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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 503: T-321: Vt-134

Records of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, 1905-2003 (inclusive), 1972-1997 (bulk)


Records of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, a non-profit women's health education, advocacy and consulting organization that grew out of a small discussion group in 1969, and first became known for their pioneering handbook, Our Bodies, Ourselves.


  • Creation: 1905-2003
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1972-1997


Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. All readers must sign a special form. Access is unrestricted, with the following exceptions: personnel records (#5.1-5.23) are closed 70 years from date of creation; general correspondence of a personal nature (#70.7-73.9) is closed 70 years from date of creation, unless otherwise noted; visitor sign-in sheets (#90.10-90.12) are closed 70 years from date of creation; interviews with parents (#122.4-122.5, 122.9-123.21) are closed until January 1, 2039; original letters in Series XVI, Subseries D (#161.1-162.12) are closed 75 years from date of creation (redacted photocopies are available for research); and individual folders or items are closed as noted to protect personal privacy.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in records created by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other records in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the director of the Schlesinger Library before publishing quotations from materials in the collection.

Copying. Unrestricted records may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


67.76 linear feet ((161 file boxes, 3 half file boxes) plus 2 folio folders, 5 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder, 10 photograph folders, 2 folio photograph folders, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 5 audiotapes, 1 videotape, and electronic records)

When received by the Schlesinger Library, many records were in folders without headings, apparently transferred there from hanging files. Others were loose in the boxes. Archivists created the filing system and folder headings (noted in square brackets) for such records. Records received in folders with relevant headings retain their original headings.

Members of the Collective and staff frequently reused paper that already had printing on one side; the backs of pages rarely have any relevance to the front. Such documents have been filed by the archivists according to the most recent date. Documents, including personal letters, were circulated among the Collective, and have been left where found. Personal letters were frequently addressed to more than one member; folders found with an individual member's papers often include correspondence to and from others. Folders may also include correspondence about, as well as by, a particular correspondent. Some folder contents were left in their original reverse chronological order. Academic papers by others with no annotations were discarded. Documents that included sticky Post-it notes were photocopied with the note in place, and notes were then removed; folders include both the original documents and their photocopies.

There is extensive overlap among series, with many of the same issues, programs and individuals documented in multiple locations. All series contain some undated materials; date ranges below are for dated materials only.

Series I, ORGANIZATION AND HISTORY, ca.1974-2003 (#1.1-1.12, , F+D.1-F+D.3, 158.1m, T-321.128) includes histories of Boston Women's Health Book Collective and specific projects; timelines; materials gathered for anniversary celebrations; notes, articles, and interview; lists of board members and staff; etc. The series is arranged chronologically. Additional related information may be found in other series.

Series II, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, 1970-1999 (#1.13-4.5) includes agendas and minutes of meetings, memos and correspondence among board members, contracts under consideration, financial information, notes, meeting hand-outs, printed material, etc., found foldered together, unless otherwise noted. Minutes after 1981 are incomplete. Minutes from 1989-1994 are sparse, and were found loose in boxes.

Series III, OFFICE OPERATIONS, ca.1974, 1984, 1988-1997 (#4.6-6.22), includes minutes of staff meetings and memos to and from staff and Boston Women's Health Book Collective members; personnel records (closed for 70 years after date of creation) and records of volunteers; and other records relating to office operations, including plans for office renovations, staff schedules, job descriptions and personnel policies, etc.

Subseries A, Minutes/memos, etc., 1989-1997, n.d. (#4.6-4.16) contains staff meeting minutes, memos and related material covering topics such as working conditions, policies, organizational structure, salaries, relations with the Board, projects, space use, committee reports, fundraising and budgets, and reports of conferences attended. Found loose in a box, intermingled with Board minutes and memos, they have been separated out and arranged chronologically. Monthly reports have been grouped separately.

Subseries B, Personnel records, 1988-1994 (#5.1-5.23), contains correspondence, memos, interview notes, applications, contracts, recommendations and evaluations, etc. Records are closed for 70 years after date of creation.

Subseries C, Volunteers, 1990-1993 (# 6.1-6.9), includes correspondence, applications and resumes, schedule, orientation packet, lists of tasks, etc.

Subseries D, Other staff and office-related, ca.1974, 1984-1997, n.d. (#6.10-6.22), includes correspondence, memos, reports, personnel policies and job descriptions, pay scales, drawings of office renovations, stationery, anti-racism training material, union contract, etc., related to office operations and staffing issues.

Series IV, FINANCIAL, 1972-1998, (#7.1-11.19, 158.2m), contains budgets, invoices, correspondence, proposals, etc., relating to funding for the Boston Women's Health Book Collective and other collectives of which they were a part, as well as funding provided by the Collective to various "outside" groups and projects . Due to the incomplete nature of these records, it is sometimes difficult to ascertain the Boston Women's Health Book Collective's role in some projects. Some of the records in this series relate to various grants received by the Collective; for additional information, see Series XII (Ford Foundation) and XIII (MacArthur Foundation).

Requests for funding include correspondence, proposals, and funding guidelines by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective. As a tax-exempt, private operating foundation, the Collective can provide funding only for projects in which they are able to take a direct and active involvement. In addition, the Collective requires projects seeking funding to meet a series of internal guidelines. The criteria for applicant groups, found in #10.3, listed in order of priority, include non-profit, tax-exempt status; organizational goals, including "educational materials, courses, or services pertaining to women and health care, or sexuality education;" and a diversity in audience and topic.

Folders are arranged alphabetically by title. Those pertaining to requests for funding are arranged with guidelines first, followed by general requests, and requests from specific groups and individuals.

Series V. FOUNDERS: JUDY NORSIGIAN, 1972-2000, n.d. (#11.20-25.15, F+D.4), contains records of founding member Judy Norsigian. A co-author of Our Bodies, Ourselves and The New Our Bodies, Ourselves, board member of the National Women's Health Network, board member and past president of the Women's State-Wide Legislative Network of Massachusetts, board member and past chair of Community Works (Boston's alternative fund for social change organizations), and member of a variety of scientific committees studying women's health issues, Norsigian has written numerous articles on women's health, and appeared on national television and radio programs. For additional biographical information, see #24.10; for correspondence and related material about lectures and other engagements, see Series XXIV (Engagements); and for international correspondence, see Series XI (International).

