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PERSONAL AND POLITICAL: Stories from the Women's Health Movement 1960-2010.

PERSONAL AND POLITICAL Stories from the Women's Health Movement 1960-2010


This thick tome may not be a casual read, but its personal recollections, archival articles and contemporary analyses make for fascinating stories and remind readers about this important facet of the women's movement.

More than 40 (mostly short) articles revisit topics such as the fight for access to abortion and contraception, the creation of women's health clinics and hospitals, and the experiences of immigrant and Indigenous women within the health system. A chronological approach shows the evolving concerns of different eras, and the continued challenges that persisted even after victories were won.

The book posits that women's health initiatives were a foundation of the broader second-wave feminist movement in Canada. It documents the grassroots struggle for reproductive autonomy, greater control over childbirth and support for survivors of violence. As women began to see their bodies as sites for empowerment, they raised their consciousness about health issues and embarked upon radical activism and building alternatives. It is implicit in these accounts that changing a medical paradigm created and run by men both challenged the patriarchy on the macro level and helped individual women on the micro level.

Ellen Woodsworth recounts the story of the Abortion Caravan in 1970, during which a travelling caravan of feminists held rallies on their journey to Ottawa to demand legalized abortion from Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Jeanette Frost describes her experiences with a group that fitted women for diaphragms. Three co-authors examine colonialism as the factor affecting disproportionately poor health for Indigenous women. Jan Trainor addresses the marginalization of lesbian women's health. Francine Odette investigates disabilities and body image. Editor Lorraine Greaves reflects insightfully on her advocacy for the inclusion of sex and gender as key health variables in research. Various authors reflect on how feminists have successfully challenged what women were once told about issues such as breast cancer (Sharon Batt), hormone replacement therapy (Harriet Simand) and midwifery (Sarah Payne).

The success of this book is grounded in the very personal nature of the stories, as well as in the wealth of expertise of the women involved. It covers much ground from the past, but as such, it does not address issues around transgender health. For those who were not participants in the women's health movement, the stories are a reminder that these victories were a long time in coming.


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Title Annotation:POETRY
Author:Rothstein, Kris
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2019
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