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Do you remember when you first read "Our Bodies, Ourselves"? You can help mark OBOS's 40th anniversary by sharing how "Our Bodies, Ourselves" made a difference in your life or in the lives of your family and friends.

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February 28, 2014

It’s all about equality, right?

by Andrew Gordon

As a lifelong and active liberal, I walked into Dr. Jill Gillespie’s Intro to Women’s Studies class my senior year at Denison University thinking that I knew the gist of what would be taught to me. It’s all about equality, right? Of course women should be treated the same as men.

It never occurred to me that the dialogue would have deeper implications, let alone that I would begin to understand some of what drove my own unhappiness within my own heteronormative identity. Up until that class, I’d never used the word “heteronormative” in my life. Dr. Gillespie used the “Our Bodies, Ourselves” textbook in conjunction with belle hooks’ “Feminism is for Everyone” and other articles to wondrous effect.

The more I read, the more and more I became fascinated with the composition of the male gender identity, particularly that it is, as hooks’ describes it, premised on domination of other identities and, therefore, without a resting identity of its own. These words were so powerful for me because they spoke to my own unhappiness as a man so profoundly.

I began looking at my classmates and myself through a different lens, watching us “perform” what we thought it meant to be masculine, especially in the context of being a romantic partner to a woman. I can vividly remember a mid-semester phone conversation with one of my close friends back home. He bemoaned the futility of a being in a relationship because it was just impossible to be what woman want and that being a “nice guy” wasn’t enough.

I responded that perhaps our fundamental premises about relationships were wrong from the start. To assume that it is always our fault when a relationship does not happen or doesn’t work out not only robs a partner of her agency and the validity of her own preferences, but also fails to hold us as men accountable for the behavior that IS actually problematic. Instead, we just keep striving striving striving under the assumption that the only reason why we are not with someone is that we are doing something “wrong” or unattractive. While subtle, I look back on this moment as something of a personal revelation, even if my friend probably couldn’t appreciate it at the time.

Dr. Gillespie’s use of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” helped deepen our class discussion further and allowed me to build on my own revelation and core takeaways about the masculine identity. More than anything I learned in college, these were ideas that applied directly to my life and my own happiness. As I began to more confidently assert myself as a “feminist,” it was from a much more personal standpoint. For me, feminism was and is the key to unlocking and reshaping masculinity as a non-oppressive force. I came into the class with a bit of arrogance and left with a changed life. “Our Bodies, Ourselves” was big part of that.


December 7, 2011

A landmark in the history of our country…

by Robert J. Levine, MD

I am very proud and pleased to have a copy of OBOS personally autographed by Judy Norsigian. I see this book as a landmark in the history of our country and its culture. There is, of course, plenty of published support for my perspective.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


November 9, 2011

Helping women then and now

by Jayne Marchesi

Oh my gosh! Congratulations on 40 years!

I received my first “Our Bodies, Ourselves” when I was starting college back in 1978. Then I gave a newer edition to my daughter when she was in high school. The information in this book was so invaluable to me. Having so many questions and not knowing who to talk to back then made me feel
empowered in my young years.

Having just seen your commentary on the Evening News made me stop in
my tracks and smile and feel so grateful to you for helping women then
and now.

Congratulations!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


October 24, 2011

I remember being horrified and intrigued at the same time…

by Anonymous

OBOS means being a nine-year-old girl and sneaking to flip through the contents of my mother’s copy. I recall seeing a drawing of a woman growing pubic hair and using a tampon. I remember being horrified and intrigued at the same time. It’s been many years since I’ve thought about that book but it would be 15 more years before I could muster up the courage to use a tampon.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


October 19, 2011

I was hungry for all the things I couldn’t name…

by Vanessa Fernando

I first came across a copy of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” in a used bookstore when I was fifteen. I had been making myself throw up for about a year by that point, counting calories and restricting my sugar intake during the day just to sneak downstairs at night, quietly eating pretzels and cookies while trying not to wake my mother up. My world consisted of a high school where the ‘pretty’ girls were all white and wore two-hundred-dollar jeans. I was hungry for all the things I couldn’t name- community, self-acceptance, a feminist analysis that could help me sort through the layers of my identity (queer, mixed-race) and find wholeness.

I can’t say that Our Bodies, Ourselves ‘cured’ me of my bulimia and solved all my problems. But what OBOS did was help me realize that women– women with very different backgrounds and from very different life experiences — have been mobilizing for years to create resources for girls like the one I was then. OBOS provided a community of sorts, a refuge, in which women discussed their own thoughts and fears and insecurities and shared information with one another in a way that alleviated my fears and my feelings of isolation.

Throughout my teenage years, as I started trying to stop my disordered eating and replace it with less destructive habits, questioned my sexual identity, and thought about becoming sexually active, OBOS was there with me, a friend to turn to in the middle of the night as I tried desperately to resist purging, as I tried not to listen to those voices in my head telling me that I was ugly, that I was disgusting, that I wasn’t worth loving.

I am proud to be a part of this project [ed note: Vanessa is on the cover of the new edition of OBOS], because I know that I have come a long way since then, and OBOS has helped me countless times as I’ve worked so hard to get here. OBOS has also allowed me to share my growth with others. I gave my mother a copy of ”Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era” when it first came out, hoping that she might be able to find a similar refuge in its pages as she struggled to embrace menopause and her aging body. Since then, I’ve noticed that her copy’s pages are dog-eared. In addition to providing me with personal support, OBOS has also helped build empathy, as well as solidarity, between myself and my mother. That, I believe, is feminism in action.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


October 1, 2011

The flood of relief I felt at that moment, and the power that came from the sense of not being alone, really did change my life …

by Ruth Bell Alexander

In late 1969, a couple of months away from delivering my first baby (my son, who is now 41), I was 25 years old, living out in the country suburbs of Boston 3,000 miles away from my family, with a husband who went off to Cambridge every weekday for work.