This series contains correspondence and related documents addressed to Judy Norsigian and other Boston Women's Health Book Collective members. Especially well represented are Norsigian's work on childbirth alternatives, the health concerns about the contraceptive Depo-Provera, midwifery, reproductive rights, and the Armenian translation/adaptation project for The New Our Bodies, Ourselves Also included are more general correspondence files of the Collective as a whole, especially for endorsement requests by others; media contacts (correspondence, memos, and notes on telephone conversations); and correspondence with United States local, state and federal officials and international leaders about legislation, regulations, policies, etc., and with groups working on similar issues.

Series VI, ESTHER ROME (1945-1995), 1956-1994 (scattered) (#25.16-38.3, 158.3m-158.4m), includes correspondence, notes, writings, and reference material documenting founding member Esther Rome's work on such issues as breast implants, eating disorders and nutrition, menstrual problems, and tampon safety. In addition to the work documented in this series, Rome helped prepare the bi-monthly health packets sent to women's health groups in the United States and abroad, and co-authored pamphlets on sexually transmitted diseases, and on menstruation (see #132.7). With few exceptions, Rome's papers were not in folders when they arrived at the library, though related items tended to be clumped together. The archivist created those folders with headings that appear in square brackets. For folder of sympathy notes following Rome's death from breast cancer in 1995, and correspondence about donations in her name, see #24.11 in Series V (Judy Norsigian). The series is arranged in four subseries: writings and related, tampon standards, breast implants, and other research files.

Subseries A, Writings and related, 1986-1990, n.d. (#25.16-26.70), includes articles by Esther Rome and Jane Hyman for an Our Bodies, Ourselves column published in the Middlesex News in 1987 and 1988, drafts of articles, notes, and some reference material and correspondence. Following a chronological arrangement of published articles, folders are arranged alphabetically by topic.

Subseries B, Breast implants, 1978-1994, n.d. (#26.21-28.12), includes correspondence, memos, testimony, notes, articles by others, etc., relating to Rome's work on consumer information about the safety of breast implants. Rome was invited by the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Devices and Radiological Health (in the United States Department of Health & Human Services) to be part of the Silicone Breast Implant Education Working Group to develop educational materials for prospective breast implant patients, to ensure that patients were fully informed of the benefits and risks of the surgery. She also served on two subgroups: for breast augmentation, and breast reconstruction. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries C, Tampon standards, 1956-1992 (scattered) (#29.1-34.10, 158.3m-158.4m) includes minutes, reports, drafts, correspondence and memoranda, notes, testimony, manufacturers' packaging materials, and other reference materials related to the work of the independent American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Committee F-4 on Medical and Surgical Materials and Devices Task Force on Tampons. Women's health groups and individual consumers began questioning the safety of tampons in the late 1970s. Efforts to obtain specific information from manufacturers about their products were unsuccessful. After numerous reported cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) and other problems associated with tampon use, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended the development of voluntary industry standards for tampons. In November 1981, the ASTM created its special task force to accomplish this goal. Task Force members included representatives of all major tampon manufacturers, of consumer groups, and of general interest groups. Esther Rome and Jill Wolhandler represented the Boston Women's Health Book Collective. Disagreements over testing methods, labeling standards, product information, package warning labels and other safety-related issues are well documented. Agreement among the various representatives was not reached. In June 1988, Public Citizen sued the FDA, charging that they had illegally delayed requiring absorbency labeling for more than seven years after they first found evidence that the risk of TSS increases with the use of high absorbency tampons. After yet further delay, caused by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the final rule was issued October 26, 1989. For brief summaries of the rule's history, see #29.2, 30.6, and 33.11-33.13. There are also general booklets and articles on menstruation, from 1956 through 1991 (#32.5-32.8). After two folders chronicling the development of the task force (#29.1-29.2), folders are arranged in alphabetical order.

Subseries D, Research files, 1959-1994, n.d. (#34.11-38.3), includes correspondence; notes; published and unpublished articles by others; materials gathered for class on nutrition taught by Esther Rome (#36.12-36.13) and for revision of nutrition section in Our Bodies, Ourselves. Folders are arranged alphabetically by topic, following the folders of Esther Rome's notes and general correspondence, and photocopies of a scrapbook of clippings on medical/health topics.

Series VII, FOUNDERS: NORMA SWENSON, 1979-1992, n.d. (#38.4-45.5), includes correspondence and related documents about health issues, engagements, and especially conditions in other countries. Also included are additional documentation of the Ford Foundation and MacArthur Foundation grant proposals for the documentation center, and extensive records of the foreign translation/adaptation project for the 1992 edition of The New Our Bodies, Ourselves. Swenson became active in the women's health movement after years as a community organizer and independent researcher. Interested primarily in health and consumer issues, she was active in the 1960s to improve maternity care before becoming part of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective. Representing the Collective and the National Women's Health Network, Swenson traveled extensively to lecture, present workshops, testify before government bodies, and appear in the media. She also participated in numerous international conferences, and worked with women in their own countries on health issues and several of the foreign-language editions of The New Our Bodies, Ourselves For additional biographical information, see #39.13; for Swenson's remembrance of Esther Rome, see #24.11; for additional correspondence and related material about lectures and other engagements, see Series XXIV (Engagements), and for additional international correspondence, see Series XI (International).

Series VIII, FOUNDERS: OTHERS, ca.1974-1992, n.d. (#45.6-45.15), contains general correspondence, clippings, resumés, etc., created by or about various founding members. Not all founders are represented. Files are arranged alphabetically by founder's name, and chronologically within each founder's grouping.

Series IX, COLLABORATIONS, 1974-1994, n.d. (#45.16-52.12, Vt-134.1, OD.1), includes correspondence and related materials by and about those groups with which the Boston Women's Health Book Collective cooperated to produce educational materials, or worked to change legislation and regulations. Additional correspondence from members of these groups and others are spread throughout the collection; see especially Series V (Judy Norsigian). For correspondence about endorsement requests from individuals and organizations, see Series V (Judy Norsigian). Prominent groups include the Amigas Latinas en Accion pro Salud (ALAS) Collective, Comunicacion Intercambio y Desarrollo Humano en America Latina (CIDHAL), the Women's International Information and Communication Service (ISIS), Isis Women's International Cross-Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE), the National Women's Health Network (NWHN), and the Rising Sun Feminist Health Alliance (RSFHA). There are also records of a variety of feminist health centers.

ALAS (#45.16-46.7), a Boston-based affiliate of Boston Women's Health Book Collective founded in 1980, gathers and disseminates health information relevant to the specific conditions of Latin women. Included here are grant proposals, correspondence, their AIDS education video "Por Que a Mi Mama" and scripts, mailing lists, etc.; folders are arranged chronologically. For additional records, see Series XVIII, Subseries A, Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas.

