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More Than Medicine

More Than Medicine: A History of the Feminist Women's Health Movement

Jennifer Nelson
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    More Than Medicine
    Book Description:

    In 1948, the Constitution of the World Health Organization declared, "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Yet this idea was not predominant in the United States immediately after World War II, especially when it came to women's reproductive health. Both legal and medical institutions-and the male legislators and physicians who populated those institutions-reinforced women's second class social status and restricted their ability to make their own choices about reproductive health care.

    InMore Than Medicine, Jennifer Nelson reveals how feminists of the '60s and '70s applied the lessons of the new left and civil rights movements to generate a women's health movement. The new movement shifted from the struggle to revolutionize health care to the focus of ending sex discrimination and gender stereotypes perpetuated in mainstream medical contexts. Moving from the campaign for legal abortion to the creation of community clinics and feminist health centers, Nelson illustrates how these activists revolutionized health care by associating it with the changing social landscape in which women had power to control their own life choices.

    More Than Medicinepoignantly reveals how social justice activists in the United States gradually transformed the meaning of health care, pairing traditional notions of medicine with less conventional ideas of "healthy" social and political environments.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7089-4
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    The Constitution of the World Health Organization declared in 1948, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”¹ Yet, this idea was not predominant in the United States immediately after World War II. Social movement activists in the United States, including those involved in the civil rights, New Left, and feminist movements, gradually transformed the meaning of health care beyond the medical treatment of individual bodies. This book tells a part of that story. Activists involved in the civil rights, New Left, and feminist movements redefined health to...

  5. 1 “Medicine May Be the Way We Got in the Door”: Social Justice and Community Health in the Mid-1960s
    (pp. 15-56)

    The women’s health movement of the 1970s emerged from an earlier movement focused on the use of health care to end poverty in the United States. Health care reform activists of the 1960s, some of whom joined the feminist health reform movement in the 1970s, forged what they believed would be a comprehensive and community-based solution to poverty eradication. Although the implementation of their solutions was never quite as sweeping as some activists wanted, they successfully garnered substantial federal dollars for their programs. These activists intended to use Neighborhood Health Centers (NHCs) to eradicate poverty and to restructure the social...

  6. 2 “Thank You for Your Help . . . Six Children Are Enough”: The Abortion Birth Control Referral Service
    (pp. 57-90)

    Community and neighborhood health clinics, grounded in the civil rights and New Left movements, provided intellectual, political, and practical experiential precedents for the women’s health movement. By the early 1970s, with the explosion of Women’s Liberation participation in cities around the country, feminists began to create new health institutions for themselves and other women. The feminists who built these institutions perpetuated the earlier health reform commitment to reaching people without access to health care. At the same time, they also wanted to expand women’s sexual and reproductive autonomy and dismantle sexual and reproductive double standards that seemed natural and normal...

  7. 3 Reproductive Control, Sexual Empowerment: The Aradia Women’s Health Center and the Early Movement for Feminist Health Reform
    (pp. 91-122)

    Historical literature on the abortion and reproductive rights movement has often disconnected the movement for abortion legalization and, after legalization, abortion access from larger issues of reproductive health and sexuality.¹ This representational schism is inaccurate because the fight for legal abortion was only one part of a larger and more complex women’s health movement. In the last chapter, I, too, focused on the Abortion Birth Control Referral Service to the exclusion of other reproductive health–and sexuality-related programs operating simultaneously among Seattle feminists. Women’s Liberation participants of the 1970s did not disconnect abortion from their sexual experiences or from their...

  8. 4 Conserving Feminist Health Care, Confronting Anti-Abortion: The Atlanta Feminist Women’s Health Center
    (pp. 123-166)

    Feminists who founded and ran the Aradia Women’s Health Center experienced the optimistic blossoming of Women’s Liberation and the feminist women’s health movements. Women’s health reform was a fundamental component of Women’s Liberation as that movement emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As several women who were involved in the early days of Aradia explained to me, Women’s Liberation health activists felt almost fearless, like they could do anything, including build a woman-controlled clinic with no formal medical training. Any of the fears they did have were quickly overcome by excitement about how rapidly things were changing around...

  9. 5 “All This That Has Happened to Me Shouldn’t Happen to Nobody Else”: Loretta Ross and the Women of Color Reproductive Freedom Movement of the 1980s
    (pp. 167-192)

    At the same time that feminist women’s health providers were fending off attacks by anti-abortion organizations, women of color were increasingly vocal about the failure of majority-white feminist, women’s health, and reproductive rights organizations to prioritize the political and feminist demands made by women of color. Majority-white feminist and women’s health organizations tried to address some of these concerns with varying degrees of success. One method of addressing the demands of women of color was to try to integrate more women of color into majority-white organizations. Black feminist and reproductive rights activist Loretta Ross was hired in 1985 for this...

  10. 6 Women of Color and the Movement for Reproductive Justice: A Human Rights Agenda
    (pp. 193-220)

    After the 1989 March for Women’s Lives, Loretta Ross moved to Atlanta to become director of programs for the National Black Women’s Health Project (NBWHP).¹ Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross, and Elena R. Gutiérrez, the authors ofUndivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice,characterize the NBWHP as “the first ever women of color reproductive justice organization” and the “foremother” of organizations that make up a contemporary movement for reproductive justice among women of color.² Silliman, Fried, Ross, and Gutiérrez, who are also activists within the movement, elaborate on the meaning of the term “reproductive justice”...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 221-252)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 253-264)
    (pp. 265-265)