Archive for the ‘Women We Love’ Category

February 26, 2013

Women’s History Makers: “Our Bodies, Ourselves”

Boston Women s Health Book Collective MAKERS

Makers: Women Who Make America,” the PBS/AOL documentary, debuts tonight on PBS at 8 p.m. (check local listings). If you’re on Twitter, join the discussion during the broadcast at #MAKERSchat.

Narrated by Meryl Streep, the film covers the last 50 years of the women’s movement — the accomplishments and setbacks that followed the publication of “The Feminine Mystique.”

“Most of us have seen the old television commercials before, those 1950s ads that marketed products by telling women how stupid and disappointing they were. So, in the beginning, this program feels like old news (one generation has seen it all before, and the other doesn’t care), but the narrative quickly comes together and still has the power to astound,” writes Anita Gates in The New York Times.

Extended Interviews Online
“Our Bodies, Ourselves” founders Judy Norsigian and Miriam Hawley were interviewed for Makers about the medical and social conditions that prompted a group of women to research, publish and distribute their own findings on women’s health and sexuality. Their interviews are available online.

“You have to understand that back in the late 60s, 98 percent of OB-GYNS were male. About 90 percent of all physicians were male. There was a tremendous amount of condescencion and paternalism,” says Norsigian, who is also executive director of the organization Our Bodies Ourselves.

“I remember one doctor saying to me, dear dear, you’re a smart intelligent woman — you ought to have more children,” says Hawley, later noting, “I kept saying we’re going to sell a million copies. And people kept laughing till we did.”

Produced by filmmakers Dyllan McGee, Betsy West and Peter Kunhardt, the Makers website proclaims to have the largest video collection of women’s stories. It is quite a mix. Browse through the offerings and you’ll find author Alice Walker, food pioneer Alice Waters, racecar driver Danica Patrick, artist/architect May Lin, comic creator Cathy Guisewite, actress Rita Moreno, former college president Ruth Simmons, and coal miner Barbara Burns, who fought sexual harassment in the workplace.

And, of course, Gloria Steinem.

And, suprisingly, Phyllis Schlafly.

Women’s Health Activism
Some of our colleagues in health activism are featured, including Susan Love, who discusses innovative breast cancer research as well as her own coming out story:   “Living out loud really allows you to be who are and to get into the work you need to do as opposed to spending a lot of time trying to protect yourself.”

Byllye Avery, founder of the Black Women’s Health Project (now the Black Women’s Health Imperative) and co-founder of Raising Women’s Voices, discusses access to abortion and opening a women’s health clinic in Florida — and working to “de-medicalize” the interior with shag carpeting, posters on the ceiling, and pot holders on the stirrups (to eliminate the chill). She also addresses the importance of community and self-care on multiple levels.

“Once you can get the emotional stuff straight, then you can start talking about the body,” says Avery. “Because if I’m worrying about someone coming home and beating me, I’m hardly thinking about I haven’t had a pap smear in five years.”

Sharing personal stories, Avery reminisces about her late husband, who died suddenly of a heart attack in 1970. Before his death, he recommended “The Feminine Mystique,” which he thought she would appreciate.

“I hated that I didn’t read it before he died so we could have had some discussions, ’cause I could have confronted him about the dishes,” she said.

New Voices, New Issues
Makers.com is a historian’s treasure trove, yet it also covers history in the making with the inclusion of younger women like media creator Tavi Gevinson, editor of Rookie magazine (Gevinson praised the new “Our Bodies, Ourselves“), feminist organizer Shelby Knox, and youth organizer Maritza Alarcón, whose energy about her work is infectious.

The Makers blog has pulled together quotes around timely themes, such as “5 Views on Job Flexibility” and “5 Views on Women in Film– Past, Present and Future.”

One of Norsigian’s online interview segments addresses finding support, and she concludes with this advice:

“Don’t go it alone, if possible. Get in place the kinds of friends and families around you that will make it possible to be a good parent, a good co-worker, and to contribute to the community around you. I think it’s important that we find space to be part of a larger community, that we don’t just see ourselves as part of a nuclear family.”