It was a pretty lonely existence. I knew almost no one. But when my husband came home one day and told me he had met some people at work who knew about a women’s group that was starting, my life began to change. They were offering a class after hours at MIT about women’s issues. I remember the class being called Women and Their Bodies, but that’s with 42 years hindsight, so I may be wrong about the original title.

I do remember with startling clarity that although I knew only one person there, and even she I knew only barely, the roomful of women I walked into was very welcoming. The “class” was presented in a series of lectures about topics that ranged from women’s “roles,” to women’s work, health, legal issues pertaining to women, etc. — one topic per week for 12 weeks.

Each week had a “presenter,” and everyone in the room was invited to ask questions, offer comments, and discuss the issue at hand. I remember the Pregnancy class most clearly of course, and most specifically I remember raising my hand, with some trepidation, to ask about nightmares. During my pregnancy I had been having troubling nightmares, one of the issues that led me to brave the New England winter nights to drive 20 miles into Cambridge for the class. So I raised my hand and asked, “Has anyone experienced nightmares during pregnancy?”

Remembering this brings tears to my eyes even now at age 67, because my question was met with such loving responses that I felt embraced by the warmth and power of the experience and a deep connection to every woman in that room. No one patted me on the head and told me not to worry, as my doctor had done. No one scoffed at me. Instead, they listened and they responded from their hearts. And several of them had nightmares during their pregnancies, and they told me it was a fairly common experience for pregnant women to have strange dreams.

The flood of relief I felt at that moment, and the power that came from the sense of not being alone, really did change my life. The course ended after my baby was born, but I remember being at the last class when anyone there who wanted to participate in the writing of the lecture series into a book was invited to come to the next meeting.

I did show up at that next meeting and I have been involved with the OBOS collective since then. Happy 40th Anniversary, “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


October 1, 2011

OBOS was my midwife — always informative, always encouraging me to hear and express my own voice …

by Maura Ann Dowling

In 1986 I was a senior in college, had just ended a relationship with my boyfriend who had anger management challenges from some unresolved issues in his past. Then I found out I was pregnant. My parents were very concerned with image — so this was not an event they were able to open their hearts to for many months.

Fortunately I owned a copy of “Our Bodies Ourselves,” because my mother had planted a seed in me to question the medical establishment, and one of my professors in college was part of the generation of 1968 in France and she had raised my feminist consciousness. Neither my mother nor my professor had the ability to advise me in this, so OBOS gave me that mentoring supportive voice that I needed.

For me, an abortion was not an option. I always knew I would carry my pregnancy to term and raise the baby on my own. And OBOS continually gave me the women’s wisdom I needed. I was 24 at the time but looked about 17 — and when I went to physicians’ offices, I noticed the disconnect between what I wanted to be a positive nurturing pre- and post-natal experience.

Just the forms I filled out asking for the “father’s name” even before my name was appalling. Then the “meet-the-doctor-naked-in-a-paper-gown” was uncomfortable. And then the insistence on ultrasounds and tests that I didn’t agree with. All through this OBOS was my midwife — always informative, always encouraging me to hear and express my own voice.

I declined prenatal tests with 30 percent failure rates. I requested to meet and speak with my physician clothed and with questions about their practice. I discussed natural childbirth and what reasons would cause them to use medical interventions. Once I was faint on the examining table and the female physician asked if I always acted this way! I changed physicians four times through my pregnancy because of the way they handled my taking the lead in me and my baby’s care.

Through all of this, my family went through all manner of projecting judgment and fear on to me — my father didn’t speak to me for four months, my mother made inquiries into an unwed mother’s home, my brother asked why I wasn’t getting an abortion, my Godmother told me I could never wear a white dress at a wedding in future. OBOS validated me while my family heaped their shame on me.

I kept up a full-time course load, and waitressed part-time until I was eight months pregnant. Then the physician I had come to trust told me my baby was breech and that she would schedule me for a C-section. After I had gotten dressed and met her in her office, I knew enough to ask questions because of my intense reading of OBOS. Formulating the question in the heat of the moment was very challenging because this news came at me so suddenly.

I managed to ask why we wouldn’t wait until I went into labor to plan the C-section, because then we would have a clear indication that the baby was ready to be born.

Her response stunned me. She asked, “Why would you want to go into labor — it’s no fun.”

I drove straight home and pulled out OBOS. I searched for some answer — this didn’t feel right. My father stopped by, he was speaking to me now and I told him what had happened. He was an HR executive, and he told me that the major medical health insurance I had paid a physician a higher rate on a C-section than a natural birth.

Since midwives were discussed, I decided I needed advice from one. I obtained a phone number of a midwives association in the New York City area where I was — and when I discussed what had transpired with the midwife, she asked how I knew to call them. I told her about OBOS! She was so supportive of me and encouraged me for standing up for myself — then she gave me three physician’s names and why she thought they were worth a try in my case. She did warn me that changing physicians at almost nine months was tricky due to the way insurance pays.

The second physician’s office took me in for an appointment. My mother went with me and told me I was being vain to avoid a C-section. I reached behind her seat in the car and handed her a copy of “The Silent Knife” that OBOS had recommended and told her the page number to read where they described a C-section step-by-step. My mother had been an RN so I knew she would understand after she read — she did, and she stopped resisting my medical choices. The new physician was willing to discuss ways for the baby to adjust position before birth, as well as manual ways to change her position and he reassured me that a C-section would be a last resort.

