We Wrote a Chapter and Changed the World!

The founders of Our Bodies Ourselves
Our Bodies Ourselves founders, 2016. Back row, from left to right: Wendy Sanford, Paula Doress-Worters, Norma Swenson, Elizabeth MacMahon-Herrera. Third row: Pam Berger, Joan Ditzion, Nancy Miriam Hawley. Second row: Judy Norsigian, Ruth Davidson Bell Alexander, Sally Whelan. First row: Jane Pincus, Vilunya Diskin.

More than 45 years ago, we — the founders of Our Bodies Ourselves — first met to talk about our lives, our health, and our bodies. We had never discussed these intimate issues publicly. We came to believe then, as we do now, that there is no substitute for a small group of women, in the spirit of mutual trust and respect, listening, speaking, and honoring the truth of our own lived experiences.


OBOS Founders, circa 1975. Back row (L-R): Wendy Sanford, Paula Doress-Worters, Joan Ditzion, Judy Norsigian, Jane Pincus, Norma Swenson, Nancy Miriam Hawley; seated in front row: Pamela Berger, Ruth Bell Alexander, Vilunya Diskin, Esther Rome. / Photo: Phyllis Ewen

Through our conversations and ensuing research, we developed a course via a newsprint book to keep our conversations going. That first book became “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” which has since been updated and reissued in nine editions over four decades and adapted into more than 30 languages, selling close to 5 million copies overall.

At present, we are a vibrant, active founders group deeply involved with the future of the Our Bodies Ourselves organization (OBOS). The work we started is far from done. We are appalled at the recent election rhetoric that advocates a serious undermining of women’s rights, revealing dangerously sexist and racist attitudes. We are bracing ourselves to fight attempts to reverse advances in basic reproductive and human rights, from birth control and abortion to sexual and gender identity.

normamelanieThere is a powerful need for intergenerational dialogue. Together we can build on past achievements, define current essential issues, and advocate for women’s health and rights, bringing marginalized matters into public discourse. (Keep an eye out for the first edition of our new monthly enewsletter, which will feature a dialogue between co-founder Norma Swenson and our newest (and youngest) staff member Melanie Floyd, shown at right.)

In our passionate advocacy for reproductive rights and justice, OBOS has always recognized the need for society to respect the rights of all women. As women of childbearing age navigate new and more complicated options in reproductive technologies, we are excited about the December launch of Surrogacy360, OBOS’s new website on international commercial surrogacy.

In addition, OBOS’s website has been and will continue to be a unique, trustworthy source of reliable information for women and girls worldwide. Our feminist critique and critical viewpoint counteract the internet’s excess of misinformation based on biased commercial interests. From its inception, OBOS has refused pharmaceutical corporate funding.

As co-authors of the book “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and founders of the non-profit OBOS organization, we are thrilled to have Julie Childers, our new executive director, aboard. Together, we will create OBOS’s “next “chapter” as we will build on our collective vision and values. We will continue to meet the needs of women, girls and families. And we will empower new multicultural generations to work for reproductive and sexual health within a feminist, human rights and social justice framework.

We are, marvelously and against all odds, one of the few remaining organizations from the early days of the global women’s movement. In this, our 45th anniversary year, we want to ensure a flourishing future for OBOS. Please join us in giving as generously as you can.

Donate today to help OBOS protect women’s rights, fight for reproductive justice, challenge disinformation, and empower the next generation of women and girls.

Elizabeth MacMahon-Herrera, Jane Pincus, Joan Ditzion, Judy Norsigian, Miriam Hawley, Norma Swenson, Paula Doress-Worters, Pamela Berger, Ruth Alexander, Vilunya Diskin, Wendy Sanford



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  1. Lisa Hartley says:

    OMG this is a beautiful picture. I have volunteered at a health collective based on OBOS for 5 years and while I’m in my 50’s I’ve had a passionate resurgence of the importance “of small group of women, in the spirit of mutual trust and respect, listening, speaking, and honoring the truth of our own lived experiences.”

    thank you thank you thank you…

  2. Laura Mueller says:

    My mother, a fairly forward thinking 40 yr old widow gave me Our Bodies Ourselves on my 18th birthday, January 6, 1972. I read the chapter, “In Amerika, They Call Us Dykes” – I had no clue what that meant. It was the first glimmer of naming for me…thank you so much.