Updated to reflect that the OBOS interviews are available online and not in the film itself.


March 2, 2012

Friday Women’s Health Hero: Sandra Fluke

Just when we think Rush Limbaugh couldn’t possibly sink lower, he takes on Georgetown University Law student Sandra Fluke for testifying about the importance of insurance coverage for contraceptives. During his radio show this week, Limbaugh used the most offensive language he can get away with on-air: He called Fluke a slut.

The good news is at least two advertisers so far (Sleep Train and Sleep Number) have pulled their commercials off Limbaugh’s show (a petition is underway to get ProFlowers to do the same). Faculty, administrators and students from Georgetown and other law schools released a statement applauding Fluke’s “strength and grace” in the face of the attacks (really: Fluke is unflappable in every TV appearance, consistently taking the high road). President Obama called Fluke to thank her for speaking out on behalf of women — adding that her parents should be proud.

And we had the pleasure of reading Jen Doll’s take on Limbaugh, published at The Atlantic Wire:

If Rush Limbaugh slut-shames you, you’re doing something right, because he is pulling out what he imagines to be his most hurtful, vicious, full-barreled defense strategy against a woman. If you call a woman a “slut,” you see, she will cower in a corner and hide because that is akin to calling her ugly, or worthless. At least that’s what small-thinking men (and sometimes women) assume; women would rather die than be dubbed such a thing! Slut-shaming is a tool of cowards who want to make women feel bad because, truthfully, they’re afraid of what those women might do given a platform like, say, the floor of Congress. And this means Limbaugh is not just a bully, but also an über-troll, exploiting his own drummed-up outrage and the Internet’s eagerness to amplify it. Which only makes Sandra Fluke, and all of the thoughtful people out there fighting for women’s contraceptive rights — who, for the record, aren’t resorting to name-calling or troll tractics — look even better.


January 27, 2012

OBOS 40th Featured in The Women’s Health Activist

We’re delighted to see a piece on our recent 40th anniversary global symposium in The Women’s Health Activist, the newsletter of one of our favorite organizations, the National Women’s Health Network. In The Spiral of Women’s Health Activism, NWHN Program & Policy Director Amy Allina talks a bit about our history and reports on panels and presenters from the day, remarking:

Early in the day, Jaclyn Friedman, the symposium’s mistress of ceremonies, explained her belief that women’s health activism moves in a spiral, not a circle, because while we are connected to our beginnings, we are also continually moving forward. The day’s discussions provided a perfect demonstration of that concept.

If you weren’t able to join us for those discussions, check out video from the event, including presentations from Byllye Avery, Loretta Ross, a welcome message from Governor Patrick Deval, panels with our global partners, and more.

If you haven’t checked out the NWHN site lately, go take a look – it has been redesigned to a spiffy new look, with news and blog posts, connections to social media, and lots of great information about the organization and the health issues they work on.


January 3, 2012

Congratulations to Our Editor, Kiki!

This is a purely congratulatory post, full of love and cheer and good wishes for our OBOS colleague Kiki Zeldes, who got married Dec. 30 to Susan Galereave.

Susan Galereave and Kiki Zeldes Everyone who has ever fallen in love has a story to tell. Kiki and Susan’s just happened to make the Weddings & Celebrations section of The New York Times. Here’s the best part, as written by Leann Wilcox:

The couple first met in the early 1980s, after being introduced by mutual friends. They did not reconnect until spring 2007, when Ms. Galereave’s daughter, Jasmine, then age 7, and Ms. Zeldes’s son, Jesse, then 6, began playing together at a potluck get-together for single lesbian mothers in Northampton. The moms and kids quickly became a foursome, sharing meals, games and adventures, but it was difficult for Ms. Galereave and Ms. Zeldes to find time alone, until the very last day of the year.

The couple had planned a holiday weekend getaway with the children to a friend’s house at Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire. On New Year’s Eve day, they took the children tubing in the snow for hours, with an ulterior motive to wear them out. Once back at their friend’s house for the evening, they set the clocks forward three hours, happily allowing Jasmine and Jesse to stay up until “midnight.”

Once the children fell asleep, Ms. Galereave and Ms. Zeldes celebrated New Year’s Eve with their first kiss.