CIDHAL (#46.10-47.4, OD.1), is a non-profit, non-governmental feminist organization founded in 1969 by Belgian journalist Betsie Hollants. One of its major objectives has been to promote sexual and reproductive health. There is extensive correspondence about adapting Boston Women's Health Book Collective materials for use in Mexico, distributing health packets, and collaborating on the documentation project.

ISIS (#48.1-48.9) was an international resource and documentation center for women originally based in Geneva, Switzerland, and Rome, Italy. Established in 1974 to facilitate global communication among women and to gather and distribute internationally materials and information produced by women and women's groups, ISIS was particularly concerned with communication between the Third World and industrialized countries. In 1984, Isis International opened an office in Santiago, Chile, to coordinate its Latin American and Caribbean programs, and in 1991 the Rome office moved to Manila to be closer to its Asian, African and Pacific constituencies. The Geneva office, called the Isis-Women's International Cross-Cultural Exchange Programme (WICCE), moved to Kampala, Uganda, in 1994. For records of the co-production with ISIS of the International Women's Health and Resource Guide, see Series XXI.

With the Women's Health Unit of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), the Boston Women's Health Book Collective created the Women's Health and Learning Center at MCI (Massachusetts Correctional Institute) Framingham (see #52.7-52.8), conducted a DES public awareness campaign, and with the DPH co-sponsored conferences on women and AIDS, women and smoking, and other events.

The Boston Women's Health Book Collective has maintained close ties with the National Women's Health Network (#48.12-49.8); Collective members have often served on the board since 1976.

The Rising Sun Feminist Health Alliance, a group of women representing women's health centers, held meetings periodically. These records (#50.1-51.20) are a rich source of information about the women's health movement from 1978 to 1987. Materials were originally labeled "Material sent out before hand for conference and material from conference itself." Also included are follow-up documents, and questionnaires completed by member organizations. Original minutes and notes were removed from spiral notebooks, which contained originals with their carbon copies.

Social Justice for Women (#52.1-52.2) is a Massachusetts organization formed to provide various types of educational and/or training assistance to professionals and the public, and a wide range of services to individuals of all ages who are or have been involved with the juvenile justice system, criminal justice system, or any other court process or correctional system. The Women's Health and Learning Center of MCI Framingham began to function as one of SJW's constituent parts in 1987.

The Boston Women's Health Book Collective worked with the Women's Community Health Center (WCHC) (#52.4-52.6) of Cambridge, Massachusetts, on joint educational projects and production of the monthly health packets mailed out by the Collective, and Judy Norsigian served on their advisory board. Reports, mailings, newsletters and other printed material by the WCHC were transferred to the WCHC Records (MC 512) in the Schlesinger Library.

Boston Women's Health Book Collective was a founding member of the Women's State-Wide Legislative Network of Massachusetts (#52.9-52.11), an educational organization working to increase women's impact on state legislation.

This series is arranged alphabetically by organization, with chronological arrangements within each organization.

Series X, CORRESPONDENCE, 1971-1998 (#52.13-73.9), contains correspondence between Boston Women's Health Book Collective (many addressed to specific members) and groups and individuals with whom they worked, as well as letters from individuals as individuals, and representing clinics, prisons, schools, etc., requesting specific health information, thanking for books, wanting multiple copies at discount for distribution, objecting to switch to commercial publisher, requesting to reprint sections of Our Bodies, Ourselves, etc. Some include descriptions of clinic/health work in various other regions. Correspondence from the early 1970s includes both US and foreign correspondence, while later foreign correspondence can be found in Series XI (International).The correspondence is divided into three subseries: general, requests for information, and closed. There are also extensive correspondence files in Series V (Judy Norisigian), Series VII (Norma Swenson), and Series XXIV (Engagements). Although the correspondence is grouped chronologically (based on the Collective's filing, which was sometimes by date of incoming letters, and other times by date of reply), items in a folder may be earlier or later than indicated in the folder heading.

Subseries A, General correspondence, 1971-1998 (#52.13-66.5), contains correspondence with individuals and organizations updating the Collective on their activities as well as detailed requests for advice. Folders are arranged chronologically. Some years have more than one set of overlapping folders, since correspondence found grouped together was left as found.

Subseries B, Requests for information, 1989-1997 (#66.6-70.6), contains simple information requests and requests for specific pieces of literature, often in the form of completed order sheets. Folders are arranged chronologically. There are no requests from 1994.

Subseries C, Closed correspondence, 1971-1997 (#70.7-73-9), contains letters pulled from Subseries A and B due to their personal nature. With few exceptions, they contain detailed accounts of medical problems. Others contain financial information and frank discussions of sexual and domestic situations. Folders are arranged with chronological general correspondence first, followed by general requests for information, also arranged chronologically, requests for information on the cervical cap, and "travesties," which contain correspondence and court cases about medical malpractice. This subseries is closed until 70 years from date of creation of a document unless otherwise noted.

Series XI, INTERNATIONAL, 1973-1994 (#73.10-81.13), contains personal and professional correspondence, notes, printed material, etc., relating to the Collective's international activities, and kept together by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective. Additional international correspondence can be found throughout the collection. It is divided into four subseries.

Subseries A, Judy Norsigian (Judy Norsigian) correspondence, 1973-1994 (#73.10-77.11), includes requests for information and assistance, updates on projects, exchanges concerning foreign translations of Our Bodies, Ourselves, etc. Some of the letters duplicate those found in Subseries B. Additional Judy Norsigian international correspondence can be found throughout the collection; see especially Series V (Judy Norsigian). Folders are arranged alphabetically by country.

Subseries B, Norma Swenson (Norma Swenson) correspondence, 1976-1990 (#77.12-79.20), includes requests for information and assistance, updates on projects, exchanges concerning foreign translations of Our Bodies, Ourselves, etc. Some of the letters duplicate those found in Subseries A. Additional Norma Swenson international correspondence can be found throughout the collection; see especially Series VII (Norma Swenson). Folders are arranged alphabetically by country.

Subseries C, Conferences, 1980-1994 (#79.21-80.8), contains correspondence, notes, printed material, etc., relating to conferences with Boston Women's Health Book Collective participation and/or attendance. They include those held in foreign countries and domestic conferences concerning international issues. Folders are arranged alphabetically by conference title.

Subseries D, Questionnaires, 1987-1989 (#80.9-81.13), contains questionnaires completed by international women's health groups concerning their present and future interests and activities, and related printed material. The Collective also used returned questionnaires to update their mailing list. In return for filling out the questionnaires, respondents received a free packet of articles or other information of their choice. The 1988 survey mailing to over 600 international contacts in the women's health movement received approximately 150 replies; 50 were returned unopened. Most requested information on reproductive rights and violence against women. It is possible that these questionnaires also provided information used by the Collective on grant-funded projects. Folders are arranged alphabetically by geographic region.

