The following materials cover the impact and influence of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” — the book — and Our Bodies Ourselves — the organization (also known as OBOS, or the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective) — around the world.
Our Bodies, Ourselves: A BBC Radio 4 Production
BBC | April 24, 2021
Presented by Laura Barton; Produced by Eleanor McDowall
A wonderful hour-long radio documentary that features interviews with founders of Our Bodies Ourselves alongside vivid recordings from the early feminist movement.
The Clitoris, Pain and Pap Smears: How Our Bodies, Ourselves Redefined Women’s Health
The Guardian | April 22, 2021
by Laura Barton
In-depth article exploring the early history of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective and some of the many projects inspired by “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” including the 2017 Luganda adaptation and the 2014 book, “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves.”
Our Bodies, Ourselves Was a Radical Manual for a Generation of Women. In the Era of Misinformation, We Need It More Than Ever
Glamour | June 3, 2019
by Dayna Evans
“There is—now more than ever—a veritable queen’s feast of women’s ‘health and wellness’ information available online. Much of this information is speculative, much less is promising, and an overwhelming percentage is either inaccurate or inaccessible. At the same time, we have more data than ever to suggest that the medical establishment has downplayed women’s pain for decades, leading to things like the misdiagnosis or nondiagnosis of debilitating disorders and shockingly high rates of maternal mortality in black women. We are still—in 2019!—in dire need of reliable, straightforward facts about women’s health, the kind that can’t be bought or sold.”
Our Bodies Ourselves: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
May 10, 2019
Three generations of feminists came together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of the Our Bodies Ourselves founders and to discuss the future of women’s health activism. The event was sponsored by the Center for Health & Human Rights at Suffolk University, which is partnering with OBOS to create Our Bodies Ourselves Today, an online resource featuring information and resources on women’s health, set to launch in 2022. Watch videos from the event.
Feminist Activists Today Should Still Look to ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’
The Conversation | May 2, 2018
by Sara Hayden
“From years of studying the group, I’ve come to believe that although the book is no longer being updated, it nonetheless provides a useful model for contemporary feminist activism – and could possibly alleviate some of the conflicts that continue to roil today’s feminist movements…. ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’ doesn’t offer a simple, consistent message – there is no prescriptive dogma…. What ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’ does offer is a model for taking action in the face of diversity and uncertainty.”
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry
Film by Mary Dore | 2014
“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” is a provocative, rousing documentary that resurrects the buried history of the outrageous, often brilliant women who founded the modern women’s liberation movement from 1966 to 1971. The film includes a segment on the beginnings of the women’s health movement that features the founders of Our Bodies Ourselves.
Afterword to “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves”
A Message from the Founders of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, authors of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” | May 2014
by Wendy Sanford, on behalf of the founders of Our Bodies Ourselves
Forty-three years after the publication of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” a group of people, inspired by the book, came together to create a health advocacy resource by and for trans people. In the afterword of the book, OBOS founders say, “In the very first, newsprint edition of ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’ in 1971, we wrote about our initial efforts together: ‘We were excited and our excitement was powerful. We wanted to share both our excitement and what we were learning. We saw ourselves differently, and our lives began to change.’ Now, 42 years later, we honor the authors of “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” for expanding this excitement, this learning, and this crucial work for social change.”
Formative Years: The Birth of Our Bodies Ourselves
Boston University Conference, A Revolutionary Moment: Women’s Liberation in the Late 1960s and Early 1970s | March 2014
by Joan Ditzion, Paula Doress-Worters, Nancy Miriam Hawley and Wendy Sanford
In March 2014, four of the co-founders of Our Bodies Ourselves — Joan Ditzion, Paula Doress-Worters, Nancy Miriam Hawley and Wendy Sanford — presented a panel on the history of the organization and the book at a conference on the history of the Women’s Liberation movement. During the panel, they wove together their diverse personal coming-of-age stories with the organization’s early history. Extensive personal notes prepared by the founders for the panel are posted online, and you can watch a video of the panel here.
