"New York Times" reviews "Our Bodies, Ourselves"
March 13, 1973
In 1969, a group of women began meeting in the Boston area to discuss women's health issues. They began the research and writing of a 138-page newsprint booklet, combining first-person accounts and careful research, titled "Women and Their Bodies," which they published in 1970. In 1971 the group was legally incorporated as the Boston Women's Health Book Collective. Of the 12 women participating in this incorporation, nine were Jewish, including Esther Rome, Paula Doress-Waters, Joan Ditzion, and Nancy Miriam Hawley.
The first edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves appeared in 1971, and an expanded mass-market version was published by Simon and Schuster in 1973. Like the prototype booklet, Our Bodies, Ourselves combined women's authentic voices with solid medical information gathered from published research and an understanding that women's health issues involved social, economic, and political factors as well as narrowly defined medical ones. It was the first book to address women's health issues frankly, in common-sense language, and from the perspectives of women themselves. It was also timely, appearing just as abortion was becoming legal and soon after the birth control pill became widely available, sparking a revolution in American sexual mores. The book was an instant hit. Though condemned by some public figures as pornographic, and banned from some schools, the first edition sold more than 350,000 copies. A New York Times review published on March 13, 1973, called the book "lucidly informative;" the (male) reviewer added, "I don't see how any sensible woman-even an antifeminist one-could fail to be enlightened" by it.
Our Bodies, Ourselves pioneered what became an international women's health movement. Today, the book is in its eighth edition (2005, subtitled A New Edition for A New Era). To date, it has sold (in all editions) more than four million copies and been translated and/or culturally adapted into 19 languages and Braille.
To learn more about Our Bodies, Ourselves co-editor, Esther Rome, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.
Sources:New York Times, March 13, 1973, June 27, 1995, June 22, 1997; www.bwhbc.org; Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 1162-1163; Joyce Antler, The Journey Home: How Jewish Women Shaped Modern America (New York, 1997), p. 282; communications to JWA from Judy Norsigian and Sally Whelan, February 2006; Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution, jwa.org/feminism/index.html?id=JWA034.