Series XII, INTERNATIONAL PROJECTS: FORD FOUNDATION GRANT, 1988-1994 (#81.14-84.8), contains correspondence, memos, minutes, notes, printed material, etc., relating to a grant received by the Collective "to provide information, consultation, and materials to women's groups wishing to produce their own translations and adaptations of The New Our Bodies, Ourselves; also to provide information, informal consultation, and materials to women's groups requesting them anywhere in the developing world." Files are those of Nandini Sen Gupta, unless otherwise noted. Folders were stamped "Ford 1988-1991" or "Boston Women's Health Book Collective files." The series is divided into two subseries.

Subseries A, Administrative, 1988-1994 (#81.14-82.12), contains correspondence, memos, minutes, etc., relating to internal grant-related activities such as budgets, staff meetings, and ordering materials. Folders are arranged alphabetically. For additional financial information, see Series IV (Financial).

Subseries B, Activities, 1988-1992 (#82.13-84.8), contains correspondence, notes, printed material, etc., relating to external grant-related activities such as compiling information about international women's health organizations, compiling packets of information for distribution to international groups, and attending a conference. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Series XIII, INTERNATIONAL PROJECTS: JOHN D. AND CATHERINE T. MACARTHUR FOUNDATION, 1989-1998 (#84.13-87.1), contains proposals, correspondence, reports and related materials documenting the MacArthur grants that funded various international outreach and information exchange efforts. The project referred to as Documentation Center I involved planning for library computerization in collaboration with centers in four developing countries: ISIS in Santiago, CIDHAL in Mexico, SOS CORPO in Brazil, and APDC in Malaysia. The Documentation Center II project had as its goal working with the centers in the four previously identified countries to computerize library files, as well as exchange materials, develop regionally appropriate bibliographies on reproductive rights, and create a base for a larger network of women and health documentation centers. Also included are reports of work in 16 African countries, especially the Collective's collaboration with the Fund for a Free South Africa (FREESA) and Uganda. Folders are arranged chronologically.

Series XIV, WOMEN'S HEALTH INFORMATION CENTER (WHIC), 1979-2000, n.d. (#87.2-90.14), includes correspondence, memos, reports, and related materials on the operations of WHIC: collection development, library procedures and evaluations, literature orders, information sharing with other organizations, etc. Used by the public and the Collective, by the 1990s the WHIC contained 7500 books, 200 journals, 75 videos, and files containing over 100,000 articles; the contents were transferred to Harvard University's Countway Library of Medicine in 2001. In addition to information on WHIC's operations, this series contains three folders (# 87.21-87.23) on the 8th International Women and Health meeting of March 1997 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where issues relevant to WHIC were discussed. Visitor sign-in sheets (#90.10-90.12), which include the purpose of the visit, are closed for 70 years from date of creation. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series XV, REFERENCE FILES, 1905, 1931, 1961-1999 (#91.1-102.3), contains printed material, copies of correspondence, and notes possibly used by the Collective to answer reference questions and as resources for the literature they produced. It is divided into three subseries: alphabetical, red files (incomplete), and Jill Wolhandler. Numerous documents found loose were interfiled with existing folders; headings of folders created by the archivist appear in square brackets.

Subseries A, Alphabetical, 1905, 1931, 1961-1999 (#91.1-97.10, T-321.127), contains printed material, copies of correspondence, and notes arranged in alphabetical order by topic.

Subseries B, Red files (incomplete), 1981, n.d. (#97.11-100.9), contains printed material, copies of correspondence, and notes arranged in alphabetical order by topic. Documents in this subseries were kept separate by the Collective because they are incomplete (i.e., missing pages), or are lacking citations. Single items found loose were combined in a folder titled "Mixed" by the archivist.

Subseries C, Jill Wolhandler, 1968-1982 (#100.10-102.3), contains reference files apparently created by JW. Wolhandler (1949-2002) was a women's health advocate. She joined the Women's Community Health Center in 1975, co-authored chapters in The New Our Bodies, Ourselves (1984), and worked with Esther Rome on Toxic Shock Syndrome and related tampon legislation. It is not clear how these files were used by the Collective.

Series XVI, OUR BODIES, OURSELVES (OBOS), 1972-1980, n.d. (#102.4-107.13), contains records relating to the creation and publication of the Collective's most significant work. In December 1970, Women and Their Bodies: a Course was published in newsprint by the New England Free Press. Renamed Our Bodies, Ourselves: A Course by and for Women, the first of many subsequent reprintings was in 1971. This newsprint New England Free Press edition sold over 200,000 copies. After extensive discussions within the Collective, and consultations with interested persons in the wider community, the Boston Women's Health Book Collective made the difficult decision to contract with Simon and Schuster to publish the first commercial edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves in 1973. According to the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, about 3.5 million copies of the various Simon and Schuster editions of this book were sold between 1973 and early 1996. Published versions are available in the Schlesinger Library book collection. The series is arranged in four subseries: Simon and Schuster; Our Bodies, Ourselves, 1973 edition; Our Bodies, Ourselves 1976 and 1979 editions; and Lesbian Liberation, Women's Educational Center. For book covers, see Series XXVIII (Oversize).

Subseries A, Simon and Schuster, 1972-1980, n.d. (#102.4-102.12), includes correspondence between Collective members and editors and others at Simon and Schuster about all aspects of publishing Our Bodies, Ourselves and its revisions. Also included are a revised budget, and copies of receipts billed to Simon and Schuster for revision costs. Later correspondence is filed in Series XVII, The New Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Subseries B, Our Bodies, Ourselves, 1973 edition, 1972-1974 (#102.13-104.3), includes permissions, credits, photograph releases, corrected photocopies of the draft manuscript, and workshop topic worksheets for classes based on the book. The folders are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries C, Revisions of Our Bodies, Ourselves, 1976 and 1979 editions, 1972-1979 (#104.4-107.13), includes correspondence, revision plans, contracts, and drafts. The "Revisions" are of the 1973 edition, and include chapter drafts that are annotated photocopies. Chapter references are to the 1976 edition; not every chapter has a corresponding draft in this series. All documents are from 1975, unless otherwise noted. The Menopause Questionnaire was specifically developed for use in revising the menopause chapter; respondents were age 25 and older. Questionnaires were numbered; although there were several hundred returned, some are missing. There is also one folder of revision plans for the 1979 edition (#106.18), and 14 folders of correspondence in response to Our Bodies, Ourselves and its revisions (#106.19-107.13).

Subseries D, Lesbian Liberation, Women's Educational Center, 1973-1997 (scattered), n.d. (#159.1-162.12), contains letters from readers directed to and answered by Lesbian Liberation in response to Chapter 5, "In Amerika They Call Us Dykes," written by members of the lesbian community in Boston. The group described this chapter as only a beginning: "There are many things we had to leave out, because of space limitations or because we do not have the experience to write about them," and encouraged readers to contact them ("We welcome your criticisms and ideas") at the Women's Educational Center in Cambridge, Mass. Donated to the Schlesinger Library by the Women's Center in August 2005, the letters have been kept together in this subseries, even though some of them may have been written in response to later versions of the book.

Many of these letters include biographical information. A few, mostly in the 1980s, have carbon copy replies from Women's Center staff. Most of the letters have been photocopied and redacted to protect individual privacy (#161.1-162.12); they are closed to research for 75 years from the date of creation. Envelopes were copied only if they contained substantive notations. The redacted copies, and original letters of a non-personal nature (e.g., information requests for academic or medical purposes), are open to research (#159.1-160.13). Replies were often dated weeks after receipt of their respective inquiries; letters are filed by date of inquiry, with their replies.

The Women's Center (later incorporated as the Women's Educational Center) opened in January 1972, and continues to serve as "an anti-racist community center for women - fighting for women's rights and against all forms of oppression." Their records are in the Archives and Special Collections Department of Northeastern University Libraries, and contain additional letters related to this subseries.

Series XVII, THE NEW OUR BODIES, OURSELVES (NOBOS), 1975-1998 (#107.14-111.16), includes administrative records (before and after publication), letters from readers of previous editions, and research on specific topics to be considered for revision in the newly revised and updated 1984 edition. Published versions are available in the Schlesinger Library book collection. The series is arranged in two subseries: The New Our Bodies, Ourselves, 1984 edition, and Revisions of The New Our Bodies, Ourselves, 1992-1998. For letters in response to lesbian issues, see also Series XVI, Subseries D.

Subseries A, The New Our Bodies, Ourselves, 1984 edition, 1975-1986 (#107.14-110.28), includes correspondence and memos about all aspects of creating, editing and publishing this revised version of Our Bodies, Ourselves; financial records; permissions; letters from readers suggesting changes or editions; and drafts and related material on specific topics.

Subseries B, Revisions of The New Our Bodies, Ourselves, 1992-1998 (#110.29-111.16) , covers the years 1985-1998, n.d, and includes responses from readers; chapter drafts;, correspondence about and contract for electronic version; memos about possible audio version; and related material. The folders are arranged chronologically.

Series XVIII, Our Bodies, Ourselves TRANSLATIONS/ADAPTATIONS, 1974-1994 (#112.1-114.7), includes records of the Spanish translation/adaptation of Our Bodies, Ourselves for the United States audience, Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas (NCNV), in 1979, and adapted for Spain in 1982; correspondence about the Argentinian and Brazilian adaptations; related printed material; and correspondence about and drafts of the British version. It is divided into two subseries. Aware of the many cultural differences surrounding issues of women's health, particularly those of sexuality and reproduction, the Boston Women's Health Book Collective worked with women in other communities (in the United States and abroad) to produce books that were culturally sensitive. None of the foreign editions were strict translations, but were more accurately labeled as adaptations.

Subseries A, Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas (NCNV), 1974-1994, n.d. (#112.1-114.2), contains records pertaining to the Spanish language adaptation of Our Bodies, Ourselves first published in the United States in 1979, and revised for publication in Spain in 1982. Included are minutes of meetings; correspondence about revisions and translations; numerous letters from readers and others commenting on the book or requesting copies; chapter drafts; and related documents. Correspondents, including friends, colleagues, and other readers, are from the United States and abroad. Following the folders of meeting minutes, remaining folders are arranged chronologically.

Subseries B, Other translations/adaptations,1974, 1981, n.d. (#114.3-114.7), includes correspondence about the Argentinian, Brazilian and Italian adaptations; a list of foreign editions, and related printed material. For correspondence about the Armenian translation/adaptation, see Series V (Judy Norsigian).

Series XIX, The New Our Bodies, Ourselves TRANSLATIONS/ADAPTATIONS, 1986-1996 (#114.8-117.5), includes records of the work to adapt The New Our Bodies, Ourselves, particularly in Britain and Latin America. Following one folder of general correspondence about adaptations in several countries, the series is arranged alphabetically by region. There are two British versions, both photocopies for an edition that was published in 1989: the edited draft from 1986, missing chapters 15-17 (Contraception; If You Think You Are Pregnant; Abortion) and 24-26 (Choice and Control in Breast Disease; Certain Diseases of the Whole Body, Cancer and Facing Death; Common Tests, Procedures and Operations) and unnumbered page proofs from 1988, missing chapters 22-26 (Women Growing Older; Gynaecological and Urinary Problems; Choice and Control in Breast Disease; Certain Diseases of the Whole Body, Cancer and Facing Death; Common Tests, Procedures and Operations). Several folders include extensive correspondence and reports about work to produce a Latin American version in the 1990s. For additional correspondence, see especially Series VII (Norma Swenson).

Series XX, OURSELVES AND OUR CHILDREN, 1973-1982 (#117.6-130.8), contains correspondence, drafts, meeting notes, research materials, etc., of Joan Ditzion relating to the writing of Ourselves and Our Children (OSOC) and a group within the Boston Women's Health Book Collective called the parenting group. The group originated with the writing of OURSELVES AND OUR CHILDREN, and continued after the book's publication, leading workshops and lecturing about various aspects of parenthood. Published in 1978, OURSELVES AND OUR CHILDREN differed from other parenting books of the time by focusing on parents, not children, and covering all stages of parenthood, from choosing to be a parent through being parents of grown children. It also incorporated the views of over two hundred parents from a wide variety of families, instead of relying on "expert" opinion regarding traditional (two-parent, heterosexual) families. With the exception of Subseries A, the series retains the original arrangement imparted by Joan Ditzion, and is divided into four subseries.

Subseries A, Administrative, 1975-1981, n.d. (#117.6-118.20), contains correspondence, meeting notes, reports, budgets, etc., documenting parenting group meetings, exchanges between the parenting group and Random House, Inc., and the early planning for OURSELVES AND OUR CHILDREN. The correspondence between the parenting group and Random House, Inc., includes photocopies of original letters containing editorial suggestions from Charlotte Mayerson, the main editor of the book. Duplicates of these letters are scattered throughout Subseries B. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries B, Drafts, 1976-1978, n.d. (#118.21-122.3), contains drafts annotated by Boston Women's Health Book Collective members and others, notes, and letters from Random House, Inc., containing editorial suggestions. Folders are arranged with outlines first, followed by a complete draft of the book, and individual chapter drafts in order of their appearance in the book.

