Health and reproduction
In this extract a woman recalls her traumatic experience of having an abortion as a teenager in 1969
Rowena Arshad describes the reproductive control of working class women in Glasgow and in India
Sheila Kitzinger discusses pregnancy and childbirth
Doctor and patientBefore 1876 women were not allowed to train as doctors. In the 1960s and ‘70s the medical profession was still dominated by men, which disempowered women, not only as professionals, but also when it came to their own health and well-being. Books written by women for women were a fundamental way in which many of the messages and research of the Women’s Liberation Movement were spread. One such book was the publication Women and Their Bodies, which gathered together research about 12 different health topics specific to women and their experiences.
Barbara Jones talks about volunteering at a Rape Crisis centre
Lynne Segal describes the body / mind dualism
Women and Their Bodies – Our Bodies, Ourselves
Women and Their Bodies was born out of a women’s liberation conference which took place in Boston, USA, in 1969. At the conference a group of women discussed their experiences of doctors and, importantly, their knowledge of their own bodies. The editors explained the focus of the book in the following way:
Some people have asked us why the book is only about women. As women we do not consider ourselves experts on men (as men through the centuries have considered themselves experts on us). We feel that it would be best for men to do what we have done for themselves.
In 1971 the book was republished as Our Bodies, Ourselves and 250,000 copies were quickly sold. In 1973 the first commercial edition was published; the book has subsequently been published in translation all over the world, becoming one of the most beloved books of the movement. Kathy Davis writes about the transnational nature of feminist ideas through interviews with translators and publishers of the book in The Making of Our Bodies, Ourselves: How Feminism Travels across Borders (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007). Angela Phillips and Jill Rakusen were largely responsible for creating the UK edition, with the advice of many others including Sue O’Sullivan (The New Our Bodies, Ourselves, 1996). Jenni Murray is just one who found the book an inspiring insight into understanding and accepting her own body. She says that she had no doubt that this book drove women in the 1970s to campaign for their health.
Jan McKenley talks about women having a choice about what to do with their bodies
Jan McKenley talks about the feelings she experienced after her abortion
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