A message from the Founders of Our Bodies Ourselves

September 26, 2022

by OBOS founders
As we approach the 53rd anniversary of the first stapled, newsprint edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves, we are thrilled to announce and celebrate the launch of Our Bodies Ourselves Today! The new website, a collaboration between the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University and the nonprofit organization Our Bodies Ourselves, features the “best of” health and sexuality information on women, girls, and gender-expansive people.

Founders of Our Bodies Ourselves, holding poster of themselves in the 1970sWhen we first met, at a 1969 women’s liberation conference in Boston, it was difficult to find even the most basic information about our bodies, our sexuality, and reproduction. Birth control was often denied to women who weren’t married and abortion was illegal in most states. The vast majority of physicians were both white and male, and the few available books on women’s health and sexuality were almost all written by men who discounted women’s personal experiences and perspectives. Determined to figure out how our bodies worked and to gain more power and control over our lives, we shared our stories, reached out to other women, read books from medical libraries, and talked to supportive friends and colleagues who worked in the medical community. Thus Our Bodies, Ourselves was born.

In some ways, the world today is very different. Previously taboo topics like menstruation and menopause are talked about openly, 36 percent of all physicians — and a majority of medical school students — are women, and, with the advent of the internet, information about our bodies, our sexuality and our health is readily available. Yet the quality, trustworthiness and inclusivity of that information varies enormously. Far too often, it is biased by corporate and pharmaceutical interests, fails to include the diversity of our lived experiences, and discounts the social, economic, and political factors that shape our lives and health. What is needed now is guidance sifting through the reams of information and helping people find content that is useful and relevant. That’s where Our Bodies Ourselves Today steps in.

In the wake of the women’s health movement and the activism of the 1960s, we and many other groups and individuals – including those in the public health, self-help, disability rights, reproductive justice and patient-centered communities — were motivated to create better health and sexuality information. Our colleagues at groups including the National Women’s Health Network, Breast Cancer Action, Sistersong, the Black Women’s Health Imperative, Amigas Latinas en Acción pro-Salud – to name just a few – created health materials that were inclusive and accurate and reflected our lives. Today, groups including The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, PussyPedia, Tight Lipped, EducateUS, Period and others devoted to specific issues continue this work. However, the reach of these groups is often limited. By finding and critically evaluating these materials, the content experts at OBOS Today – researchers, health care providers, individuals who struggle with a particular health issue, and activists – are able to select the best resources and make them easily available to a wider audience.

In addition to featuring high quality health and sexuality content, the new OBOS Today site includes extensive information on the history and legacy of Our Bodies Ourselves and the many women’s groups from around the world who have created translations and adaptations of Our Bodies, Ourselves, our signature book.

We are thrilled that the work of Our Bodies Ourselves – desperately needed in these challenging times – is continuing, and we hope you will join us in celebrating and supporting Our Bodies Ourselves Today!

— Ayesha, Elizabeth, Jamie, Jane, Joan, Judy, Kiki, Miriam, Norma, Paula, Pam, Ruth, Sally, Vilunya & Wendy

The founders of Our Bodies Ourselves
Most of the Our Bodies Ourselves founders, in 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.

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