As a young woman of the digital age, I always have health information at my fingertips. But generations of women before me did not have this luxury. Just 50 years ago, the medical field maintained a stronghold on health information, shrouding it in secrecy. There was no book available to learn the details of your new pregnancy or to help your daughter understand her period. Doctors were gatekeepers of this knowledge.
"Women and Their Bodies"
In May 1969, at a student conference on female liberation, participants had a revolutionary conversation, in a session entitled “Women and Their Bodies.” They shared their frustration with how little they knew about their bodies, and their one-way interactions with doctors. From this conversation grew the imperative to compile women’s health information, and to share it widely. In 1971, the grassroots group now known as the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective published the first Our Bodies, Ourselves, which was on stapled newsprint and cost 35 cents. It sold 225,000 copies.
Until 2011, Our Bodies, Ourselves was updated every decade, and received many accolades as a top consumer health resource. It has been translated in multiple languages and adapted around the world for different cultures. This information has empowered women worldwide to take ownership of their bodies and to be an active partner in their own healthcare. The grassroots work of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective helped to catalyze the consumer health information movement and patients' rights advocacy that has shaped modern healthcare.
Happy Women’s History Month!