Subseries C, Research materials, 1973-1982, n.d. (#122.4-126.14), contains clippings, mailings, printed material, etc., used by the parenting group to prepare their workshops and lectures. Also included in this series are interviews with parents conducted by members of the parenting group and excerpted in OURSELVES AND OUR CHILDREN (#122.4-122.5, 122.9-123.21); they are closed until January 1, 2039. Folders are arranged with interviews first, followed by folders listed alphabetically by topic.

Subseries D, Outreach and publicity, 1974-1981, n.d. (#127.1-130.8), contains correspondence, notes, printed material, etc., relating to publicity tours, lectures, and workshops conducted by the parenting group. There are also numerous articles about OURSELVES AND OUR CHILDREN. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Series XXI, INTERNATIONAL WOMEN AND HEALTH RESOURCE GUIDE (IWHRG), 1974-1983, n.d. (#130.9-131.19), contains records of a joint publication project with ISIS, an international resource and documentation center for women based in Geneva, Switzerland and Rome, Italy. The Boston Women's Health Book Collective collected information from women's health groups in the United States, and ISIS collected information from women's health groups in Europe, Asia and Africa. This series contains correspondence; an annotated copy of the INTERNATIONAL WOMEN AND HEALTH RESOURCE GUIDE; leaflets, printed articles, and cover letters from health centers in the United States and around the world; and related correspondence and conference materials gathered for research for the publication. For additional correspondence with ISIS, see especially Series IX (Collaborations).

Series XXII, PUBLICATIONS, 1970-1984 (#SD.1, 132.1-132.10, 163.1-163.8), contains books, pamphlets, and book covers. Folders are arranged chronologically by the original publication date of each work. Our Bodies, Ourselves was originally released as Women and Their Bodies, and each printing of the first edition contains significant edits. In cases in which there is a duplicate copy of a publication in the Schlesinger Library book collection, the copy included in this collection is closed. Additional publications not included below can be found in the Schlesinger Library book collection. Reference copies and closed archival masters are boxed separately. A master set of newsletters are filed in the master file drawer (MFD), and are closed to research; copies for research use (in addition to those in #132.10) are housed with Schlesinger Library periodicals. The Boston Women's Health Book Collective web site is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection (WAX); searchable archived versions of the web site will be available through the finding aid in 2010.

Series XXIII, WOMEN'S HEALTH INFORMATION PACKETS (WHIP), 1975-1995, n.d. (#132.11-148.13, 158.5m), contains information packets, user evaluations, content lists, order forms, etc. Packets on specific topics were assembled for use as "International Women and Health Packets," and intended "primarily for women working outside the USA, with an emphasis on developing countries, ...[and] may also be of interest to United States activists or students in women's studies, health sciences, public health/policy and international development." The packets (some of which may be incomplete) contain copies of articles and abstracts from published and unpublished sources; clippings; flyers; etc. Since many of the packets were not dated, folder headings list the range of dates for the articles included. Packets from 1992 and 1995 were clearly labeled, however, so only the date of distribution is included in the folder titles. The series is arranged with administrative and reader response materials first, followed by packets identified numerically, and then an alphabetical listing of packets by topic.

Series XXIV, ENGAGEMENTS, 1972-2000, n.d. (#148.14-154.4), includes itineraries, correspondence, notes, flyers, clippings, etc., relating to the speaking engagements of various Boston Women's Health Book Collective members. While most of the engagements feature Judy Norsigian, Norma Swenson, and Esther Rome, other Boston Women's Health Book Collective members (including Paula Doress, Nancy Hawley, and Wendy Sanford) are also represented. Speakers addressed a variety of audiences, including coalitions, professional organizations, student groups, task forces, and women's groups. Venues for engagements included colleges and universities, health fairs, high schools, libraries, and women's centers. Speakers also made occasional appearances on radio and television programs. Documents relating to a particular engagement are grouped together, and arranged chronologically by date of engagement. When no appearance date is stated, they are arranged by date of the earliest document in each respective grouping.

Series XXV, PUBLICITY AND OUTREACH, 1969-1998, n.d. (#154.5-157.9, FD.2, T-321.124-T-321.126), contains clippings, press releases, leaflets, letters to editors, schedules, etc., relating to mass media coverage of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective's activities as well as the Collective's efforts to generate media interest in women's health issues. While most of the materials in this series were created by or mention the Collective, some were created by groups and individuals supported by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective. Folders are arranged in alphabetical order. Additional information appears in many other series (see especially #21.12-22.9 in Series V, Judy Norsigian). The archivist has added printouts of the Our Bodies, Ourselves web site as of November 2004 (#157.1-157.9). Following a folder containing the site index, home page, history and organization, and various other webpages, the remaining folders are arranged alphabetically.

Series XXVI, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1973-1992, n.d. (#PD.1f-PD.13f), contains photographs. They are arranged with images of Collective members first (arranged chronologically), followed by images used in Boston Women's Health Book Collective's books, miscellaneous photographs, and images removed from folders in other series. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs (and found throughout the collection), are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as parts of the documents they accompany.

Series XXVII, AUDIO-VISUAL, ca.1978, 1987, 1991, 2003 (T-321.124-T-321.128, Vt-134.1), contains five audiotapes of interviews given by Collective members and one videotape produced by ALAS, one of Boston Women's Health Book Collective's collaborators.

Series XXVIII, OVERSIZE (#FD.1-FD.2, F+D.1-F+D.5, OD.1, SD.1) is the shelflist for oversize items (posters and other printed material, notes, book covers, etc.), excluding photographs (see Series XXVI), throughout this collection. The list below includes "catch-all" folders of large items found loose, or removed from folders in other series. Also included are oversize folders listed in previous series, as they contain items directly related to folders in those series. In many cases there are photocopied reductions of the oversize items in their original folders if they were removed from a group of other materials; notations on copies note that the originals are in the oversize series. Where photocopies could not be made easily, there is a "See also" reference to this series in the folder descriptions.