By the time I had an ultrasound to check, the baby had moved with the exercises. My former physician called me to see why I was terminating our relationship, and when I explained she went on the fear-path, telling me how big my baby was. I just quoted something from OBOS and told her I felt natural childbirth was the right path for me to pursue.

My beautiful daughter, Maia, was born a few days later after a long and vigorous labor with no drugs or surgery. I spent one night in the hospital (my choice) and took her home, and we were a champion nursing team. She lost 2 ounces, and then gained weight at a robust clip. She was born on a Monday and then on Wednesday evening my mother and aunt babysat for a couple of hours so I could go to my feminist economics class where I got so much positive support along with my trusty OBOS.

My daughter and I thank you — all of you past and present! And for many years now my daughter and her father have cultivated a deep and growing relationship. We are a family that started with bumps, but have found resolution, love and peace.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


October 1, 2011

Midwives are the guardians of normal and natural birth …

by Whitney Pinger

As a young teen in the 1970s, OBOS taught me that women’s health was ours, and that we did not have to give up or strength and power.

I learned that midwives are the guardians of normal and natural birth and that is what I have come to incarnate.

I have been learning to be a midwife since I opened my first copy of OBOS … my journey took me many places but I am now the Director of Midwifery at The George Washington University.

I was an OBOS Women’s Health Hero in 2010.

My entire life has flowed from OBOS.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


September 1, 2011

Wonderful for young women then and now…

by Diane Kirse

I am 56 years old.  When I was growing up my mother, who was a widow, never ever discussed sex or anything related to sex with me. I did get help however from the first edition of  “Our Bodies, Our Selves.”  It was a groundbreaking book for its time and I have tried and tried but cannot find my first copy, which I kept for years.  Just know that your work was wonderful for young women then and now. Keep up the good work.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


July 25, 2011

It reminds me to trust my body…

by Leah Rubin

I bought the 1992 OBOS edition for $2.98 in 1998 in Greenwich Village.  For years I wanted to buy the book and finally it has traveled with me from sea to shining sea.  No book compares.  It reminds me to trust my body, to not become indoctrinated by medical professionals and more often than not western connotations of labour.

Having always been confident in my body, today I read the chapters on pregnancy and this book re-established my confidence in myself and my ability to make decisions about my body.  Whilst other versions may be more up-to-date, my 1992 edition is as valid in 2011 as it was then and no website or alternative medical journal or reference book could offer me more reassurance than the pages of this book.

I am shocked by how many women to this day still know so little about their bodies.  I am 39 weeks pregnant and the chapters on pregnancy, labour, and giving birth have given me the confidence to get ready for this birth as a single female. I am finally ready to let my body tell me what it needs. Thanks for making this book a part of my life!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


July 12, 2011

Relying on “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to Educate Students — and Himself

by Paul Noble

As a 19-year-old sophomore at Beloit College in Wisconsin, I became a resident assistant. At Beloit, at least when I was there, RAs weren’t simply the dorm cops they were at other schools; Beloit’s resident assistants were in a kind of peer review/leadership program. RAs selected and supervised each other. We were required to provide a host of resources to residents, including counseling and social, emotional and educational programming.

Among our basic tenets, we believed in the power of co-ed dorm living, and we encouraged parents and students to avail themselves of its many advantages. We found, for example, that there were significantly fewer fights, vandalism incidents, and unwanted pregnancies on co-ed floors than on single-gender floors. The vast majority of our students saw wisdom in that, the annoyance of knocking on the bathroom door notwithstanding.

Our Bodies, Ourselves 1976 editionI was thrust into this RA program as a 19-year-old suburban boy who’d attended an all-male Catholic high school and grew up in a staunchly pro-life home. Probably because I was a theatre minor, I was assigned to take over mid-year for the RA of the Arts Co-Op – needless to say, a houseful of free thinkers. The RA selection process had been fairly intense, and there were several days of training before the semester began. The only resource given new RAs that wasn’t written or patched together by one of our staff, however, was a brand new copy of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

Perhaps the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective donated them for that purpose. Perhaps Beloit College had the foresight to go out and buy them for us. In any case, there was no explanation of how a book “by and for women” would be useful to me as an RA. I shrugged and assumed the mystery would be revealed in the reading. Wasn’t college just a series of mysteries revealed? I took it home over the holiday break and promised myself I’d at least look at it.

I did just that. I started by looking at it. The pictures, mostly. I remember thinking how frank they were, how real the people looked, how—is that what I think it is? As I began reading, I started in the section on masturbation. Catholic, you know. I proceeded, I’m sure, through all the sexual bits in the order of their fascination to me. And then I just read. And read. And read some more.

By the time the winter break was over, I’d read all but one of the major sections. Thoroughly. Had made notes in the margins. And let’s see … how to put this without sounding silly: I was changed. I didn’t lose my virginity until a month later, in the same awkward, forgettable way most kids do, I guess, but something about having explored that book made me more … whole. More thoughtful. More conscious. I remember feeling equally a pride in the things I now knew, and a certain shame for the many misapprehensions I’d long held. I felt paradoxically humbled and empowered by “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” even if it wasn’t meant for me.

I suppose I was even more transformed by the afternoon I spent three months later: Driving a resident to the nearest clinic, sitting and talking quietly with her in the waiting room, waiting for her, and then driving her back to the dorm. Honestly, though, I’m not sure I could have been very helpful, even to that desperate young woman who felt she had but one option, if I hadn’t read “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

Today, I’m 46 and the father of 2-year-old twin girls. Someday, when the time is right, my wife and I will introduce our daughters to an edition of the book that has no doubt come a long way since then. Their father certainly has. Thanks, OBOS.

Paul reading to his daughters


Paul Noble has taught English for 24 years at Oak Park and River Forest High School. When his daughters allow, he also acts professionally in Chicago, or rewrites the occasional, nagging short story.

* * *

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


June 15, 2011

A tool at my fingertips

Submitted by: Janee Moore

Janee Moore“Our Bodies, Ourselves” means being empowered to make decisions about my own body. To have a tool at my fingertips that allows me to help myself and other women make healthy decisions while loving our bodies.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


June 15, 2011

A wonderful resource for women

Submitted by: Maraina Hirut Montgomery

Maraina Hirut MontgomeryOBOS is simply a wonderful resource for women around the nation. The stories, advice and inspiration that each issue possesses speaks to me in just the right language and urge me to take accountability and to get active!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


June 14, 2011

Timely information to women

Submitted by: Morissa Rice

Morrisa RiceOBOS is a great avenue to provide timely information to women about their overall health and how we should take care of our bodies. I believe in promoting physical, spiritual, and emotional health.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


June 14, 2011

the book that finally answered so many questions

Submitted by: Vanessa Antrum

Vanessa AntrumOBOS means information to me. Years ago, I remember purchasing the book that finally answered so many questions for me I couldn’t believe it. I brought one for my friends because I wanted them to have the same knowledge base of questions we dare not ask others.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


June 14, 2011

An amazing resource to have…

Submitted by: Denise Larocque

Denise LarocqueI think this book is an amazing resource to have, as an Aboriginal Traditional Midwife in progress I have opened it many times. As for personal use I felt relieved when I could read about lesbian issues and menopause questions.I looked up contraceptive pros and cons and find its content helpful in empowering women to take the first step in their own health, because it is their bodies, and so it’s only proper that they know it best.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


June 14, 2011

40 years of making a difference

Submitted by:  Emily Frost-Leaird

Emily Frost-LeairdI use OBOS in my community college women’s health class and I continue to be amazed by how inspiring and meaningful the text is to the students. Thank you for 40 years of making a difference in womens’ lives!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


June 14, 2011

Body, mind, and soul

Submitted by: Heather Reiners

Heather Reiners

“Our Bodies, Ourselves” means empowerment, learning honestly about my body and knowledge to make decisions that are meaningful to me. As a women’s studies major just graduating this May OBOS has supporting my life’s mission in bringing education to girls and women on not only their bodies, but their ’body, mind, and soul’!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


June 1, 2011

Empowerment!

Submitted by: Molly

When I think of OBOS, I think, Empowerment! OBOS means knowing your body, your personal power, and taking control of your health care and your reproductive rights. OBOS is an essential voice for women.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


May 28, 2011

A book of wisdom and self-being

By Inna Hudaya

Quinn fuller, my beloved American friend, is the first who introduce me to OBOS. She and I started a weekly workshop and self-help group in Yogyakarta in 2009.

My work focuses around abortion issues in Indonesia, and as a counsellor I found that less education and information on sexuality and reproductive health leads to unwanted pregnancies that end in abortion. Unsafe abortion is the common option for women in Indonesia, especially for unmarried women, women in rural areas and poor women.

Based on these facts, the Sexuality and Reproductive Health workshop and self-help group is our first step to provide information and education to these women. We use OBOS as the source for the workshop. I never enjoyed reading a book like OBOS. I love the language because it makes me feel like I’m reading a magazine—so fun !

A change starts from an itch to act. Start with workshop in 2009, and a year later, I and two American girls, Quinn Fuller and Jeannie Mc’Intosh were designing curriculum for our first Sexuality and Reproductive Health School in Yogyakarta. This is a 16 day/48 session school for 15 scholars in Yogyakarta. This year, we will invite scholars not only from Yogyakarta but all over Indonesia. Yet again, OBOS has really been helpful and has become my favourite source.

What I like most bout OBOS is it gives women many options, yet lets women decide what is best for them. Not only does it give information, OBOS helps women find wisdom to know what they need.

Before Quinn left Indonesia, she gave me her copy of OBOS. To me it’s more than a gift, it’s a treasure and a blessing. It’s not just a gift for me, this is a gift for every women I work with, for every student of the school. We have only one copy of OBOS, but many students borrow it so they can share it with their communities.

I’m now working as facilitator for SRH, and OBOS is always there on my table whenever I need it.

Thank you OBOS!!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


May 3, 2011

A steady companion in my adolescence…

Submitted by: Sarah Whedon

I really want to have a great story to tell about how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” provided personal health information at a moment when I desperately needed it. But it wasn’t really like that for me. The book was more like a steady companion in my adolescence. I kept it handy as a personal reference work and even lugged it off to college with me. I benefitted from it having been first published before I was even born.

When I think about “Our Bodies, Ourselves” what comes to mind most quickly and forcefully is the brief time I spent volunteering in the office. I took an introductory women’s studies course in college which involved a service learning component and I chose Our Bodies Ourselves to work with.

When you volunteer anywhere for a brief time, you rarely get to do anything glamorous, and my experience was no different. I stuffed envelopes. I think one time Judy Norsigian gave me an article to bring home so I could tell her what I thought of it. I don’t even remember the topic.

But the experience of volunteering made a big impression on me anyway. I think that’s because being in that office showed me in material form that it was entirely possible to care about women’s health and then start doing something about it and so create something that really mattered.

Volunteering at the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective was the first real action I took on behalf of women’s health. Now I have training as a birth doula, a graduate education in Women’s Studies, and a blog called Reproductive Rites.

Who knows what the future holds? Thank you, Our Bodies Ourselves.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


April 30, 2011

I have only love and admiration for those first brave women

Submitted by: Meg Sawicki

The first time I saw “Our Bodies, Ourselves” was in 1977 and I was a freshman in college. Some women I knew had the book and I remember thinking how fantastic it was that a group of women had written a collection of stories that shared their own wisdom about health and life and being a woman. For the first time I was affirmed that different was okay, and I was hooked.

To this day the book remains one of my favorite gifts to give young women who I love and care about, including my own daughters. I have only love and admiration for those first brave women of the Boston Women’s Health Collective who gave us real and important information about our health and happiness, and who set the bar for other women’s self discovery books as the first of it’s kind. Cheers and all good things to my sisters of the Collective to continue to light the way.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


April 29, 2011

I have proudly shared it with many young women…

Submitted by: Debbie Ali

I read and re-read the first copy on recycled newsprint in 1970; loved it when it came out bigger with more info. It was the guide to my learning about my body, and I have proudly shared it with many young women I have known over the years. I look forward to sharing it with my grand daughters and great nieces!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


April 27, 2011

I remember thinking how pink it looked!

Submitted by: Michele Hamilton

I remember reading OBOS in 1980. My friends and I held a meeting and took turns examining our own vaginas. I remember thinking how pink it looked!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


April 27, 2011

I didn’t know much about my body…

Submitted by: Joanne Accardi-Goldberger

When I was a college girl in the early 70’s, I didn’t know much about my body. Then came OBOS… it empowered me… my friends… my entire generation! Thoughts, questions we had been taught to suppress could now be discussed openly. Thank you OBOS for helping me get in touch not only with myself, but for becoming a life-time proponent for women’s health concerns. BTW: When my daughter turned 13, I gave her first copy of OBOS… may the tradition continue! Happy 40th Birthday!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


April 26, 2011

All women should have this book…

Submitted by: Cat Grant

Cat GrantI found this book when I was about 20. It politicized me about my body and other women’s bodies — in reading it I realized that our bodies weren’t “private.” I found it just as I was changing my position on women’s right to choose – moving away from a pro-life position to a position where women had the right to control their bodies.  I bought one in a second hand shop and passed it on to a younger woman and hopefully she passed it on too. A new edition is well needed for a new generation for girls and women.  All mothers, aunties, grandmothers should give this to their daughters, granddaughters and nieces.  All women around the world should have this book — and it wouldn’t hurt the men to read it either!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


April 26, 2011

So many excellent conversations…

Submitted by: Cheryl de Jong-Lambert

The thought of OBOS immediately brings to mind so many excellent conversations with girlfriends the world over. Today, the ”Pregnancy and Birth” volume in particular means having a son named after my husband’s maternal family, and a daughter named after my grandmother.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


April 25, 2011

Lesbians! Labias! Yeast infections!

Submitted by: Nancy Goldstein

I’ve had OBOS on my shelves since 1972 (I was 11) and even before, I’m pretty sure. It was the first place I could look up all sorts of things I couldn’t say aloud, or wanted to find out about privately (lesbians! labias! yeast infections!), and one of first places where I could hear other women’s voices talking about all of this verboten stuff. Nearly 30 years later it remains a vital, vibrant ”discussion” and source of information. All my love on its 40th birthday.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


April 23, 2011

I first read OBOS in 1971, my senior year of High School …

Submitted by: Harvey Kliman

Harvey KlimanI first read OBOS in 1971, my senior year of High School. Being the oldest of four boys I was always intrigued with the mystery of girls, especially the menstrual cycle, which may explain why I became an Ob/Gyn and now do research on the endometrium at Yale.

The creative link for our work on orgasm, menstruation and endometriosis came directly from a single sentence in the original OBOS which recommended masturbating to ease the pain of menstrual cramps. It turns out that orgasm helps to expel menstrual debris out the cervix and vagina, decreasing the risk of retrograde menstruation and the endometriosis that follows.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


April 22, 2011

My go-to resource for any questions I couldn’t ask out loud

Submitted by: Margaret Park Bridges

OBOS was born in 1971, just as I entered womanhood and turned 14. It became my go-to resource for any questions I couldn’t ask out loud. I had no idea it was as revolutionary a book as it was at the time. I’m not sure where I would have turned to get the straight talk and detailed answers it provided!

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


April 22, 2011

A sex education refresher: “Our Bodies, Ourselves”

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Submitted by: Kim Comatas

I teach OWL (Our Whole Lives, a sexuality education curricula) and at the end of each session, we give each participant a copy of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” What that means is priceless. It means the seven months we volunteered teaching youth will now be refreshed everytime they open that book. They will remember that sex can be positive and something that is to be treasured and enjoyed when the time is right. That if they have questions, we are empowering them with factual and age appropriate information in class and it is confirmed in OBOS.

OBOS means so much to me, but for our youth, it means so much more. Congrats on 40!!! It sure is fabulous!


April 21, 2011

Our go-to bible for information

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Submitted by: Ellen Silver Highfield

Ellen Silver HighfieldI was introduced to OBOS in 1973 as a freshman at BU.  I had joined (that very new thing!) a Women’s Group.  It was the recommended reading, and became our go-to bible for information.  I always loved the clear, no non-sense, no beating around the bush information which was totally a new approach for me.  I felt very hip knowing about OBOS, and truthfully have used it many, many times over the years to answer questions.  I also stock it in my waiting room for patients.

I have particularly appreciated that OBOS has been translated into so many languages, making this important information accessible for all kinds of women around the globe.  Thank you!