      • Ellen Grogan says:

        Your wonderful book was part of my radicalisation and invaluable in inspiring me to value self care.
        Thank you sisters-great to be able to contact you now 30 yrs later via the wonders of the interweb.
        I’m in London and fighting legalisation of prostitution via nordicmodelnow.org but I will make sure to support you.
        Your battle against the odious Spunktrumpet is the battle of all women.
        Much love,
        Ellen Grogan

  3. Ann Thomson says:

    I was very active in the Canadian pro-choice movement for more than 20 years, until the
    Canadian Supreme Court removed all restrictions on clinics in this country. A subsequent effort by Parliament to make abortion illegal again failed, and since 1991,
    Canada has had NO law on abortion. The sky has not fallen. Women make their own appointments at clinics and those hospitals that perform abortions. Access is, however, limited – there are few abortion facilities.
    I was thrilled to be part of that struggle and
    to help open Everywoman’s Health Centre in Vancouver, B.C. in 1988. Later, I wrote
    a book about it called WINNING CHOICE ON ABORTION, which may be ordered from me via email. Cost: $35 (incl s/h)

  4. Leslie Linkkila says:

    OBOS was my owners manual as a young woman. At this time in history in particular, it’s important to keep educating young women. Please add me to your list.

  5. Christine Chevalier says:

    I still have my first edition copy! Thank you so much for all your hard work over the years. Hoping and praying that the upcoming four years are not going to be as devastating as predicted for my US sisters…Love and Light from Canada…

  6. Jalal Quinn says:

    I took a copy of the book to Liberia (west coast of Africa) and with the aid of the wonderful illustrations and diagrams was able to teach some of the Liberian young women about how their bodies worked. They had no idea. One friend took the book and went into a room alone and closed the door and read for over an hour.

  7. Darcy says:

    I am glad you’re still around.
    But couldn’t you wait with the hit up for money till I had at least read the article? I got a popup.
    Sorry…just been unrelentingly hit up for money by every last website I go to and am utterly sick of it all.
    I have contributed and contributed and it feels like that’s what it’s all about. I am as overwhelmed by that as I am about the disgusting election outcome.

  8. Jill Stanley says:

    48 years ago all of you began to teach me how to navigate as a complicated, young woman. I have shared your collective wisdom many times.
    Thank you all.

  9. Sara Joy David says:

    Proud to have promoted this book for 45 years! Delighted to see so many aging with flair. We are “seasoned” citizens as deceased journalist and Canadian treasure June Callwood described many feminists of the 60’s and 70’s

  10. Sara Joy David says:

    Proud to have promoted this book for 45 years! Delighted to see so many aging with flair. We are “seasoned” citizens as deceased journalist and Canadian treasure June Callwood described many feminists of the 60’s and 70’s

  11. Carmen Figarola Plaja says:

    I did no knew this book, thank you-
    I starde workin for the women´s rights at the 69 as well. The most imoportant thinks at that time in Spain was to change the laws.
    The police was dreadtfull with us, we could go to jail for ouer manifestation.

  12. Davida Foy Crabtree says:

    I am deeply grateful for your work way back when. I was a student at Andover Newton Theological School when the newsprint edition first came out. I’ve kept it all these years. Used it and subsequent editions to teach sexuality in parishes around New England and national settings. Thank you!

  13. Ingrid Hilario says:

    The best thing to come out of Trump’s election: The revitalization of every progressive force to fight everything he stands for. Cheering you on!