In the spring of 1969, civil rights and anti-war activist and social worker Nancy Miriam Hawley led a workshop on women and their bodies at a Boston-area female liberation conference. The issues raised--particularly abortion (illegal at the time), childbirth, and sexuality--were so provocative to some of the women that they began a discussion that has lasted a lifetime, and spread throughout the world. At first calling themselves the Doctor's Group, the women began meeting to share information about obstetricians and gynecologists. They developed a questionnaire about women's feelings about their bodies and their relationship to doctors. Describing their beginnings in Women and Their Bodies: A Course (1970), the group wrote: "We discovered there were no 'good' doctors and we had to learn for ourselves. We talked about our own experiences and we shared our own knowledge. We went to books and to medically trained people for more information. We decided on the topics collectively....We picked the one or ones we wanted to do and worked individually and in groups to write the papers. The process that developed in the group became as important as the material we were learning. For the first time, we were doing research and writing papers that were about us and for us. We were excited and our excitement was powerful. We wanted to share both the excitement and the material we were learning with our sisters. We saw ourselves differently and our lives began to change."

They met throughout the summer of 1969, shared their research, and rewrote papers in response to each other's comments. In November, they offered a course to other interested women and taught others how to teach the course themselves. The group's description continued: "After the first time around, those of us who had worked out the course originally, plus women who had taken the course, got together in an enlarged group to rewrite the papers so they could be printed and shared, not only with women in Boston, but with women's groups across the country. Other women wanted to learn, other women's health groups wanted to compare and combine our work and theirs." The group spent a year revising the papers before having them issued on newsprint in December 1970 by the New England Free Press. They clearly state, however, that the papers "are not final. They are not static. They are meant to be used by our sisters to increase consciousness about ourselves as women, to build our movement, to begin to struggle collectively for adequate health care, and in many other ways they can be useful to you." They also stressed one of their key tenets: that process was as important as content. "It was exciting to learn new facts about our bodies, but it was even more exciting to talk about how we felt about our bodies, how we felt about ourselves, how we could become more autonomous human beings, how we could act together on our collective knowledge to change the health care system for women and for all people." They concluded that the course was not a finished product, but must continue to be revised and expanded: "The course will be best changed by the corrections and additions sent by those who use it."

During the first year and a half, there was some turnover in the group's composition, as well as in their name. Known variously as the Doctor's Group, Women and Their Bodies Group, Women and Our Bodies Group, Boston Women's Health Collective, Boston Women's Health Course Collective, and Our Bodies Ourselves Group, the final name was chosen when the group incorporated in 1972: the Boston Women's Health Book Collective (Boston Women's Health Book Collective). The Collective lists its founders as Ruth Davidson Bell (later Bell Alexander), Pamela Berger, Vilyuna ("Wilma") Diskin, Joan Sheingold Ditzion, Paula Brown Doress (later Paula Doress-Worters), Nancy Miriam Hawley (later Nancy Press Hawley), Elizabeth MacMahon-Herrera, Pamela Morgan, Judy Norsigian, Jane Kates Pincus, Esther R. Rome, Wendy Coppedge Sanford, Norma Swenson and Sally Whelan. Most of this group remained together for more than twenty years, sharing their personal and professional lives, producing books, pamphlets, and articles; organizing conferences on women's health in the United States and abroad; lecturing in a variety of venues throughout the world; serving on advisory boards for a wide range of organizations, from local women's health centers to national advocacy groups to scientific/medical task forces; providing information on health issues to the general public, the media, and medical personnel; creating international networks to share information; and in numerous other ways shaping and expanding the women's health movement.

The success of the newsprint version of their course (more than 200,000 were sold through counter-culture channels, especially the Whole Earth Catalog) brought commercial publishers to their doorstep in the summer of 1971. Months of discussion ensued. After weighing all the pros and cons of using an established commercial publisher, and detailed examination of several possible publishing firms, the Collective chose Simon and Schuster. In order to sign the contract, they had to incorporate; their first meeting as the Boston Women's Health Book Collective took place January 11, 1972. According to their minutes, Wendy Sanford was designated President "because her address is used [as Boston Women's Health Book Collective address]," Esther Rome as Treasurer "because she will handle $ and sign checks," Nancy Hawley as Clerk "for no reason?" and Paula Doress as Trustee. Their contract with Simon and Schuster had several stipulations, among them that non-profit clinics and other organizations providing health counseling could purchase the books at a 70% discount to give away to low-income clients. Several hundred thousand copies of Our Bodies, Ourselves (1973) were distributed in this way.

The first book to provide information about women's health and medical issues in clear, direct language, with contributions from numerous readers about their personal experiences with health issues and the medical care system, Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS) was a commercial success, and has been revised and expanded numerous times (see below). Although it has been as important for raising the consciousness and level of knowledge among medical personnel as among the general public, it has not always been universally embraced. Beginning in the early 1980s, and continuing over the years, the Collective has had to fight back attempts by various conservative groups to ban the book from schools and libraries (see especially #156.6). These battles, in turn, generated further publicity. The Collective used their royalties to support other women's health projects, to eventually rent office space and open the Women's Health Information Center, and to do advocacy work. Included in the supported projects were HealthRight, a women's health quarterly published between 1976 and 1981; "Taking Our Bodies Back," a film about the women's health movement; Porcupine Women's Health Collective in Wounded Knee, South Dakota, for women's health workshops and community education; Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas, the United States Spanish language edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves, towards production and distribution costs; Women's Community Health Center, the only women-controlled health center in the Boston area (1974-1981), for operating support; the 1975 Conference on Women and Health, the first such national meeting; and the National Women's Health Network, towards printing expenses of a newsletter and production costs of nine Health Resource Guides published in 1979.

Members of the Collective have served on numerous boards, and cooperated with other organizations in a variety of outreach and advocacy efforts.

The following brief chronology for 1969-2001 is taken from several Boston Women's Health Book Collective timelines, and highlights some of their major events and accomplishments. For additional information, see Series I (History and Organization) and Series XXV (Publicity and Outreach).