April 19, 2011

OBOS caused a paradigm shift in my thinking…

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Submitted by: Sandy Iredale

When I was young (read: naïve) about 35 years ago, I had internalized a set of faith-based instructions about how the world worked and how I was to conduct myself in it.

Exposure to the well-written, well-researched articles in “Our Bodies, Ourselves” caused a paradigm shift in my thinking, in my soul, to the core of me. Empowered by the (then) radical idea that my body was my own, with all the rights and responsibilities that come with ownership, there was no way I could defer automatically to the ‘authority’ of my family doctor, priest, husband. “Our Bodies, Ourselves” provided the raw materials from which I would establish in my psyche, soul and spirit a boundary between myself and others who might lay claim to my corporeal geography.

Most important, though, was the reading I did on the topic of abortion. Alongside the article on abortion was a photograph of a woman who died due to an ‘illegal’ procedure. Suddenly, I was face to face with reality. This was no longer merely a philosophical, religious, political argument for me. This woman died, alone, in agony.

Newly accepting ‘person-hood’ for myself, how could I deny her? If I cherished my right to choose to continue a pregnancy, how could I deny her the right to end hers? By denying her access to proper medical care, was I not complicit in her death? From that day forward, I knew that while my own personal choice might not be to abort, I could not deny another woman’s right to choose it and be provided a safe medical procedure and aftercare.

The woman in that photograph haunts me still. Access to proper medical care would have saved her life.


April 19, 2011

A mirror is one of my most important medical tools

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Submitted by: Alice Rothchild

Starting in 1970, I was a medical student (one of about 10 women in a class of over 100) at Boston University and just discovering women’s consciousness raising and the feminist movement. I worked on the first edition of OBOS and it became the touchstone of my political development. When I opened my first obgyn/pediatric group practice in the inner city, every patient was offered a copy of OBOS. Today, I still ask each woman if she wants to see her cervix every time I do a pelvic exam. Some women are still saying “Yes!” A mirror is one of my most important medical tools.


April 19, 2011

I had never heard the word clitoris…

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Submitted by: Anonymous

I first read OBOS at a women’s group meeting my sophomore year in college.  I was 19 years old, and had never heard the word clitoris.  I owe my first orgasm to OBOS picture, description, and encouragement for self pleasuring.  Throughout the years, I have bought countless copies of OBOS for birthday presents for 16 year old women in my life — and have referred to it throughout my personal life and career.  Happy 40th anniversary!


April 17, 2011

If my vagina could talk…

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Submitted by: Tania Israel

story picOBOS is the book my older sister gave me that taught me how to honor my body and take care of myself and communicate with health care providers. I am now in my 40′s and have a masters degree in sexuality education and have recommended this resource to countless others. If my vagina could talk, it would say “Thank you, OBOS, for keeping me healthy and happy!”


February 28, 2011

A little girl in the 1970s

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Submitted by: Caitlin Mercer

I feel lucky that I was a little girl in the 1970s.  My mother and her friends had been strongly influence by the movements that spawned the Boston Women’s Health Collective and OBOS.

My mother bought a copy of OBOS and Changing Bodies, Changing Lives in the early 1980s and I kept them both in my room, read them obsessively.  I read about all the mysteries of adult womanhood I was yet to know, and about the concerns that were very present in my life at that age.

The pictures and stories of women who had struggled with illegal abortions informed my political future.  The sex positive, woman positive tenor of the volumes has informed my sense of self.  The language of empowerment is something I have shared with many peers, men and women.

I gave my 1998 era volume to a young friend recently, and have shared a lot with her about how the challenges in women’s health have changed so much.  It saddens me that so many would turn back the clock to the times when the poor and uninformed could more easily be victimized.


February 12, 2011

A gift from my dad

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Submitted by: Anna Hensley

I received my first copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves when I was 12. At the time, I was living with my single father and my younger brother. My dad gave me a copy of OBOS that he had purchased, I believe, as part of a Women’s Studies class he had taken in college. While my father has always been very open about talking about puberty, sexuality, and health with his children, he gave me OBOS in hopes that it might provide me with a richer and more thorough source of information on women’s health.

When he gave me the book, I was embarrassed and threw it under my bed. But shortly after, I pulled it out again and began perusing its pages. By the time I was 15, I had read the book in its entirety and asked my dad for an updated edition for Christmas.

Having a well-researched, expansive, feminist women’s health resource at my disposal—especially one written with a tone of genuine care and respect—made all the difference for me. I credit OBOS as the root of my interest in feminism, health, and the body, and it has had a lasting impact on the work that I continue to do today.

Thank you, OBOS!


February 7, 2011

Raised by OBOS

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Submitted by: Kyra Zola Norsigian

I had the honor of being raised by OBOS—the women, not the book—though the two are inextricably intertwined.

This Collective of amazing women, and the people who supported them, shaped my childhood in ways that words could not describe. I am the person I am today in great part thanks to their role-modeling, advice, support, and knowledge.

Thank you to the women of OBOS for giving yourselves so generously to me and the world!


February 7, 2011

Finding our own answers

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Submitted by: Danielle Schuman-Olivier

As an ex-nun and priest, my bewildered parents didn’t exactly know how to talk with their four, teenage daughters about things like our changing bodies and our sexual natures. But they were (and still are) very open-minded people and always had strategic reading material lying around the house.

The chapters in our Our Bodies, Ourselves captured my attention and normalized so many of the things I was feeling. Later on in college, I got into the habit of collecting old copies of OBOS at garage sales and used book stores. This collection became my reference material as a women’s studies minor and then in graduate school where I became a nurse-midwife.