“Our Bodies, Ourselves” Gets an Israeli Makeover: Women’s Classic Tells How to Say “Menopause” in Hebrew and Arabic
The Jewish Daily Forward | Oct. 18, 2011
by Beth Schwartzapfel
“When Dana Weinberg and Raghda Elnabilsy set out to adapt the seminal text ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’ for Hebrew- and Arabic-speaking populations in Israel, they had to reinvent some of the very words that defined the original version.… The first meeting was held at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, a village halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that was jointly established by Jewish and Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel. It was a symbolic choice in a country where geography is a matter of life and death, made by activists acutely aware of the imbalance in resources available to women from their respective communities.”
A Conversation with Judy Norsigian
Big Think Interview | April 2010
OBOS founder Judy Norsigian discusses the early history of the organization, the conditions that drove the founders to learn about their health and bodies, the early wins of the women’s health movement, and the ongoing need for activism.
“Our Bodies, Ourselves” and the Work of Writing
Stanford University Press | January 2010
by Susan Wells
“This [book] … tells the story of the first two decades of the pioneering best-seller―a collectively produced guide to women’s health―from its earliest, most experimental and revolutionary years, when it sought to construct a new, female public sphere, to its 1984 revision, when some of the problems it first posed were resolved and the book took the form it has held to this day.”
“Write a Chapter and Change the World”: How the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective Transformed Women’s Health Then — and Now
American Journal of Public Health | October 2008
by Heather Stephenson and Kiki Zeldes
“From the first newsprint edition of ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves,’ which became an underground sensation, to the brand new book, ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth,’ released in March 2008, the group has educated women and men, critiqued the medical system, examined inequalities based on gender, race, sexual orientation, class, and other categories, and urged readers to move from individual self-help to collective action promoting social policies that support the health of women and communities.”
Encouraging Women to Consider a Less Medicalized Approach to Childbirth Without Turning Them Off: Challenges to “Producing Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth”
Birth | Aug. 20, 2008
by Judy Norsigian and Kiki Zeldes
“Within the United States, women routinely confront negative and distorted ideas about birth, and highly medicalized births are the norm. The writers and editors of ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth’ discuss their efforts to write a book that provides women with accessible, evidence-based information; examines the social, economic, and political factors that shape and constrain childbirth choices; and inspires women to work toward ensuring that all women have access to the full range of safe and satisfying birthing options.”
Translating “Our Bodies, Ourselves”
The Nation | June 16, 2008
by Linda Gordon
“The progressive social movements of the last half-century produced millions of pages of print, from manifestos to journalism to novels, but nothing as influential as ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves.’ The feminist women’s health manual is the American left’s most valuable written contribution to the world. This claim is meant to be provocative, of course, but it’s true. The publication of an excellent book about the book, Kathy Davis’s ‘The Making of Our Bodies, Ourselves: How Feminism Travels Across Borders,’ makes this a good time to examine its impact.”
The Making of “Our Bodies, Ourselves”: How Feminism Travels Across Borders
Duke University Press | September 2007
by Kathy Davis
“Based on interviews with members of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, as well as responses to the book from readers, and discussions with translators from Latin America, Egypt, Thailand, China, Eastern Europe, Francophone Africa, and many other countries and regions, Davis shows why ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’ could never have been so influential if it had been just a popular manual on women’s health. It was precisely the book’s distinctive epistemology, inviting women to use their own experiences as resources for producing situated, critical knowledge about their bodies and health, that allowed the book to speak to so many women within and outside the United States.”
The book has garnered numerous awards, including the 2008 American Sociological Association Section Sex and Gender Distinguished Book Award; 2008 Eileen Basker Memorial Prize, presented by the Society of Medical Anthropology; and the 2009 Joan Kelly Memorial Prize, from the American Historical Association. Chapter 7 is available online: “Transnational Knowledges, Transnational Politics.”
The book contains the main historical record of Our Bodies Ourselves (formerly 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. The founders have made suggested corrections; you can read them here.
Transforming Doctor-Patient Relationships
Journal of Health Services Research and Policy | July 2007
by Sheryl Ruzek
“Historians often ponder how books change history. ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves,’ the enormously popular and influential work, will long be studied for igniting and sustaining a worldwide women’s health movement. It should also be studied for how it transformed doctor-patient relationships and why it is such a trusted source of health information.”