“This New Year’s they’ll be staying up as late as they want,” Ms. Zeldes said of their children. Then she laughed and added, “We may not make it up till midnight.”

For the record, Kiki and Susan didn’t stay awake to ring in the New Year. And neither did Jesse and Jasmine.


September 7, 2009

Women & Labor: Lillian Moller Gilbreth, Peggy Olson and the Next Generation

Hope you’re all relaxing today, at least for a little bit. Here are a few articles that seem fitting in honor of Labor Day …

- At Women’s eNews, Kate Kelly describes the work of Lillian Moller Gilbreth, also known as the Mother of Modern Management, who was an industrial engineer and a pioneer in creating work environments that met the needs of the disabled. This is the first I’ve heard of Gilbreth, a mother of 12, and continued to read more about her incredible life at Webster and Wikipedia. Gilbreth’s papers are at Smith College.

- From Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz: “Last week, in a 5-1 ruling, the highest court here ruled that an Ohio law that bans discrimination against pregnant women does not protect them from punishment for taking unauthorized breaks to use a breast pump after they birth those babies. And you thought we were a trendsetter only in presidential election years.” Read on.

mad_men_peggy_olson

- “Mad Men,” my favorite TV show of the moment, offers a poignant look at the trials of women in the workplace in the early 1960s. The series is set at a growing ad agency on Madison Avenue (that’s copywriter Peggy Olson, played by Elisabeth Moss, above), and it’s full of cringe-worthy moments. Seven of the show’s nine writers are women, which Amy Chozick notes is a rarity in Hollywood television.

Joan Wickersham, who worked as a copywriter in a Boston ad agency in the 1980s, writes in the Boston Globe that “long after the 1960s, the workplace was still stuck in the same cultural blind spot satirized in ‘Mad Men.’” She shares this story of a client presenting prototypes of two computer games — the one targeted to boys involved building a railway empire; the one targeted to girls involved deciding where to put furniture in a house.

I suggested to the client that maybe the girls’ game needed a little more substance. The boys’ game was ambitious, intellectually challenging – couldn’t something similar be devised for the girls? Or maybe they didn’t need their own game. Maybe they’d be just as excited as the boys about building a railway empire. Maybe . . .

One of the men I worked with gave me a look. A look that said: “You’re being a pest, and a troublemaker. Shut up.’’

And I did.

Fast forward another 25 years, and consider Wal-Mart’s gendered back-to-school commercials, as described by Claire Mysko:

Boy version with Mom voiceover: “I can’t go to class with him. I can’t do his history report for him, or show the teachers how curious he is. That’s his job. My job is to give him everything he needs to succeed while staying within a budget…I love my job.” Cut to boy with his new affordable laptop. He’s getting applause from his teacher and the students in the class as he delivers a report.

Girl version with Mom voiceover:“I can’t go to school with her. I can’t introduce her to new friends.” Cut to girl nervously asking “Can I sit here?” to a group of girls sitting together at lunch. “Sure, I like your top!” one of them answers. “Or tell everyone how amazing she is. But I can give her what she needs to feel good about herself without breaking my budget. All she has to do is be herself.” Cut to smiling girls walking arm-in-arm down the hallway.

It appears that much work still needs to be done.


April 26, 2009

Bea Arthur: Thank You for Being a Friend

Bea Arthur, known best for her roles as Maude Findlay in the television situation comedy “Maude” and Dorothy Zbornak in “The Golden Girls,” and for her earlier stage work, died Saturday at the age of 86. The cause was cancer, a family spokesperson said.

“Maude,” an off-shoot of “All in the Family,” aired from  1972 to 1978. Calling it groundbreaking is not hyperbole, as this excerpt from the Museum of Broadcast Communications demonstrates:

Like many of [Norman] Lear’s productions, “Maude” was a character-centered sitcom. Maude Findlay was opinionated like Archie Bunker, but her politics and class position were completely different. Strong-willed, intelligent and articulate, the liberal progressive Maude spoke out on issues raised less openly on Lear’s highly successful “All in the Family.” While questions of race, class and gender politics reverberated throughout both, certain specific issues, like menopause, birth control and abortion were more openly confronted on “Maude.”