  1. May 1969: Nancy Miriam Hawley leads workshop on "Women and Control of Their Bodies" at Female Liberation Conference organized by Bread and Roses, Emmanuel College, Boston.
  2. Summer 1969: Workshop group continues to meet, doing research on selected topics.
  3. November 1969: Group offers first informal course to Boston-area women on "Women and Their Bodies" at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
  4. December 1970: New England Free Press prints the research papers in a newsprint book first called Women and Their Bodies: A Course, then Women and Our Bodies: A Course in a subsequent printing, and finally the title that stuck, Our Bodies, Ourselves: A Course by and for Women. The price dropped from 75 cents to 30 cents as sales increased. Over 200,000 copies sold through non-establishment channels such as women's centers and the Whole Earth Catalog.
  5. Summer 1971: Group is approached by several commercial presses.
  6. 1971-1973: After many meetings and discussions, Simon and Schuster is chosen to publish first commercial version of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and group works to revise all chapters.
  7. January 1972: The group of eleven [or twelve?] women holds their first meeting January 11 as the newly incorporated Boston Women's Health Book Collective.
  8. March 1973: Simon and Schuster publishes a thoroughly revised edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves with photographs and personal anecdotes from readers around the country.
  9. 1974-1981: Provides operating support for the Women's Community Health Center, the only women-controlled health center in the Boston area.
  10. 1975: Co-sponsors 1975 Conference on Women and Health in the Harvard medical area, the first such national meeting, with 2500 participants.
  11. March 1976: A revised and expanded edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves is published by Simon and Schuster.
  12. Fall 1976: Several members begin meeting to discuss their lives as parents; this eventually leads in 1978 to a book on parenting.
  13. 1976-1981: The Collective distributes "Women and Health Information Packets," containing copies of health-related articles, to over 600 women's groups and educators in the United States and abroad.
  14. Summer 1977: Two members visit ten European countries to meet with women's health activists and women involved in various foreign translations of Our Bodies, Ourselves.
  15. Fall 1977: The Boston Women's Health Book Collective self-publishes Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas (NCNV), the United States Spanish language edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves.
  16. October 1978: The parenting project, joined earlier by four women from outside the group, completes their research and writing; Random House publishes Ourselves and Our Children. Parenting workshops begin.
  17. April 1979: The Collective holds their first weekend retreat to celebrate 10 years together.
  18. Summer 1979: Collective member visits India to help with plans for Indian adaptation of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and translation into several Indian languages.
  19. Fall 1979: Factual updates of both Our Bodies, Ourselves and Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas are published.
  20. 1980: Boston Women's Health Book Collective leases space in a Watertown, Massachusetts, church cultural center in order to open Women's Health Information Center; co-publishes International Women and Health Resource Guide with ISIS (Women's International Information and Communication Service); helps to start a group that becomes Amigas Latinas en Accion Pro Salud (ALAS); and oversees publication of Changing Bodies, Changing Lives by Ruth Bell and others (Random House)
  21. 1982: Publication of Talking with Your Teenager, by Ruth Bell and Lenny Wildflower (Random House).
  22. 1983: Our Jobs, Our Health: A Woman's Guide to Occupational Health and Safety is co-published with the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health.
  23. 1984: A thoroughly revised edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves is published as The New Our Bodies, Ourselves.
  24. 1986: Boston Women's Health Book Collective moves several blocks to cultural center with handicap-accessibility and larger quarters.
  25. 1987: Book on aging, Ourselves Growing Older: Women Aging with Knowledge and Power, by Paula Doress and Diana Siegal and the Midlife and Older Women's Book Project, is published by Simon and Schuster; a revised edition of Changing Bodies, Changing Lives is also published.
  26. 1990: Boston Women's Health Book Collective moves to much larger space in Somerville, Massachusetts.
  27. 1991: Collective joins other centers (SOS Corpo in Brazil, ISIS International in Chile, APDC in Malaysia, and CIDHAL in Mexico) to form the Women and Health Documentation Center Network for computerization and information exchange.
  28. 1992: The New Our Bodies, Ourselves is updated and expanded for the 1990s.
  29. 1994: The New Ourselves Growing Older is updated and published.
  30. 1996: Online edition of The New Our Bodies, Ourselves is launched by HealthGate Data Corporation.
  31. 1998: Update of The New Our Bodies, Ourselves print edition is published; Our Bodies, Ourselves web site goes live.
  32. 2001: The Collective moves to new space in the Boston University School of Public Health; its reference collection is transferred to the Countway Library of the Harvard Medical School.


The collection is arranged in 28 series:

  1. Series I. History and organization, ca.1974-2003
  2. Series II. Board of Directors, 1970-1999
  3. Series III. Office operations, ca.1974, 1984, 1988-1997
  4. Series IV. Financial, 1972-1998
  5. Series V. Founders: Judy Norsigian, 1963, ca.1970s-2000
  6. Series VI. Founders: Esther Rome (1945-1995), 1956-1994 (scattered)
  7. Series VII. Founders: Norma Swenson, 1979-1992
  8. Series VIII. Founders: Others, ca.1974-1992
  9. Series IX. Collaborations, 1974-1994
  10. Series X. Correspondence, 1971-1998
  11. Series XI. International, 1973-1994
  12. Series XII. International projects: Ford Foundation Grant, 1988-1994
  13. Series XIII. International Projects: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 1989-1998
  14. Series XIV. Women's Health Information Center (WHIC), 1979-2000
  15. Series XV. Reference files, 1905-1999 (scattered)
  16. Series XVI: Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS), 1972-1980
  17. Series XVII. The New Our Bodies, Ourselves (NOBOS), 1975-1998
  18. Series XVIII. Our Bodies, Ourselves translations/adaptations, 1974-1994
  19. Series XIX. The New Our Bodies, Ourselves translations/adaptations, 1986-1996
  20. Series XX. Ourselves and Our Children (OSOC), 1973-1982
  21. Series XXI. International Women and Health Resource Guide, 1974-1983
  22. Series XXII. Publications, 1970-1984
  23. Series XXIII. Women's Health Information Packets (WHIP), 1975-1995
  24. Series XXIV. Engagements, 1972-2000
  25. Series XXV. Publicity and outreach, 1969-1998
  26. Series XXVI. Photographs, 1973-1992
  27. Series XXVII. Audio-visual, ca.1978, 1987, 1991, 2003
  28. Series XXVIII. Oversize

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 81-M68, 99-M125, 99-M147, 99-M165, 2000-M151, 2001-M63, 2001-M149, 2001-M218, 2002-M83, 2003-M64, 2004-M64, 2005-M94

These records of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective were given to the Schlesinger Library between March 1981 and June 2004 by the Collective. Related materials were donated by Dustin Lewis in 2003, and printouts from the Boston Women's Health Book Collective web site in July 2004 were added by the archivist. In August 2005, the Women's Educational Center (Cambridge, Mass.) donated correspondence with readers of Our Bodies, Ourselves and its subsequent versions (Series XVI, Subseries D, boxes 159-162).

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Additional Records of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, 1966-2010 (MC 667), and the Boston Women's Health Book Collective Audiotape collection, 1973-2000 (T-321).

Processing Information

Processed: January 2005. Addenda processed: October 2005.

By: Katherine Kraft, Johanna Carll

Boston Women's Health Book Collective. Records of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, 1905-2003 (inclusive), 1972-1997 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
The records were processed under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

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