submitted by Diane Kirse

I am 56 years old.  When I was growing up my mother, who was a widow, never ever discussed sex or anything related to sex with me. I did get help however from the first edition of  “Our Bodies, Our Selves.”  It was a groundbreaking book for its time and I have tried and tried but cannot find my first copy, which I kept for years.  Just know that your work was wonderful for young women then and now. Keep up the good work.

Submitted by Whitney Pinger

As a young teen in the 1970s, OBOS taught me that women’s health was ours, and that we did not have to give up or strength and power.

I learned that midwives are the guardians of normal and natural birth and that is what I have come to incarnate.

I have been learning to be a midwife since I opened my first copy of OBOS … my journey took me many places but I am now the Director of Midwifery at The George Washington University.

I was an OBOS Women’s Health Hero in 2010.

My entire life has flowed from OBOS.

Submitted by Ruth Bell Alexander

In late 1969, a couple of months away from delivering my first baby (my son, who is now 41), I was 25 years old, living out in the country suburbs of Boston 3,000 miles away from my family, with a husband who went off to Cambridge every weekday for work.

It was a pretty lonely existence. I knew almost no one. But when my husband came home one day and told me he had met some people at work who knew about a women’s group that was starting, my life began to change. They were offering a class after hours at MIT about women’s issues. I remember the class being called Women and Their Bodies, but that’s with 42 years hindsight, so I may be wrong about the original title.

I do remember with startling clarity that although I knew only one person there, and even she I knew only barely, the roomful of women I walked into was very welcoming. The “class” was presented in a series of lectures about topics that ranged from women’s “roles,” to women’s work, health, legal issues pertaining to women, etc. — one topic per week for 12 weeks.

Each week had a “presenter,” and everyone in the room was invited to ask questions, offer comments, and discuss the issue at hand. I remember the Pregnancy class most clearly of course, and most specifically I remember raising my hand, with some trepidation, to ask about nightmares. During my pregnancy I had been having troubling nightmares, one of the issues that led me to brave the New England winter nights to drive 20 miles into Cambridge for the class. So I raised my hand and asked, “Has anyone experienced nightmares during pregnancy?”

Remembering this brings tears to my eyes even now at age 67, because my question was met with such loving responses that I felt embraced by the warmth and power of the experience and a deep connection to every woman in that room. No one patted me on the head and told me not to worry, as my doctor had done. No one scoffed at me. Instead, they listened and they responded from their hearts. And several of them had nightmares during their pregnancies, and they told me it was a fairly common experience for pregnant women to have strange dreams.

The flood of relief I felt at that moment, and the power that came from the sense of not being alone, really did change my life. The course ended after my baby was born, but I remember being at the last class when anyone there who wanted to participate in the writing of the lecture series into a book was invited to come to the next meeting.

I did show up at that next meeting and I have been involved with the OBOS collective since then. Happy 40th Anniversary, “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

Submitted by Anonymous

OBOS means being a nine-year-old girl and sneaking to flip through the contents of my mother’s copy. I recall seeing a drawing of a woman growing pubic hair and using a tampon. I remember being horrified and intrigued at the same time. It’s been many years since I’ve thought about that book but it would be 15 more years before I could muster up the courage to use a tampon.

Submitted by Jayne Marcheshi

Oh my gosh! Congratulations on 40 years!

I received my first “Our Bodies, Ourselves” when I was starting college back in 1978. Then I gave a newer edition to my daughter when she was in high school. The information in this book was so invaluable to me. Having so many questions and not knowing who to talk to back then made me feel
empowered in my young years.

Having just seen your commentary on the Evening News made me stop in
my tracks and smile and feel so grateful to you for helping women then
and now.

Congratulations!

By Vanessa Fernando

I first came across a copy of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” in a used bookstore when I was fifteen. I had been making myself throw up for about a year by that point, counting calories and restricting my sugar intake during the day just to sneak downstairs at night, quietly eating pretzels and cookies while trying not to wake my mother up.

My world consisted of a high school where the ‘pretty’ girls were all white and wore two-hundred-dollar jeans. I was hungry for all the things I couldn’t name  community, self-acceptance, a feminist analysis that could help me sort through the layers of my identity (queer, mixed-race) and find wholeness.

I can’t say that Our Bodies, Ourselves ‘cured’ me of my bulimia and solved all my problems. But what OBOS did was help me realize that women– women with very different backgrounds and from very different life experiences — have been mobilizing for years to create resources for girls like the one I was then. OBOS provided a community of sorts, a refuge, in which women discussed their own thoughts and fears and insecurities and shared information with one another in a way that alleviated my fears and my feelings of isolation.

Throughout my teenage years, as I started trying to stop my disordered eating and replace it with less destructive habits, questioned my sexual identity, and thought about becoming sexually active, OBOS was there with me, a friend to turn to in the middle of the night as I tried desperately to resist purging, as I tried not to listen to those voices in my head telling me that I was ugly, that I was disgusting, that I wasn’t worth loving.

I am proud to be a part of this project [ed note: Vanessa is on the cover of the new edition of OBOS], because I know that I have come a long way since then, and OBOS has helped me countless times as I’ve worked so hard to get here. OBOS has also allowed me to share my growth with others. I gave my mother a copy of ”Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era” when it first came out, hoping that she might be able to find a similar refuge in its pages as she struggled to embrace menopause and her aging body.

Since then, I’ve noticed that her copy’s pages are dog-eared. In addition to providing me with personal support, OBOS has also helped build empathy, as well as solidarity, between myself and my mother. That, I believe, is feminism in action.