In a two-part episode that ran early in the series, the 47-year-old Maude finds out that she’s pregnant and decides, with her husband Walter, that she would have an abortion which, had just been made legal in New York state. Part two of the double episode also dealt with men and birth control as Walter considers getting a vasectomy. Thousands of viewers wrote letters in protest of the episode because of the abortion issue.

“It was a little slice of realism rarely seen today, when the option of abortion is so often pushed again into the virtual back room and rarely mentioned in pop culture; the movie ‘Knocked Up’, for example, uses the euphemism ‘rhymes with smashmortion’ rather than mention this — the most common women’s surgical procedure — by name,” writes Gloria Feldt.

Feldt adds that with her next television hit, “The Golden Girls,” “Arthur had a chance to open up for public discussion yet one more previously off-limits topic: aging, especially the issues women face aging in a youth-oriented culture.”

Jill Miller Zimon has a round-up of links and “Maude” lyrics. This scene from “Maude” gives you an idea of how television once dealt directly with abortion:

The viewers’ response surprised Arthur.

“The reaction really knocked me for a loop,” she told The New York Times in 1978. “I really hadn’t thought about the abortion issue one way or the other. The only thing we concerned ourselves with was: Was the show good? We thought we did it brilliantly; we were so very proud of not copping out with it.”

“I think we made television a little more adult,” Arthur also said. “I really do.”


April 18, 2009

National Library Week, Judith Krug & OBOB’s Own Librarian Hero

library_journal_movers_and_April 12-18 is National Library Week — “an annual celebration of the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians.”

While this is obviously a great time to think about all the resources libraries offer, for young people and adults, and to thank librarians for the services they provide, I’m going to turn the focus on a librarian who works right here: co-blogger Rachel Walden.

When Rachel isn’t breaking down the latest health study or policy statement for Our Bodies Ourselves, or offering smart, funny analysis at her own site, Women’s Health News, she’s a medical librarian at an academic medical center.

And, what’s more, she was recently named one of Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers, a “who’s who of creativity and library trends in the field.”

Rachel was spotlighted in the activist category. Here’s some of what Library Journal said:

Walden is best known for demanding answers and action in the POPLINE abortion controversy. In spring 2008, POPLINE, the major database on global reproductive health, limited researchers’ ability to search on “abortion” by making it a stopword. Its rationale: USAID funding put it under the global “gag rule” restricting discussion of abortion. “As a librarian,” says Walden, “I was angry that access to information was being quietly restricted based on a political agenda.”

Walden spread the word on her Women’s Health News blog, providing clear explanations and contacting reproductive rights and feminist activists. “This was not just an issue for librarians,” recalls Walden, but “for everybody who cares about reproductive rights and the effects of the global gag rule.”

The POPLINE controversy sums up Walden’s ongoing mission “to connect people with health-related information.” For Walden, librarianship and blogging boil down to one thing: “here’s some information, let me share it with you.”

Read the whole write-up. Seriously, she amazes me.

Plus: On a sadder note, Judith Krug, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and a tremendous advocate for free speech, died last Saturday. Krug helped found Banned Books Week in 1982, and, more recently, she stood up against internet and video game censorship. She also fought against the 2001 Patriot Act, which granted government officials access to confidential library records and visitors’ reading materials.

Jessamyn West and Cynthia Samuels have more. The New York Times ends with a story that nicely sums up Krug’s straightforward approach:

Ms. Krug credited her parents as inspiring her passion for free expression. In 2002, she told The Chicago Tribune about reading a sex-education book under the covers with a flashlight when she was 12.

“It was a hot book; I was just panting,” she said, when her mother suddenly threw back the bed covers and asked what she was doing. Judith timidly held up the book.

“She said, ‘For God’s sake, turn on your bedroom light so you don’t hurt your eyes.’ And that was that,” Ms. Krug said.


January 24, 2009

Kay Yow, 1942-2009

Almost two years ago we pointed to a story about Kay Yow, the Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach at North Carolina State, who continued to coach as she received treatment for Stage 4 breast cancer.

