

For example, a controversial practice such as the elective C-section (a medically unnecessary cesarean section) is no longer explicitly attacked critiqued as a symptom of the overly medicalized politics of childbirth, Instead it is while at the same time C-section as a whole is presented as a practice about which a woman should consider the “benefits and the risks” and make her decision “based on the best available evidence information available” (BWHBC 2005, 469-70).

This example as currently expressed appears seems to stem from a misreading of the 2005 text.  On page 469 there is a series of bulleted points on why are there so many c-sections. The fifth and last bulleted point in this series is a rather long critique of elective cesareans. Following that series, after a space, come two sentences that encourage women to consider the benefits and risks. These two sentences about considering risks apply not just to the last bulleted point on elective cesarean but also to the whole prior discussion. Thus the most recent edition of OBOS did include some critique of the practice of cesarean section.

  • *** Page 43, Last paragraph before “A Feminist Success Story”

For some, this shift marked the end of OBOS as a political, feminist book. The book had – as one founder put it – “lost its bite.” For others, however, the shift involved a tempering of the “old” reshaping of the earlier radical critique of medicine a critique that could make women who use conventional medical procedures and technologies feel “bad” (i.e. guilty) instead of helping them become “informed consumers of health care who, so that this critique would continue to help women become “informed consumers of health care” while at the same time be less likely to make them feel “bad” (i.e., guilty) should they use conventional medical procedures and technologies. Women were still urged to “act to extend the frontiers of criticism and acknowledge the many individual women, advocates, and families who have learned to fight the medicalization of women’s bodies from inside the medical establishment” (Bonilla 2005….)

  • *** Page 44, 16 lines from bottom

After nearly succumbing to the internal and organizational turmoil of the nineties, they made the transition from a grassroots nonprofit collective to a nonprofit organization with a community board, director, and more formal management structure.

  • *** Page 44, 3 lines from bottom

While the group did not use profits from the book to pay the Founders received no royalties from the book, and were paid for their work only when serving as BWHBC staff. The substantial royalties...

Contrary to what the current text suggests, profits were used to pay founders when they served on the staff or coordinated/edited revisions of the book.

  • Page 51, 2 lines from bottom

Nestlé’s milk infant formula

  • *** Page 52, 11 lines from bottom

,including Chinese always at the initiative of publishers or women’s groups in other countries.

We never tried to export OBOS.

  • Page 53, 4 lines from top

… and a “pirated” edition of the book OBOS appeared in Taiwan…

  • Page 64, 8 lines from the bottom

The fate of the Spanish translation of OBOS is a particularly dramatic one. This was the only “homegrown” translation – that is, the original contract with won from Simon and Schuster included a provision that the book would be simultaneously translated into Spanish $3000 toward a Spanish translation to be disseminated in the Latina community in the United States.

  • Page 80, 5 lines from top

... who became feminists in the late sixties and early seventies

  • Page 106, 2 lines from top

Pamela Morgan started working before Sally Whelan.

  • *** Page 227, footnote #61

public health educators education had always been their “natural ally”…. 

BWHBC founders and staff have attended American Public Health Association annual meetings since 1975, and frequently team up with public health people on projects.

  • Page 230, footnote # 20

While This remark may have been strategic politically necessary, it ignored leaving unmentioned, as it did, the work of local Chinese feminists….

Appendix The versions of NCNV need to have their publishers listed, as follows:

  • Page 214, seventh entry

1977/1979 (out of print);  Self-published by the BWHBC
2000 Collaboration; Latin America, coordinated by the BWHBC office and published by Seven Stories Press  (NYC)

  • Page 216, first entry add the second Spain edition

2001; Debate, an imprint of Plaza y Janes, based in Barcelona

Key typographical and spelling errors:

  • Page 91, 12 lines from top: Should be Helen Rodriguez-Trias.
  • Page 224, footnote #15:  Should be Paula Doress.
  • Page 225, footnote #27:  Should be Diana Siegal.



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