A letter from Our Bodies Ourselves Board Chair Bonnie Shepard, April 2018
I am writing to you – our longstanding supporters and allies – to let you know about significant changes at Our Bodies Ourselves.
Earlier this year, board members, staff, and founders of the original Boston Women’s Health Book Collective held a retreat to determine the way forward for our historic organization. We took a clear-eyed look at the realities facing nonprofits today, at the changes in the publishing industry, in the ways our audiences seek reliable health information, at the proliferation of new feminist initiatives and organizations, and, most importantly, at our current financial and organizational limitations.
We came to the painful conclusion, after several years of struggling financially, that we don’t have the resources and infrastructure to continue our main programs using paid staff. On Oct. 1, we will transition to a volunteer-led 501(c)3 that will mainly advocate for women’s health and social justice — adding our voices to important political and cultural conversations as we have done throughout our history.
Our retreat resulted in unanimous agreement on a number of difficult decisions. As of Oct. 1, we will stop publishing updated print and digital health information; scale back technical assistance for global translations and adaptations of “Our Bodies, Ourselves”; and transfer ownership of Surrogacy360.org, our website on international commercial surrogacy, to a trusted partner. We have no plans to update our signature book, “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”
Last year, we focused on a new strategy to fulfill our mission in the digital age but did not raise sufficient funds to move beyond building a working model. We are exploring handing over this prototype, and the content completed so far, to another feminist organization.
Our website will transition from publishing updated health information to showcasing “Our Bodies, Ourselves” excerpts, including adaptations in 31 languages produced by our global partners, and an archived blog covering more than a dozen years of reporting and analysis. The website will also celebrate the history of the organization, document the work we have done for the past 48 years, and chronicle our ongoing advocacy efforts and impact.
Following these decisions, we are in the process of reorganization and transfer of leadership, which will be completed by Oct. 1, when a new board of directors is reconstituted. I will step down as chair of the board on June 1, and Judy Norsigian, Our Bodies Ourselves co-founder and former executive director, will succeed me. The board has accepted Julie Childers’s resignation, also as of June 1, with deep gratitude for her executive leadership over the past two years, her strategic vision, and her management of the organization through this transition.
Starting this fall, our volunteer board and founders will focus their advocacy on health policy, in alliance with other organizations, leveraging the trust that Our Bodies Ourselves has earned over almost 50 years of education and activism. We are also committed to providing limited support to organizations that wish to translate or adapt selected content from our books or website. You’ll hear more from Judy Norsigian about our plans going forward, including opportunities to get involved as a volunteer.
We take great pride in the transformative impact that our publications and advocacy have had in the lives of millions of girls, women, and their families in the United States and around the world. We thank the foundations, corporations, and, most of all, you — our faithful donors, allies, and volunteers — who have supported us over the years and contributed to these achievements. We hope you’ll join our advocacy efforts in the next iteration of Our Bodies Ourselves.
As you consider this news, we would be glad to speak with you, hear your comments, and answer any questions you may have.
In gratitude and solidarity,
Bonnie L. Shepard, Chair
Our Bodies Ourselves Board of Directors
Postscript — added 4.16.18: Please note that the 2011 edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” is still in print and available for purchase.