Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MC 902: T-330

Kathy Davis oral history interviews, 1998-2005


Oral histories with the Boston Women's Health Book Collective founders, leaders, and staff conducted by scholar and feminist Kathy Davis.


  • Creation: 1998-2005

Language of Materials

Most materials in English; some audio in German.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Kathy Davis is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

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


.42 linear feet ((1 file box) plus 54 audiotapes)

The Kathy Davis oral history interviews contain audiocassettes and some transcripts of the interviews Davis conducted with founders of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, staff, and contributors concerning the history of the Collective and the evolution of Our Bodies, Ourselves within and outside the United States.

The bulk of the interviews in this collection are with the Collective's original founders, a group of mostly young white college-educated middle class women who first met at a Bread and Roses conference in Boston in 1969 or at the follow-up course, "Women and Their Bodies," at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The women who continued their involvement shared a common interest in women's health and sexuality and formed a core group which became the Boston Women's Health Book Collective. In addition to interviews with this group of early founders, Davis interviewed Elizabeth MacMahon-Herrera, Pamela Morgan, and Sally Whelan, who came to the Collective around ten years after the initial gatherings and are also considered founders by the Collective. Interviewees discuss personal histories and experiences in the Collective; interpersonal relationships, including conflicts and resolutions, among the members of the Collective; personal and political reasons women joined and stayed with the Collective; international interests of members; different roles of the Collective's membership; the Collective's place in the feminist movement; the process of creating Our Bodies, Ourselves, as well as other publications, including Changing Bodies, Changing Lives and Ourselves and Our Children; early responses to Our Bodies, Ourselves; how the book and the Collective have changed over time; the histories of expansions, updates, revisions, international editions, and foreign translations of Our Bodies, Ourselves; personal experiences with childbirth and the healthcare system that helped motivate participation in the Collective; field work and teaching about women's health in other countries; related projects, including community outreach and education; the Collective's evolution and development to include office staff and a board in the 1980s and 1990s; and issues related to diversity, racism, unionization of staff, and funding challenges.

Other interviewees include contributor and staff member Jamie Penney (T-330.17), who came to the Collective in 1990 as the staff librarian, discussing the organizational structure and environment throughout the 1990s; contributor Jennifer Yanco (T-330.38), who first joined the Collective in fall 1993 and talks about her involvement in the global initiatives and her work with foreign editions; and Irina Todorova (T-330.30-T-330.31), who was the co-founder of the Women's Health Initiative and the Our Bodies, Ourselves project coordinator in Bulgaria, discussing her work related to these projects.

In addition, the collection contains audiocassettes documenting group discussions with members of the Collective; focus groups of women in Germany and the Netherlands responding to Our Bodies, Ourselves; and audio from the conference Crossing Cultural Borders. Crossing Cultural Borders (T-330.46-T-330.54) was a gathering of members of Our Bodies, Ourselves Global Network in the Netherlands in 2001. Kathy Davis and Marlies Bosch helped organize and facilitate the conference, which consisted of twenty-one women participants from Japan, Armenia, Poland, Tibet, Senegal, Mexico, Bulgaria, Serbia, the Netherlands, and the United States. For three days, participants shared their experiences working on the book and discussed the challenges they faced creating adaptations of Our Bodies, Ourselves.

In the inventory, the archivist identified those individuals who are founders. The collection contains a total of 54 audiocassettes and transcripts of sixteen of the one-on-one interviews. Collection is arranged alphabetically by interviewee followed by group discussions, focus group sessions, and the Crossing Cultural Borders conference.


Scholar and feminist Kathy Davis has taught psychology, sociology, and gender studies and has held visiting chairs and research fellowships in Europe and the United States, including a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She is currently a senior research fellow in the Department of Sociology at the Free University Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Prior to this, Davis worked as associate professor in women's studies and senior researcher at the Institute of History and Culture at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. She is the author of Power under the Microscope (1988), Reshaping the Female Body (1995), Dubious Equalities and Embodied Differences: Cultural Studies on Cosmetic Surgery (2003), as well as several anthologies. In 2007 she published The Making of Our Bodies, Ourselves: How Feminism Travels Across Borders. In this book she tells the history and global impact of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective's pioneering work, Our Bodies, Ourselves, and examines the influence of Our Bodies, Ourselves on the women's health movement. In preparation for her book, Davis conducted a series of interviews with founders, leaders, and other activists in the Collective. Davis's book was the recipient of several prizes, including the Distinguished Book Prize for 2008 from the American Sociological Association's Section on Sex and Gender, the Eileen Basker prize from the American Anthropological Association, and the Joan Kelly prize for women's history from the American Historical Association.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2006-M119, 2006-M154, 2007-M112, 2007-M113

The Kathy Davis oral history interviews were given to the Schlesinger Library by Kathy Davis between July 2006 and June 2007.

Processing Information

Processed: March 2017

By: Laura Peimer

Davis, Kathy, 1949- , interviewer. Kathy Davis oral history interviews, 1998-2005: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from the Mary Mitchell Wood Manuscript Processing Fund and the Class of 1956 fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA