Penn State

Bernadette Lear - Behavioral Sciences and Education Librarian, Penn State Harrisburg

Book Title: Our Bodies, Ourselves

Author: Boston Women's Health Collective

Book Description:

 I first read Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS) in 1993 in when I was taking a high school social studies class. Having grown up in a Catholic household, I naively approached my term paper assignment with a firm belief in the right to life. Still, I visited a local library and dutifully consulted all the relevant books from the “HQ” and “R” shelves. Among them was a 1992 edition of OBOS . After harvesting relevant pages, I thumbed the table of contents and read other sections. “Violence Against Women,” “Our Relationships with Men,” and other parts of OBOS introduced me to rape, abusive and unsupportive partner relationships, addiction, birth defects, and the many other reasons that women seek abortions. Quotations from women of many different backgrounds increased my understanding that pregnancy is an intensively individual experience.

Although I continue to regret the number of abortions that occur, I have come to view each one as necessary, at least in the eyes of the female who has one. In other words, OBOS challenged and complicated my stance on a very personal and social issue, as any meaningful book should. Exposing me to the voices of other women was also a subtextual lesson in the importance of collecting a wide range of opinions. As I moved through my 20s and 30s, I actively listened to aunts, cousins, friends, and colleagues about dating, marriage, childbirth, and other women’s issues. These conversations empowered me to make more thoughtful decisions of my own.

I have purchased OBOS for every library I’ve worked in and I’ve gifted copies to friends who reach certain milestones. I am grateful that Penn State has given me this opportunity to place another copy of OBOS in the hands of an insufficiently-informed person like I once was. I hope that others will find it, read it, and reflect more deeply about themselves and the challenges that women face.


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