2005 Edition: A Letter from the Founders

Our Bodies Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era (2005)

cover of the 2005 edition of "Our Bodies, Ourselves"


It’s hard to believe that thirty-five years have passed since we first gathered around our kitchen tables to create Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS). These early meetings took place in Boston at the end of the 1960s into the early 1970s, at a time when women throughout the U.S. and the world were meeting to share experiences and expose the injustices in women’s lives. We talked about our bodies, health, and sexuality. In recounting our life stories and health-care experiences, we discovered with surprise that many of us shared the same frustrations and misinformation. However, we learned together to trust what we knew about ourselves. In the months and years that followed, we wove our own experiences and the experiences of many diverse women, along with the health and medical information we carefully researched and a political critique of the profit-oriented medical system, into a dynamic, useful, women-centered body of knowledge.

By disseminating women’s experience and knowledge as valid information, OBOS challenged the paternalistic medical system.  What we couldn’t have foreseen then was that our book would help create a women’s health movement and radically change the way many people think about healthcare. Nor could we have known that the book’s great success would generate a need for an ongoing women’s health organization in which, over the next three decades, some of us would remain active as board or staff members.

Hundreds of women (and some men) have, with care and passion, contributed work, time, and money to keep the organization and the book alive and responsive to women’s needs. In its more than twenty translations and adaptations, the book has reached into many corners of the earth, connecting with an ever-growing network of activists throughout the world.

As older women who have struggled for women’s rights, written numerous editions of OBOS, and mentored many other health activists and publications, we know that each new generation of women must define and grapple with its own issues in its own cultural and political context. Young women face as many challenges as we ever did. Their activism helps us all maintain the vitality of the women’s health movement. With them, we continue to work for the creation of economic and social conditions that ensure good health and good health care, for the right to control our reproductive and sexual lives, including access to excellent birth control, abortion and maternity care services and the free expression of our sexuality as heterosexual, lesbian, bisexual or trans women.

We must never take for granted any rights already won. We must maintain, expand, and protect them, creating for everyone the opportunity to live in a just world that recognizes women’s needs and celebrates women’s voices.

This latest edition of OBOS has been coordinated by the OBOS staff and written by many new women as well as some founders and other long-time authors of the book. We hope that it will promote dialogue and stimulate activism around women’s health issues; that it will offer continuity and a community of effort among and between the generations, acknowledge our similarities and differences, and help forge a shared vision of humane health care for now and decades to come.

Ruth Bell Alexander, Pamela Berger, Vilunya Diskin, Joan Ditzion, Paula Doress-Worters, Nancy Miriam Hawley, Elizabeth MacMahon Herrera, Pamela Morgan, Judy Norsigian, Jane Pincus, Wendy Sanford, Sally Whelan