The second-wave women’s health movement (WHM) in the United States had its origins in the late 1960s, when women’s groups, providers of health services, and their allies organized to legalize abortion. Many of these groups soon engaged in other health issues as well, establishing health centers controlled by women and self-help organizations that advocated policy changes. Some produced publications, the most notable of which was Our Bodies, Ourselves by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, later known as Our Bodies Ourselves.
This is how movements get started: There’s a little conversation here, and another in another community, and people get connected somehow — it almost happens spontaneously, as different people find themselves asking, “What’s going on here???” and start thinking new things. The time was right for us to be talking about how we were treated as women.
Out of those conversations, in the spring of 1969, we set up the first women’s conference at Emmanuel College. For my contribution, I put together a workshop titled … More
As members of the anti-abortion movement have sought increasingly extreme restrictions on the procedure — and have rolled back access to contraception and other health services — their justifications have become further removed from science and fact. It would be naïve to think that giving every elected official a copy of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” would change that.
But facts do still matter. And it sure wouldn’t hurt for more people in power to learn about the bodies they’re trying to regulate.
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That sense of history, the fragility of progress, and the need to continue to work to move forward permeate “Our Bodies Ourselves,” the latest exhibit at the Ely Center for Contemporary Art, running now through April 10.
Read the full story: Ely Exhibit Revisits “Our Bodies, Ourselves”
If we were sometimes silly, we were also wise enough to know that understanding and taking control of our bodies was a first step to taking control of our lives. In 1973, the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective turned its 193-page, 75-cent pamphlet “Women and Their Bodies” into the book Our Bodies, Ourselves, and for the first time, women all over the United States could read about our own mysterious inner (and outer) workings.
She [author Joyce Antler] spoke to some of the highlights of her forthcoming book [“Jewish Radical Feminism: Voices From the Women’s Liberation Movement”], and discussed the hidden Jewish identities of many radical feminists who defined the future of American feminism. The most surprising of this discussion? That eight of the nine original members of the “Our Bodies, Ourselves” collective were Jewish. Jewish identity was not overt in “Our Bodies, Ourselves” activism, nor was it a discussion piece in most of the women’s liberation movement. Nevertheless, … More
The announcement that the organization behind Our Bodies, Ourselves will shift its focus to advocacy as of October 1 and no longer update the book made me feel defeated. But the news also stirred up memories.
We became friends in 1982, studying to be teachers of Hebrew literature at Tel Aviv’s Kibbutzim Seminary. To our Israeli schoolmates, we were “the American Jewish immigrant” and “the Arab,” bound by our odd accents….
Discovering that Our Bodies, Ourselves was available in Hebrew was a transcendent moment, an antidote to the catcalls … More
The countries with the best outcomes for moms and babies provide maternity care primarily by midwives. Massachusetts ranks in the bottom half of US states when it comes to utilizing midwifery care in part due to a lack of integration of certified professional midwives in our maternity care system. A recent report from the National Partnership for Women and Families (Blueprint for Advancing High-Value Maternity Care Through Physiologic Childbearing) recommends that states recognize certified professional midwives and ensure they meet educational and competency standards … More
The group’s success can be attributed to the model of feminist activism they illustrate in their book.
Based in consciousness-raising, it is a model that prompts women to explore issues in the context of their personal experiences, the experiences of others and the best factual knowledge available to them. As they revised the book, the collective incorporated the voices of more and more women, and they urged their readers to consider the issues being discussed in terms of their own lives.
In early editions of the book, … More
Much of today’s wellness rhetoric omits the argument “Our Bodies, Ourselves” placed front and center: that physical and economic health are not easily separated; that knowledge of our bodies demands knowledge of the social and political climate in which we live. There cannot be one without the other, and it is this lesson we must go on learning — if not from “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” then at least, I hope, from one another, and from the model provided to us by the book and its … More