Yow died today in Cary, N.C. She was 66. Read The New York Times obituary of this truly amazing woman and one of the greatest coaches in women’s basketball history.


January 23, 2009

Teen Voices Interview With Poet Elizabeth Alexander

Wouldn’t you love to sit down, one-on-one, and talk about writing with Elizabeth Alexander, the nationally-renowned African American poet, essayist, playwright, teacher — and, as the world now knows, President Obama’s poet-of-choice?

Wilza Merzeus, 18, feature editor of Teen Voices magazine, had the opportunity to do just that. The text of their conversation has been posted online.

In addition to discussing poetry and feminism during the spring 2008 interview, Alexander offers sound, healthy advice for young poets:

Read all the time; always have a book [with you]. Read widely and diversely; read more than you ever imagined you could. Keep learning and keep taking in examples of what good writing is. It’s very important to keep healthy, to attend to the health of your body. It’s difficult to listen to your distinct and magical voices if your body is not as it should be. That means fresh unpackaged foods, moving [your body] every day, and spending some time in a quiet space. [...]

I was at the inauguration, though so far back (as in: Lincoln-Memorial-far) that I enjoyed watching it all again. Here’s Alexander, reading what I though was an exquisite poem (text):


January 1, 2009

A New Year Review of Women’s Health Heroes

Among the many luminaries who died in 2008 are women who made significant contributions in the areas of women’s health and hospice care. Please add names and links we might have missed in the comments.

Pamela Morgan | b. 1949
In November, Our Bodies Ourselves lost one its founders, Pamela Morgan. A writer, editor and administrative manager of the organization in its early days, Morgan was “one of these extraordinarily multitalented individuals, and as a dancer, everything she did was with élan and flair,” said Judy Norsigian, executive director of OBOS.

Remembrances by other OBOS co-founders who had the privilege of working closely with Pamela can be read here.

Barbara Seaman | b. 1935
Barbara Seaman, a self-described muckraker, co-founded the National Women’s Health Network in 1975. A tireless advocate, she is credited with helping to create the concept of patients’ rights, particularly “informed consent,” and is well-known for her writings on women’s health. Her first book, “The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill” (1969), led to congressional hearings on the safety of oral contraceptives. “The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women” (2003) was an expose of hormone replacement therapy.

OBOS co-founder Norma Swenson wrote wrote a rememberance of Barbara Seaman focusing on their involvement in the early women’s health movement.

Edwina Froelich | b. 1915
In the 1950s, Edwina Froelich was part of a group of suburban Chicago moms who met at each other’s homes to help new mothers with breastfeeding. The seven women, all Catholic housewives, founded the La Leche League.

“In those days you didn’t mention ‘breast’ in print,” Froehlich once said. “We knew that if we were ever going to get anything in the paper we would have to find a name that wouldn’t actually tell people what our organization was about.”

When we first wrote about her death in June, it sparked a discussion about La Leche and feminism. In an essay about Froelich published in The New York Times Magazine last week, Emily Bazelon addresses the history of the organization and its attitude toward working mothers.

Florence Wald | b. 1917
Here’s a hero we haven’t yet mentioned. In the 1960s, after attending a lecture by a British physician about opening the world’s first hospice, Florence Wald resigned her position as dean of the Yale School of Nursing to focus on developing a hospice care center in the United States.

“In those days, terminally ill patients went through hell, and the family was never involved,” she said. “No one accepted that life cannot go on ad infinitum.”

In 1974, Connecticut Hospice, the nation’s first home-care program for the terminally ill, opened its doors. A 44-patient hospice opened six years later. From The New York Times:

“This hospice became a model for hospice care in the United States and abroad,” the publication Yale Nursing Matters said this week, adding that Mrs. Wald’s role “in reshaping nursing education to focus on patients and their families has changed the perception of care for the dying in this country.”

There are now more than 3,000 hospice programs in the United States, serving about 900,000 patients a year.

In recent years, Mrs. Wald had concentrated on extending the hospice care model to dying prison inmates.

“People on the outside don’t understand this world at all,” Mrs. Wald told The New York Times in 1998. “Most people in prison have had a rough time in life and haven’t had any kind of education in how to take care of their health.”