The learning in midwifery comes from studying, from being with other women during a birth or first pelvic exam, and from my experiences in my own body. Both studying the menstrual cycle and personally tracking my cervical fluid for years, for example, both taught me how to help someone else prevent/obtain pregnancy. Likewise, it was both school and the experiences of my patients, my sisters, and my friends giving birth that gave me the understanding that my body could also do this.

Recently, our community health center has started a Centering program (http://www.centeringhealthcare.org) for pregnant women. Here we strive to turnover the medical approach to pregnancy and give true care by way of support and education. I am trying to unlearn the habit of answering all the questions but to instead let women speak to each other and, together, find their own answers and voices.

Empowerment—this is one of the hallmarks of my profession and one that I first learned from Our Bodies, Ourselves. Thank you!


February 7, 2011

A cat named Schuster

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Submitted by: Margie Sved

Happy Anniversary!! Rubies and Red dresses!!

I found my second edition, which I dated as having bought in July 1978. I have no idea what’s happened to my first edition; I thought I had kept it. And, I first saw that first printing, before the first book, sometime around 1972, while in college.

The funny story around when the first edition came out, I got two kittens from the same litter, and wanted to give them “paired” names. I ended up calling them “Simon” and “Schuster,” since they had published OBOS. Simon died young, Schuster lived for
years, and I loved telling the story when people asked me how I chose that name!!

Our Bodies, Ourselves came out about when I came out, so I have always tied the two together. I became involved in the women’s health movement in 1974, when I was one of the founding mothers of the Durham Women’s Health Cooperative (Durham, NC).  And from those women’s health beginnings, I decided to go to medical school (1975-1979). Still seems like just yesterday. And in so many ways OBOS was my guide, and still is!


February 7, 2011

A very cool history teacher

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Submitted by: Debbi Ali

I was 15 in 1970, and I had a very cool history teacher, who was young and interested in the women’s movement and all things associated with it. I remember in particular that we had a formal debate in class on abortion. It was that year and, I believe, through her that I got my first copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves.

It was the one printed on recycled paper and about 50 pages long. I carried it for years; bought copies for everyone I knew, and finally lost it in a fire in 1985. It served as a guidepost for many of my searches into sexuality; birth control and altered the way I looked at the health care system I became a part of as a nurse.

I have given copies and recommended Our Bodies, Ourselves to many young women who have come through my nurses office; to daughters of friends; and friends in general.

It is amazing to see where you have come to from that first printing!

Congratulations and thank you.


February 2, 2011

It makes the cut

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Submitted by: Boston University School of Public Health graduate

I just read the commencement speech [Judy Norsigian's talk to the BUSPH graduates in May 2007] and I actually own the 1976 version of Our Bodies, Ourselves that George contributed to and that she refers to. Yuval bought it for me in a used book store in Israel when we were first together. It is fantastic.

I have moved it from Israel to Utah to Boston to Israel and back to Utah. Not many books made all those cuts.


February 2, 2011

A High Standard

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Submitted by: Warren Bell, M.D.

Our Bodies, Ourselves always occupies a prominent and honoured place in my waiting room! I can’t think of a more reliable source of information about women’s health issues than Our Bodies, Ourselves. It’s set the standard for years, and continues to do so.

And a high standard it is!


February 2, 2011

Always Relevant

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Submitted by: Anonymous

My mother gave me a copy of the second edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves when I was a teenager. She bought it when she was young, probably soon after she got married, and warned me that the medical advice would be almost 20 years out of date. But it was still worth a read.

I have enjoyed comparing new editions over the years. While the facts about what birth control is available might change, the content is always relevant.


February 2, 2011

OBOS influenced by career choice

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Submitted by: Marjorie Greenfield

I am thrilled to be one of the chapter reviewers for the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. The more I read it, the more I realize how influenced I was by this book when I was in high school and college. I am sure it played a role in my interest in ob-gyn. And I can see the ways that it influenced how I write. Thanks for this opportunity.


February 2, 2011

Small Treasures

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Submitted by: Diane Clapp

I wrote the chapter on Infertility and Pregnancy Loss in the 1984, 1992 and 1998 editions of Our Bodies, Ourselves. Working closely with Norma Swenson and later with Jane Pincus on these chapters was exciting.

In the 1990′s, infertility finally got defined as a disease by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. This classification allowed women, men and couples suffering from infertility to get some tests and treatments covered by insurance.
I spent 29 years working as the medical information director at RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association.  From my role there and in my private practice, I know how isolated and out of control women feel when they can not get pregnant or cannot have a successful pregnancy.  Our Bodies, Ourselves offered support and information to those all over the world struggling with this problem.

I will always remember receiving a small package from a woman in Poland who included a letter and a small, wooden, carved box.  She wrote that she had tried to have a baby for years and thanked me for writing about infertility in Our Bodies, Ourselves. She said it made her feel less lonely and more informed.

The box she sent is one of my treasures.

The other memory I have is when my teenage daughter, who at the time often felt that I could do nothing right, saw my picture inside the cover of Our Bodies, Ourselves said, “ Mom I can’t believe you wrote for this book!”

This truly is the “go to” book for women of all ages and it is clear than the knowledge that fills the pages of Our Bodies, Ourselves helps us move through all the stages in our lives.


February 2, 2011

It never occured to me

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Submitted by: Anonymous

I was blessed-gifted-chanced with the most beautiful, most kind and most loving parents. They taught me to love learning; reading; experiencing. I can tell them everything. My mother, when I was 9 and three quarters, bought me yet another book to quench my thirst for knowledge. This book was Our Bodies, Ourselves.

