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Abstract

The women’s health book, Our Bodies, Ourselves: A Book by and for Women, was first printed in 1970 by the small, radical New England Free Press. Published by the group of women soon too become the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, it was advertised solely by word of mouth. Successive newsprint editions reached a quarter of a million people in the United States through colleges and an extensive network of “underground” bookstores. The book placed female sexuality firmly within the framework of women’s health and combined vividly experienced medical encounters with available health and medical information. It critiqued prevailing cultural and medical views, enumerating the social, political, medical, and economic obstacles that prevent women’s health and medical needs from becoming known, met, and respected. It helped create the Women’s Health Movement. Simon & Schuster’s updated 1973 edition attracted thousands more readers. When it became a best-seller in 1976, overseas commercial publishers and women’s groups sought it out. Aided by Collective members, they translated it and adapted its content and style to accommodate their own needs. The book’s worldwide success has ranged from purely personal empowerment for hundreds of thousands of women into the broader arenas of research, education, and health policy initiatives related to women’s health.

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