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Our Bodies, Ourselves

  Our Bodies, Ourselves is a book about women's health and sexuality produced by the nonprofit organization Our Bodies Ourselves (formerly the Boston Women's Health Book Collective). First published in 1973, it contains information related to many aspects of women's health and sexuality, including menopause, birth control, childbirth, sexual health, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental health and general well-being.

Now in its 12th edition, and published in over 20 languages and braille, the current edition, calling itself "a new edition for a new era," contains 832 pages, including new pictures, diagrams, and interviews. The New York Times has called the book "America's best-selling book on all aspects of women's health" and a "feminist classic." [1]

In addition the book has inspired single-topic spin-off books. In October 2006, the first of these books (on menopause) was published, with a childbirth book being released in March 2008.

Additional recommended knowledge



The book arose out of a 30-cent, 138-page booklet called Women and Their Bodies, published in 1970 by the New England Free Press, and written by 12 Boston feminist activists.

The booklet was originally intended as the basis for a women's health course, the first to be written for women by women. The health seminar that inspired the booklet was organized in 1969 by Nancy Miriam Hawley at Boston's Emmanuel College. "We weren't encouraged to ask questions, but to depend on the so-called experts," Hawley told Women's eNews. "Not having a say in our own health care frustrated and angered us. We didn't have the information we needed, so we decided to find it on our own." [2]

The women researched and wrote up the information themselves. Wendy Sanford wrote about abortion, Jane Pincus and Ruth Bell about pregnancy, and Paula Doress and Esther Rome about postpartum depression. The booklet sold 250,000 copies in New England without any formal advertising. [3]

As a result of their success, the women formed the non-profit Boston Women's Health Book Collective (which now goes by the name Our Bodies Ourselves) and published the first 276-page Our Bodies, Ourselves in 1973. It featured first-person stories from women, and tackled many topics then regarded as taboo. Since then, over four million copies have been sold. Simon & Schuster is the current publisher.


The first book was a product of the feminist movement and could still be said to reflect its values. The personal experiences of women are taken into account and are quoted throughout, while the social and political context of women's health informs the content of the book.

Topics such as male-to-female and female-to-male transsexualism/transgenderism are discussed in the most recent edition and considered in a nonjudgmental manner, despite the controversy to which they have been subject within the feminist movement. The writing style of the book tends toward a familiar, inclusive tone, with the authors referring to women and themselves as a collective group.

The current edition uses material published in the 1984, 1992, and 1998 editions, and was made possible from a grant by Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Boston University School of Public Health. The book's advisory committee included Teresa Heinz Kerry, Susan Love, and Gloria Steinem.

Chapter Topics in Book

Taking Care of Ourselves
1: Body Image
2: Eating Well
3: Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Mood-Altering Drugs
4: Our Bodies in Motion
5: Complementary Health Practices
6: Emotional Well-Being
7: Environmental and Occupational Health
8: Violence and Abuse

Relationships and Sexuality
9: Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
10: Relationships with Men
11: Relationships with Women
12: Sexuality

Sexual Health
13: Sexual Anatomy, Reproduction, and the menstrual cycle
14: Safer Sex
15: Sexually Transmitted Infections
16: HIV and AIDS

Reproductive Choices
17: Considering Parenting
18: Birth Control
19: Unexpected Pregnancy
20: Abortion

21: Pregnancy
22: Childbirth
23: The First Year of Parenting
24: Child-Bearing Loss
25: Infertility and Assisted Reproduction

Growing Older
26: Midlife and Menopause
27: Our Later Years

Medical Problems and Procedures
28: Unique to Women
29: Special Concerns for Women

Knowledge is Power
30: Navigating the Health Care System
31: The Politics of Women’s Health
32: Organizing for Change


On July 17, 2005, New York Times columnist Alexandra Jacobs wrote an unflattering review of the new edition of OBOS, stating that she disliked the pink cover, as well as the sharper editing and new policies. [4] The editors of the book responded in an August 14 letter to the editor stating they "appreciate[d] Jacobs's nostalgia for earlier editions," but that they were "evolv[ing] to stay relevant and accessible to [their] readers."

Earlier, Our Bodies, Ourselves was listed on the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's 50 Worst Books of the Twentieth Century. The book's website saw this as newsworthy but accepted the decision quite gracefully, even including the review on its site.


  1. ^  New York Times review
  2. ^ OBOS editor's response
  3. ^  Back cover.
  • Ginty, Molly M. "Our Bodies, Ourselves Turns 35 Today", Women's eNews, May 04, 2004

Further reading

  • Our Bodies, Ourselves companion website
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Our_Bodies,_Ourselves". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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