If there is one iconic book in the women's health care field, it is the groundbreaking Our Bodies, Ourselves. Originally published in 1971 by the New England Free Press, the book, a revolutionary guide to health care that proposed that women take ownership of their physical and mental well-being, with respect to contraception, menopause and depression, among other topics, was written by the Boston Women's Health Collective.
The collective was a grass-roots movement—12 pioneering women who gathered to talk about their own experiences with doctors; their stories, along with hard medical research, went into the composition of the book. A word-of-mouth sensation when it was first published, the book was eventually picked up by a mainstream house—Simon & Schuster—in 1973. Over the past 35 years, the book has sold an astonishing four million copies, been translated into 18 languages and has become the bible on women's health. Says Sally Whelan, an original member of the collective, "It's just very encouraging to see the success of these [books] and to know what that means within countries that have little access to women's health information and where culturally appropriate information is even scarcer."
This month, a new, updated edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves is being published by Simon and Schuster. Aimed at a new era of women, half of the book is full of new or revised material and tackles the complex women's issues of our day. Among the hot-button topics: body image, the morning-after pill, safer sex, same-sex partnerships, transgender sexuality and the minefield of violence and abuse in relationships. The new edition also advises women on how to evaluate health information on the Internet and how to navigate today's labyrinthine medical care system.