Introduction
*
This is a book about a book: the feminist classic on women’s health,
Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS), and how it “traveled.” The story begins
in 1969. The country was in turmoil over the Vietnam War. Richard
“Tricky Dick” Nixon had just been elected president after the riots
at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Radical activ-
ism was everywhere: the civil rights movement and its offshoots—
Black Power, La Raza, and the American Indian movement; antiwar
demonstrations and draft resistance; radical student activism of the
Marxist, socialist, or anarchist persuasion; hippies, yippies, and the
“sexual revolution”; and, last but not least, a burgeoning women’s
movement. It was in this context that a small group of young women
met at a workshop called Women and Their Bodies, held at one of
the first feminist conferences in the United States, which took place
in Boston. Some of the women had already been active in the civil
rights movement or had helped draft resisters during the Vietnam
War, but this was for many of them their first encounter with femi-
nism. They talked about their sexuality (which was still, despite the
sexual revolution, very much taboo), abortion (which was illegal—
Roe v. Wade wasn’t decided until 1973), their experiences with preg-
nancy and childbirth (several were young mothers), and their frustra-
tions with physicians and health care. The group, which later evolved
into the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (BWHBC), began
to meet regularly. Its members collected information about health
issues (which was, unlike today, scarce and hard to find) and wrote
papers, which they discussed in meetings attended by increasing
numbers of local women. These meetings were electrifying, leaving
many of the participants irrevocably changed.
A year later the group assembled the discussion papers, and the
first version of OBOS was born. Originally printed on newsprint by
an underground publisher and selling for seventy-five cents, OBOS
was a lively and accessible manual on women’s bodies and health. It
was full of personal experiences and contained useful information
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