Rosetta Reitz | b. 1924
Rosetta Reitz is best known for her support of women involved in early jazz and blues — stars who were overlooked in the shadow of male performers. With $10,000 borrowed from friends, Reitz created Rosetta Records, releasing 17 albums of lost music. But as The New York Times notes, music history was just one of Reitz’s accomplishments:

Ms. Reitz was at different times a stockbroker, a bookstore proprietor and the owner of a greeting card business. She was a food columnist for The Village Voice, a professor, a classified-advertising manager and author of a book on mushrooms. She was a founding member of Older Women’s Liberation. She reared three daughters as a single parent.

Ms. Reitz also wrote “Menopause: A Positive Approach” (1977), considered one of the first books to look at menopause from the viewpoint of women and not doctors. She listened to her recordings of women while she wrote the book, many of them celebrating the strength of women rather than treating them as victims.

“I was so alone and needed to be nurtured, and I found I was getting it from them,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 1992.


December 11, 2008

Remembering Pamela Morgan, OBOS Founder

Pamela Morgan, one of the founders of Our Bodies Ourselves, died Nov. 17. She was 59.

Over at OBOS, we’ve posted remembrances by other founders who had the privilege of working closely with Pamela.

The first, by Norma Swenson, beautifully captures how many will remember Pamela. The second remembrance, by Miriam Hawley, describes her experience training for and running the Bonnie Belle 10K race with Pamela. Judy Norsigian recalls a special event underscoring one of Pamela’s many talents. Additional reflections may be posted in the future.

Pamela had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about a year ago. In an article published in the Newton Tab, Pamela’s husband, Jonathan Lilienfeld, describes her “special understanding of people,” and friends spoke of her drive to help others and her involvement in the lives of her sons, age 15 and 20. After learning of her diagnosis, Pamela got to work on home improvement projects.

“She wanted to make sure that if she wasn’t here, we’d be all set,” her husband said.

Pamela was a professional dancer and active in the First Unitarian Society in Newton. A memorial service will be held there at 2 p.m. Dec. 20.

The Boston Globe captures her role with OBOS:

Beginning in the late 1970s, Ms. Morgan worked for a decade with the collective whose book on women’s health has gone through multiple updated editions. Originally called the Boston Women’s Health Collective, the nonprofit changed its name several years ago to Our Bodies Ourselves – minus the comma that appears in the book’s title.

“In Our Body Ourselves, she wore many hats,” [Sally] Whelan said. “Pamela was a writer and editor of the book, and she was also our administrative manager.”

Judy Norsigian, executive director of Our Bodies Ourselves, recalled Ms. Morgan as “one of these extraordinarily multitalented individuals, and as a dancer, everything she did was with élan and flair.”

One of Ms. Morgan’s talents, Norsigian and Whelan said, was keeping things organized and helping the nonprofit grow beyond its early days.

“Along with the founders, she was absolutely key in moving Our Bodies Ourselves from its days as a collective with a groundbreaking book to a nonprofit organization with more infrastructure that would then be able to carry the work into the future,” Whelan said. “I think it often gets lost because everybody emphasizes the book – and rightfully so, because it was so groundbreaking. But Pamela helped it go forward.”

Said Norsigian: “She was a caring and attentive person and a great problem solver. We have a big name and a big footprint, but we’ve always had a tiny budget. Part of the reason for our success is because of people like Pamela.”

Ms. Morgan also helped the collective develop the women’s health and learning center, a program at MCI-Framingham that helped educate inmates at the women’s prison about nutrition, pregnancy, and other matters.

But for thousands of women who called the collective from other states and other countries, Ms. Morgan was the voice on the phone directing them to information and health resources.

“She was a terrific and easy communicator with women,” Whelan said. “Pamela was really genuinely interested in people and their stories and their issues. She would get on the line with someone and it was like she was talking with a friend.”


September 15, 2008

Ruth Lubic, Birth Center Founder, Profiled on CBS

Last week, CBS News profiled Ruth Lubic — Certified Nurse Midwife, MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant recipient, and founder of the DC Birth Center at the DC Developing Families Center.

