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Revisiting Our Bodies, Ourselves

April 2, 2010

Wells' text

In 1969, the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective began to meet for women to hold frank discussions on their bodies.  Out of those discussions came Our Bodies, Ourselves, published in 1973 and considered a driving force in revolutionizing the way women think about their bodies and with transforming the doctor-patient relationship.

According to Temple University English professor Sue Wells, the text established an entirely new way of talking about the female body and the scientific and medical disciplines that attend to it. Wells explores the development of this new discourse in her book, Our Bodies, Ourselves and the Work of Writing (Stanford University Press, 2010).

Wells interviewed  the writers and pored over 200 cardboard boxes of archives from the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective–the group formed to write OBOS–noting the doodles on their notes and the menu for their potluck on the margins of the meeting minutes.

Wells says one source of the book’s power was its tone. “Women did not

Susan Wells

respond to the book because it gave clear information about what it called ‘venereal disease,’” she said,  “but because it presented sexually transmitted diseases matter-of-factly, as a part of sexual life, and because the chapter’s critique of failures in the public health system was provocative, connecting a woman’s struggle to find dignified treatment with broader social forces.”

Read more about Wells’ new book at the Temple University Newsroom.

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