Shaping Women's Lives - Our Bodies, Ourselves

How one book shaped women’s health for forty years, and counting.

Our Bodies, Ourselves — published by Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (1971) — has long been hailed as the “women’s health bible.” Envisioning women as informed and self-determined, capable of making empowered decisions, the book placed women’s health in a new socio-political context and helped to launch a national and international women’s health movement. In 2012, the Library of Congress added the influential Our Bodies, Ourselves to its list of “Books That Shaped America.”

In the early 1970s a dozen Boston feminists collaborated in this groundbreaking publication that presented accurate information on women’s health and sexuality based on their own experiences. Advocating improved doctor-patient communication and shared decision-making, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” explored ways for women to take charge of their own health issues and to work for political and cultural change that would ameliorate women’s lives.

Library of Congress, Press Release, June 21, 2012

The “Books That Shaped America” is an impressive list. From Benjamin Franklin’s series of letters on Experiments and Observations on Electricity (1751), Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820), Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868) to other classics such Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951) and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind (1936), this collection by U.S. writers helped to shape “Americans’ views of the world, and the world’s views of America.”

Our Bodies, Ourselves joined the Library of Congress’ influential collection with the 2012 exhibition. Listed alongside E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (1952), Joseph’s Heller’s Catch-22 (1961), Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (1980), Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved (1987), and The Words of César Chávez (2002), this notable book by and for women certainly shaped women’s lives. By identifying and collaborating with individuals and organizations that provide services, generate research and policy analysis, and organize for social change, the book urged women to inform themselves about health issues. It set a new foundation for evidence-based, culturally appropriate information on women’s health, sexuality, and reproduction. Books do affect our lives in important and varied ways.

1973 Library of CongressSince its original publication more than forty years ago, Our Bodies, Ourselves sold more than 4 million copies and was donated to hundreds of thousands of women’s centers worldwide. Now in its ninth edition (2011) the book contains the best available evidence on reproductive health, menopause and aging, sexuality, body image, relationships, gender identity, domestic violence, environmental health, global perspectives, and navigating the healthcare system. With resources in 29 languages (print and on-line), women around the globe access quality information about health, health-care inequities, decision-making, and advocacy.

On A Personal Note

Judy-Norsigian2-226x218

Judy Norsigian, Lown Institute Conference, Road to RightCare 2015

I met executive director and a founder of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, Judy Norsigian, a few weeks ago at the third annual Lown Institute Conference, Road to RightCare: Engage, Organize, Transform. She was part of a panel discussion on “Social and Community Organizing for Change.”

Judy Norsigian is a smart, impassioned speaker who is deeply committed to social justice, empowerment, and public and ethical responsibility in medicine and research. One of my favorite Norsigian statements was that, “gatekeepers no longer have the control they had in the past.” With the Internet and social media, we can learn, share, evaluate, reflect, and work with each other and with key experts and others to organize for change. I shook her hand for luck!

Related: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a documentary featuring Judy Norsigian opens next month at several locations. Take a sneak peak.

This article was first published on Psychology Today »

Be Sociable, Share!

To speak her truth, she needed to give her words and identity away, to a trusted poet and friend @stevedavenport breastcancerconsortium.net/ov…

“Pink Ribbon Blues”

Paperback includes a new Introduction on fundraising controversies and a color insert with images of, and reactions to, the pinking of breast cancer (2012).


Praise » 

Flyer »

Press Release »

Hardback Cover »

Paperback Cover »

Request Review Copies »

Order the Paperback »

* GAYLE IN THE MEDIA *

"Seeing clearly through the pink haze" Toronto Sun

*Sad face*: Being happy does not help you live longer" New Scientist

How should we address breast cancer when norms continually change? The Guardian

Your Fun 'No Bra Day' Photos Are Overshadowing Terminal Breast Cancer Patients Broadly

Backlash against “pinkwashing” of breast cancer awareness campaigns BMJ

Breast Cancer to Rise 50 Percent by 2030? Hey, Not So Fast! Health News Review

Breast Cancer: The Flaws in the Cause iafrica.com

How to Make the Biggest Impact With Your Breast Cancer Donations Money

The Very Pink, Very Controversial Business of Breast Cancer Awareness Racked

NFL, Pink Ribbons Not Enough to Win over Women CNN

3 Questions We Need to Answer for Breast Cancer Awareness Month Chronicle of Philanthropy

The problem with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Women's Health Magazine

Pink Ribbon Envy: Living with an Uncool Cancer The Nib

A Year After Bombings, Some Say 'Boston Strong' Has Gone Overboard NPR, All Things Considered

Canadian Mammogram Study KCRW, NPR Affiliate

Time to Debunk the Mammography Myth CNN

Breast Cancer: Awareness, Activism & Pinkwashing NPR Charlotte

Buying Pink Al Jazeera's The Stream Watch »

The Pink Backlash Orlando Sentinel

Why Jolie's Test Costs So Much CNN

Preventative Mastectomies: Disease and Deception BlogTalkRadio

Angelina Jolie and the 'Breast Cancer Gene' KCRW

Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer The New York Times Magazine.

The Story Behind the Pink Ribbon Campaign Sisters Talk Radio

WISH Interview Women's International Summit for Health

Making Cancer About The Patient, Not The Body Part CBS Pittsburgh

Sexy breast cancer campaigns anger many patients USA Today

The perils of pink The Daily

Komen pink campaign creates breast-cancer blues for some Dallas Morning News

A yellow flag for the NFL's pink New York Daily

Gayle Sulik named #7 in SharecareNow’s Top 10 Online Influencers in Breast Cancer

Breast cancer cancer causes so easily derailed Philly Inquirer

Komen Charity Under Microscope for Funding, Science Reuters

The Fight Against Cancer - And Abortion? Salon.com

Susan G. Komen For the Cure defunds Planned Parenthood. In Deep with Angie Coiro

Amid Breast Cancer Month, Is there Pink Fatigue? NPR's All Things Considered

How is Breast Cancer Culture Undermining Women's Health? America’s Radio News Network

Pink Ribbon Culture and Breast Cancer The Kojo Nnamdi Show

The Big Business of Breast Cancer
Marie Claire

Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Crowd Out Other Diseases? Slate

Pink Inc. Has Many Starting to See Red The Sacramento Bee

Get Your Pink Off Ottawa Citizen

Komen Pink Ribbons Raise Green and Questions USA Today

** MORE MEDIA LINKS **
** MORE RADIO INTERVIEWS **