Inspired to act by Washington, D.C.’s infant mortality rate — twice that of the nation as a whole — Lubic and her team work to reduce that rate by providing education and healthcare to women and their families. The birth center provides prenatal care, childbirth education, education on preventing premature delivery, nurse-midwife care (at the Center or in a hospital), postpartum care, and other health services for women and children.

According to the CBS piece, “After 800 babies in eight years, they have never lost a child in childbirth, and has cut the rate of premature births — the biggest risk factor for infant mortality — in half.”

Check out the video from CBS, and don’t miss 81-year-old Lubic’s response to the mention of retirement.

After a brief conversation with Lubic, it’s clear that she keeps quite busy advocating for infant mortality improvements.

Among her many activities, she appeared before Congressman Steve Cohen’s (D-TN) briefing on infant mortality last fall (Cohen represents Memphis, Tenn., which also has a shockingly high infant mortality rate), and will participate in another Congressional briefing this week. She will be part of a panel and blog launch event, “Disruptive Women in Health Care,” on the 25th of this month at the National Press Club.

To find out more about Lubic and the Center’s work, check out this video, as well as the articles listed below.

  • Lubic RW. Labor of Love: Nurse Midwife Ruth Watson Lubic. Interview by Leslie Knowlton. Am J Nurs. 2007 Apr;107(4):86-7.
  • David R. Go to Ruth’s House: A Response to Infant Mortality. Birth. 2008 Jun;35(2):89-91.

  • August 21, 2008

    Remembrances: Stephanie Tubbs Jones, 1949-2008

    With the death of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the first black woman to represent Ohio in Congress, we’ve lost an incredible advocate for women’s reproductive rights and health care for all.

    The memorial service may be held a week from Saturday, on Aug. 30, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

    I was looking for a link that summed up the congresswoman’s passion and found this text and video of Jones reading the poem “And the Women Gathered” by Gloria Wade-Gayles (from Feb. 29, 2000). Here’s an excerpt:

    And the world took notice
    That women are warriors
    (Always have been even in the beginning)
    And so they gathered as women will
    In the very eye of the storm
    Pushing against its fury
    With their own
    And the world took notice
    That women birth babies
    And revolutions
    The women gathered
    Ten thousand Rosas inspired by one
    You saw them.
    You saw them.
    You saw them.
    You saw them.
    The world saw them.

    Below are some tributes — feel free to add your own thoughts or additional links in the comments.

    - NPR: U.S. Reps. James Clyburn (D-SC) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) join Farai Chideya in offering remembrances.

    - Pam Spaulding has reaction from officials.

    - Columnist Connie Schultz writes, “Our friendship was forged by her to-the-bones understanding of what it means to be a woman willing to stick your neck out for your beliefs. I so appreciated never having to explain the punch line. She’d seen it all.”


    March 20, 2008

    Barbara Seaman’s New York Times Legacy

    When women’s health writer and activist Barbara Seaman died Feb. 27 of lung cancer, her death sent shockwaves through feminist and women’s health communities.

    Also shocking was The New York Times story on Seaman’s death, which many OBOS readers said they found insulting and mean-spirited.

    The first half or so provides a fair, if limited, overview of Seaman’s work and the impact she had on the women’s health movement, which included co-founding the National Women’s Health Network in 1975. But it s surprising that there are no comments from any of Seaman’s colleagues or those familiar with her work.

    And once Seaman’s books and the surviving family members are listed, the story takes a turn for the worse. The only quote included is a book reviewer’s critique, in which Seaman is called “a conspiracy theorist by temperament and training.” Attention is then turned to this 20-year-old episode:

    In the 1990s, Ms. Seaman also began to speak out publicly against domestic violence, from which she said she had suffered during her marriage to Mr. Forman. Though she did not identify Mr. Forman by name in the news media, court records show that in 1988 he was arrested and charged with assault after Ms. Seaman accused him of punching her in the face. The criminal case against Mr. Forman was later thrown out, Dudley Gaffin, his lawyer at the time, said in a telephone interview on Thursday.

