A message from the Founders of Our Bodies Ourselves

By OBOS Founders — September 26, 2022

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.

10 responses to “A message from the Founders of Our Bodies Ourselves”

  1. Hi ladies and thank you for all the information you made so readily available. I found your book shortly after giving birth to my second daughter, so in 1974. That book was a small fortune to buy back then, $24.00 I think, but I bought it anyway. I read it cover to cover. Over the years I added another daughter and as,your book was updated, I bought it. That book sat in my bookshelf the entire time those girls were growing up. It was accessible when ever they wanted to look at it. It got a lot of teenage giggles at times! So thank you for so many things.

    • Thank you! You changed the lives of so many women back at the beginning of becoming conscious of our own bodies.
      I got my first copy in the early 70s. Then worked at the Full Moon Coffee House in SF selling them in the late 70s.
      You opened our eyes, our hearts, our bodies. The impact is still felt today. The women’s community owes you a great deal. 👍 💖💖💖

  2. All of you women look like me and my friends! I bought the book as soon as I saw it, and we, in our intentional family, back-to-the-land homestead, used it often. 4 of the women in our community went to nursing school, we’re Rns and ARNPS now. My partner was the only male midwife I’d ever heard of, and, with the expertise and help of a progressive ARNP and MD we all volunteered at our own Family Planning Clinic here in rural eastern Washington state. Your book was an inspiration. Thank you for those times and information, and this online info will be so valuable.

  3. Grew up in the South in the 1980’s. Had no idea about my body. Then I found the book in the Boston Library when traveling up north (I wish every library had this book!) A million thank yous!! I am now 52 and have had a great sex life because of this book. Thank you!

  4. My mom gave me my first book in the early 1970’s, I think. She also subscribed to Ms. Magazine. Between your book and that magazine, I learned to own my body, my mind, myself. Thank you so very much.

  5. This book saved my life. I was able to buy it in 1974 at age 20. If only I could have gotten it when I was 13 – would have saved me a lot of pain. There are still problems with health care. We must keep on fighting.

  6. I have never forgotten finding OBOS in the eighties here in Australia at a time when I truly needed its guidance and affirming acceptance about women’s bodies . It spoke to me then and still does today. As a social worker and psychotherapist I am deeply concerned with supporting women to make informed choices about their minds and bodies. Thus, I feel a deep connection to your collective and gain succour from your books. I have your book on Menopause and intend to get your book on Aging.
    Thank you!

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