    • Claire says:

      My sentiment as well, now is a powerful time for action and this is what feminism is all about. Thank you for this “resurgence” of your/ourselves!

  14. Sue schmelzer says:

    I bought this book over 40 years ago and still have it in my library. Many thanks and much continued success with your future endeavors. Please add my name to your mailing list.

  15. Sally Fleischmann Ember, Ed.D. says:

    I was trained as a Lay Women’s Health Educator by the Cambridge Feminist Women’s Health Center in 1978, joined the Rising Sun Feminist Health Alliance in 1979 and continued to teach/lead sexuality and women’s/girls’ health classes throughout the 1980s and 1990s. I met and spoke with many of the original members of the Feminist Health Book Collective, including the OBOS’ authors. Such inspirations!

    Thank you all for informing, enriching, and empowering me and so many others for over 40 years! Keep going!

  16. Jane Corley says:

    Wow! That book was a must
    read back in the day-MAHALO
    for all your hard work!

    Happy to see you are still going strong.

  17. Natalie Woodroofe says:

    I was part of a women’s group that ordered speculums after reading newsprint copies of OBOS. So thrilling and empowering. We went on to launch a women’s center at Franconia College in NH in 1971, along with one of the first women’s studies programs in the country.

  18. Phillida Bunkle says:

    wonderful to see this picture of you all looing so vibrant and still offering us leadership in a world that seems grime in which our values feel like they have been deleted. You remind us that we are not powerless.

  19. CC Minton says:

    As a former member of BACE and their Nursing Mother’s Council CONGRATS and hello old colleagues.

    Still remember the time that Norma did a tour jete In our living room in Belmont.

    Cynthia (formerly Stark) Minton

  20. Karen LeMonnier says:

    Thank goodness for this book. I learned everything about my body. Couldn’t count on school or parents to inform us. I am forever grateful to these empowering women.

  21. Kathleen says:

    Still have my original copy from way back then… along with the newest! A friend shared hers with me at the time, and I shared it with other women over and over again through the years. Thank you.

  22. Michele Torchia says:

    This book influenced me so in college, I became an OB-GYN. My practice integrated as much self-actualization as my patients could bear. Life changing book.

  23. Evie Gerontis says:

    Hello, what you are doing is fantastic! One question though, intergeneratiinal is great…what about intersectional as well? Where are the women of color as partners?

    • Bonnie Shepard says:

      Thank you for this comment, Evie. Intersectional work and women of color as partners is top on our list of priorities! We are reaching out to understand how best we can support their organizations, and starting a Board recruitment effort in the New Year, with a commitment to adding a critical mass of women of color leaders to the Board to help guide OBOS to write our next chapter.

  24. nancy says:

    please add me to your email list! I am looking to begin a women’s group with my friends and this book could be our starting point!

  25. penny corbett says:

    Judy Norsigian, You may or may not remember, but I was part of the very first women’s group meetings but then left the Boston area before you all started writing the book. I’ve always been very grateful for both those early meetings but most especially for what you accomplished with the book(s). Yours is the only name I do remember from that time since we went to school together, before you entered Med School.
    All my best and my gratutude to all of you. Penny

  26. Kathleen Holt says:

    Our coffee group, men and women concerned about how things are developing in what will be the next administration, want to study the issues and act on them in a way that will let our voices be hear. So new that we do not have a name. I am gathering information to report back to the group on women’s issues. I very much would like to be kept up to date on all these issues.

  27. Barbara Orcutt says:

    This 71yo lesbian retired Certified Nurse-Midwife held you in her heart with every class & mom she taught and with every baby she caught. I still have my newsprint copy – a treasure! Especially back then! Thank you, thank you, thank you!????

  28. Dana Ann Wallingford says:

    I did not find OBOS until 1974, a mere 42 years ago. Really? That long already? I ‘m glad your organization is still around. Please add my name to your email list.

  29. Riva Blechman says:

    So glad to hear you are all still doing your good work. Your book was invaluable to me and later to my daughter and niw to my granddaughter!