“In America They Call Us Empowered”: Lesbianism and “Our Bodies, Ourselves”
Senior research paper | Spring 2005
By Melinda Schottenstein
An in-depth look at the 1973 chapter, “In Amerika They Call Us Dykes,” the only chapter not composed by the original Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. Written instead by the Boston Gay Collective, the chapter aimed to celebrate lesbians, remove the stigma and lack of awareness, and rally for inclusion of lesbians in the women’s health movement.
“Please Include This in Your Book”: Readers Respond to “Our Bodies, Ourselves”
Bulletin of the History of Medicine | Spring 2005
by Wendy Kline
“This paper focuses on those ordinary women who responded to editions of ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’ in the 1970s and 1980s, illustrating how readers played a crucial role in the development and articulation of health feminism. By analyzing the exchange between writers and readers of the most popular and influential women’s health text of this era, it reveals the process by which feminists translated and interpreted medical information about women’s bodies. The personal stories of readers challenge us to consider the role of ordinary women in shaping the development of the women’s health movement.”
“Our Bodies, Ourselves” for a New Generation: Revising a Feminist Classic
National Women’s Studies Association Journal | Spring 2005
by Heather Stephenson, Zobeida E. Bonilla, Elizabeth Sarah Lindsey and Marianne McPherson
In this special section of the NWSA Journal, four members of the editorial team for the 2005 edition, “Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century,” share their experiences, what they aimed to achieve, and what they learned as they created the new edition.
The Travels of Our Bodies, Ourselves
New England Journal of Public Policy | March 21, 2005
by Jane Pincus
OBOS co-founder Jane Pincus tells the story of how Our Bodies Ourselves came into being and explores the challenges faced by women around the world who translated or adapted the book into their own languages.
Feminist Body/Politics as World Traveller: Translating “Our Bodies, Ourselves”
The European Journal of Women’s Studies | 2002
by Kathy Davis
“The dissemination of ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves,’ particularly in the so-called ‘third world,’ makes it a perfect site for exploring the possibilities and the pitfalls of the globalization of feminist knowledge. After showing how ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’ travelled and was adapted to meet the needs of women in specific contexts, conclusions are drawn about the viability of the ‘feminism-as-cultural-imperialism’ critique as well as about the empowering potential of transnational feminist alliances in the field of body/politics.” Read the founders’ suggested corrections.
The Boston Women Health Book Collective and “Our Bodies, Ourselves”: A Brief History and Reflection
Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association | Winter 1999
by Judy Norsigian, Vilunya Diskin, Paula Doress-Worters, Jane Pincus, Wendy Sanford, and Norma Swenson
“This article offers a history of ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves,’ as well as the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. The organization’s transition from a small, grassroots collective to a non-profit organization working at both the domestic and international levels is briefly discussed, including the development of a more diverse board and staff. Past accomplishments and current concerns of the global women’s health movements are described, including some of the larger advocacy organizations active in the women’s health field. Collaboration with feminist physicians over the past two decades is also noted.”
Building a New Bodies: The classic women’s health manual is updated for the age of corporate medicine
The Boston Phoenix | May 7, 1998
by Alicia Potter
In 1998 the 7th edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” was published. This article features an interview with OBOS founder Paula Doress-Worters and an exploration of what has and what hasn’t changed in women’s health since the first edition in 1970. Includes a great chart comparing the language and style differences between the editions.
Taking Our Maternal Bodies Back: Our Bodies, Ourselves and the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective
From the book “Changing Education: Women as Radicals and Conservators.” SUNY Press, 1988
by Robbie Pfeufer Kahn
This article looks at the history and development of the text in “Our Bodies, Ourselves” from the 1970 edition to the 1984 edition. It focuses primarily on the content on pregnancy and birth, and how those chapters transitioned from reflecting the standard Western medical care of the day to embracing a fuller and more woman-centered perspective approach.
You can find additional media coverage of Our Bodies Ourselves in the section Media Mentions and can find archives of the early years of the organization at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College.