The first thing I noticed was the size, a several hundred page paperback. The second, the fact that it was nonfiction. Third, the pink on it’s cover. I did not like pink. I still do not like pink, not for it’s connotations, or that fact that it is the only shade of a  color to have a name-I digress. I poured through Our Bodies, Ourselves. I learned so much I did not ask my mother about. Not because I was embarrassed to ask her, but because it would never to occurred to me that that goes there…


February 2, 2011

I learned to accept myself

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Submitted by: Tamara Safford

I was never a star in being a feminist, although it is my lifestyle. I read many feminist books in the 1970s, and followed the trend by living in a commune of women only in New Haven.

The book, Our Bodies, Ourselves, impacted my life as a book that overcomes fear to admit you are a woman alone, with many morale and ethical family values that confine us and can impair health rights.

It is a book that gave me an approach to health rights and how to feel well and accept myself.


February 2, 2011

“The Book”

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Submitted by: Tamara

I recently connected with a couple of high school friends through Facebook, and asked them about THE BOOK that I had bought for one of them nearly 30 years ago. My friend was getting married, but was confused about some of the most basic aspects of sex and sexuality. She asked me questions that I thought any young woman should know, and so I made a trip up to Littleton, NH one day and bought her a book.

The high school friends did remember the book, the giggles, blushing, and also scandal that it caused, and confirmed that yes, indeed, it was your group’s book. I still feel strongly that buying that book for my friend who had had NO sex education from school or home was a wise idea. It caused a scandal at the time, and I’m quite sure that it was no small event in the small-town lives we lived (and I think that at least one mother is still upset with me!).

I like to think that maybe my small act impacted the lives of a half-dozen or so young women–and maybe some young men–who would otherwise have started their sexual experiences with little more information than rumors. It amuses me that while other parents were upset, my own parents (yes, the minister and his wife!) offered no apology for my behavior and likely thought it was a timely bit of education.

So, please let your group know [Our Bodies Ourselves] that in one small town, one small girl bought your book so many years ago, and the scandal it caused served only to make more people interested in getting their hands on THE BOOK. Which, of course, meant that more young women got information that they desperately needed.

I’m sure that similar stories played out in many small and large towns, which means that the impact of the book has, no doubt, been huge. Somewhere in northern Vermont there is a very dog-eared copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves!


February 1, 2011

Show and Tell Day

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Submitted by: Anonymous

I have the very first addition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. I loved this book. When my daughter started kindergarten they had a show and tell day, so she brought this book into class to show her teacher and children. The teacher did phone me, but it was okay.

When my daughter got a little older we used to read it together—maybe when she was around 10.

It is a great book, and all the other ones that came out were also great.


February 1, 2011

Dog-eared and oft-consulted

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Submitted by: Sarah Peck

I was 10-years-old and in the sixth grade when my mother gave me the 1984 version of Our Bodies, Ourselves.

I read the 900-page tome eagerly, cover to cover.  I learned about my body, about sexual health, sexual pleasure, masturbation, birth control and abortion, about reproductive rights and women’s rights and the continuing, intertwined struggles for those rights.

My girlfriends and I pored over the book at slumber parties.  Middle school guy friends ran off into the woods with it, to reap the secret knowledge of women’s bodies and their own bodies, too.  I can’t think of a better guide for them to have stolen away for an afternoon.  By high school it was well-worn: dog-eared and oft-consulted.

Neither my mother nor I could have guessed that this book would serve as the seed for my future career, an early catalyst igniting what I expect to be a lifelong passion for and commitment to promoting sexual health and reproductive rights through research, education, and policy reform.

But that’s exactly what it was.  Twenty-four years later, Our Bodies, Ourselves remains one of the most important books I have ever read.


February 1, 2011

It was revolutionary

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Submitted by: Joan Bragar

Forty years ago, when I was 16 years old, I had one of the first legal abortions in New York City.

New York legalized abortion one year before Roe V Wade in 1972.  This experience was very difficult. There were no “clinics” and I had to be put under general anesthesia in a hospital by an ob/gyn who made disparaging remarks to me and made me wait in a room filled with expectant mothers.

I was very upset, and when I saw a notice for a “women’s health conference” at a school, I attended and spoke about my experience. Amelie Rothchild heard me and and asked me too speak in the movie, It Happens To Us, about women and abortion.

I am the teenager in the movie.

After that I became interested in the women’s health movement and remember attending sessions on Our Bodies Our Selves in mid-town Manhattan. The book was in newsprint then (I still have that now-historic copy), and it was revolutionary for women to be learning what was in the gynecological textbooks and “translating” it into lay language that we could understand and use.

Years later I, of course, gave the book to my teenage children.

I now work supporting family planning, reproductive and maternal health health projects in Egypt and Africa.

Thank you Judy and the entire original OBOS collective for being there at the originating point of the women’s health movement.


February 1, 2011

Thank you, Mom

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Submitted by: Monica Carreon

My mother grew up in rural Texas where traditional schooling was out of reach for her, consequently, she was a big fan of education.

When I was in elementary school, part of 6th grade was a film/discussion about menstruation.  When Mom and I had a follow-up to the school’s lecture & film, we went to the local library together.

She preceded to check out Our Bodies, Our Selves.  She obtained a Spanish version and an English version.

I will always thank her for her progressive approach to sex and women’s bodies.


February 1, 2011

An approach to health rights

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Submitted by: Tamara Safford

I was never a star in being a feminist, although it is my lifestyle. I read many feminist books in the 1970s, followed the trend and lived in a commune of women only in New Haven.

The book, Our Bodies, Ourselves, impacted my life as a book that overcomes fear to admit you are a woman alone, with many morale and ethical family values that confine us and can impair health rights.

It is a book that gave me an approach to health rights and to seeking how to feel well and accept myself.