    Reached by telephone on Thursday, Mr. Forman denied having assaulted Ms. Seaman, calling the accusation of assault “a divorce tactic” on her part.

    It’s amazing that the past is dredged up like this — and, after doing so, the last word is left to Seaman’s ex.

    In a letter to The New York Times, Our Bodies Ourselves Executive Director Judy Norsigian wrote:

    I was taken aback by the petty and gossipy nature of parts of the obituary for Barbara Seaman and hope that the Times will consider issuing an apology at least to her family. The comments of her ex-husband and his lawyer were particularly inappropriate (as one reporter noted to me, there are all sorts of reasons that a case is dropped – and they often have nothing to do with the culpability of the accused). Readers were left with a pretty clear sense that the NY Times thought that Barbara had made false accusations about Milt Forman’s behavior.

    Mostly, I am getting emails about the poor taste exhibited on the part of the Times. Rather than include some of the more substantive criticisms and disagreements that she may have had with colleagues, the piece relied on a few rather general and unopposed character assaults.

    As someone who has been close to other luminaries whose obituaries in the Times could easily have included far more damning commentary than was noted in this obituary (and with far better evidence for the character assault), I was left wondering if there was some mean-spirited motivation at play here. In any case, I was sorry to see what I consider a major journalistic lapse.

    Naomi at A Little Red Hen offers a similar critique. Her post is also a personal remembrance of Seaman — both women were students at Oberlin in the 1950s and their paths had crossed several times since then.

    After referencing “a respectful obit” in the Washington Post, Naomi writes:

    How unregarded significant women like her continue to be is apparent in Saturday’s New York Times obituary. First, I’d have expected that it would have been written by someone who knew her work, not someone from the obit staff. Most of the week after Barbara’s death had been taken up in the Times with paens to the conservative writer, William Buckley who charmed many in the media. Barbara did not charm. Was this the reason the Times focused on details of her personal life rather than her continuing role as a muckraker, still writing about the dangers of estrogen all these years later.

    For comparison, read the more thoughtful obit in the Washington Post — or this one from the L.A. Times. Both are representative of obituaries that a woman of Barbara Seaman’s insight and intellect deserves.

    Plus: For an even more intimate view, read OBOS co-founder Norma Swenson’s passionate remembrance of Seaman that focuses on their involvement in the early women’s health movement.


    February 27, 2008

    Remembering Barbara Seaman

    Barbara Seaman

    We at OBOS are saddened to report that Barbara Seaman, co-founder of the National Women’s Health Network, noted feminist, women’s health activist, and author, died this morning. Seaman’s life and work leave much to be celebrated, as she was a tireless advocate for informed consent and exposing information on hormonal medications, including publication of the breakthrough 1969 book “The Doctors’ Case against the Pill,” which led to Congressional hearings on oral contraception and ultimately to the first safety warning on the drug.

    Born in 1935 and an Oberlin College graduate and Sloan-Rockefeller Science Writing Fellowship winner at the Columbia University School of Journalism, Seaman authored and contributed to numerous additional works on women’s health topics during her career, including “The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth,” “For Women Only!: Your Guide to Health Empowerment,” and “Women and the Crisis in Sex Hormones.” Seaman also edited a collection of essays by major figures from feminism and women’s health, “Body Politic: Dispatches from the Women’s Health Revolution.”

    Gloria Steinem has high praise for Seaman, stating, “There is no single person on earth who has done more to advance women’s health, to make an intimate difference in millions of women’s lives, and to inform consumers so they can transform healthcare.”

    OBOS’s own Judy Norsigian has also recognized Seaman’s impressive contributions: “Barbara has been a steady beacon and truth-teller in the women’s health movement for almost half a century. I consider myself so lucky to be among the hundreds of students and activists she has supported and guided over the years. She has helped Our Bodies Ourselves at so many critical junctures with both practical and philosophical issues, including her successful efforts to find a publisher — Seven Stories Press — for the 2000 edition of ‘Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas.’ ”

    Profiles and Remembrances:

    Update: Norma Swenson, one of the founders of Our Bodies Ourselves, has written a tribute to Barbara that we’ve posted at the OBOS website.