  30. Elizabeth Parusha-Parlor says:

    Could writing the next chapter on women’s health also include the health and sexuality of aging women-aging as in 70s and 80s, plus. No one told me that due to a tendency toward auto-immune illness (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), I would develop others such as lichen sclerosis. And it doesn’t seem troubling to anyone, but me. My doctor just nods, as she does about arthritis. I need OBOS. Still. I raised my daughter with it. Made me feel secure and I need it as I age and discover that it’s just like our mothers said, we are forgotten, overlooked, diminished.

    Please add me to your email list.

  31. Chris Blackburn says:

    Grateful for more women doctors and surgeons and women resesrchers! We’re having an intergenerational class on Feminism and Science next Semester held at Pomona College, Claremont, Ca. Looking forward to being part of it.
    If any collective members live on SoCal, love to know. Add me to mailing list.
    Gratefully, Chris

  32. Melyssa Burega says:

    My mother had one of the first editions of OBOS and left it available for me to read as I was growing up. When I turned 18, I purchased an updated version for myself. In my life, OBOS has been the single most important book in helping me develop as healthful woman with knowledge about my body, my sexuality, and my medical care. I cannot thank you enough for publishing this priceless resource!

  33. deb says:

    This was a wonderful collaboration… except for the utter failure to recognize the infant-adoption-harvested-mother violence against the most vulnerable among us: the terrified and unprotected pregnant girl being denied the necessities of life.

    Let us pray that this atrocity is recognized, validated and abolished.

  34. Connie Hoffman says:

    I saw this and I was lifted. Just as I was when I was a young mother, wanting to change the role of women in America. Your work empowered us, honored us and placed us on equal footing with men, whether they wanted it or not. Thank you so much. I love that your voice is here and now and relevant.

  35. Hannah Simon says:

    Please add me to your email list. I just celebrated my 80th birthday but still care a lot about these issues. I remember getting your book many years and many moves ago.

  36. Anita McCurley says:

    Great to know that your good work is continuing. I read the original and saw there was an update. Now I will look for more. Thank you!

  37. Robbie says:

    This book was my bible when I was 21 and pregnant for the first time. I used it ’til it fell apart. Thank you so much. We must pass knowledge of self empowerment and self awareness to all women.

  38. Tessa Martinez says:

    Please add me to the MAILING LIST. I’m 62 and still have my copy of Our Bodies Our Selves from 40-plus years ago. Thank You!

  39. gteeter says:

    50% or more of the abortions are women … are you standing for their rights? When you could give the child a family who would care for them, you choose death … you justify it with hollow words … your right to choose … never given to you by our Creator. You rely on your own wisdom which is no wisdom at all, avoiding Gods word … knowing that one day you will be held accountable for your actions. You say you love, but your message is flawed and self-serving and without true love. Your smiles will fade when you stand before the creator, who gave you life while you chose death for others.

  40. Nina Serrano says:

    Thank you for what you did. As you move on I hope you will diversify your group and actively recruit women of color . Keep up the great work!.

  41. Gerdien says:

    Thank you sisters, that you kept your organisation alive..i was member of the first lesbian herstory archives in Holland, no not in Amsterdam, hehe (Leeuwarden) and we built in international network and collected so many books, magazines, music, from this amazing feminist movement that we were part of…most of the material is in Amsterdam now…and these archives can be of great value I quess to share our wisdom. All the best with your new chapter, as we now know wo much more about our bodies…and our sisterhood to arise again in a new say..the time is right more than ever. 0+

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  43. Tasha Pera says:

    I have lichen sclerosis. I need to share with others. We all have stories. We can help each other. My experience with two OBGYN drs, one nurse practitioner and a vulva specialist mostly demonstrated a lack of knowledge and a lack of concern. We need to bring back the women’s health movement. I am 71 years old and was part of the movement in the 1970s. I am ready to give and get support again!