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Schlesinger Library / Collections

Boston Women’s Health Book Collective Records

The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective is renowned for its grassroots global effort to advance the health and rights of women and girls.

Norma Swenson and Betsy Cole at exhibit booth for Our Bodies, Ourselves
Norma Swenson and Betsy Cole at exhibit booth for Our Bodies, Ourselves, ca. 1980. Boston Women's Health Book Collective Records.

In 1969, a small group of women in Boston, frustrated by a lack of useful medical information, began to educate themselves and others about their bodies. The fruit of this endeavor, which took shape in an ongoing process of discovering and sharing knowledge collectively, was a groundbreaking book: Our Bodies, Ourselves. It was hailed as the “bible of women’s health” and has since been translated and adapted into more than 25 languages.

Records in the Schlesinger Library collections describe the making of Our Bodies, Ourselves and the later publications produced by the collective: Ourselves and Our Children (1978), Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships (1980), and Ourselves, Growing Older: Women Aging with Knowledge and Power (1987 and 1994), among others. Records also trace the collective’s efforts to mobilize its international contacts to facilitate translation/adaptation projects, as well as the establishment in 2001 of the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative.

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