I have to make my biases known at the outset: this may well be my favorite Woman Making History entry. Of all of the feminist leaders I admire, the Boston Women's Health Collective is very very high on the list.
The Boston Women's Health Collective (originally the Boston Women's Health Book Collective) was formed in 1969, after its founding members met at a women's health seminar and discussed the lack of health resources available to women. The group originally tried to compile a list of doctors in the Boston area who were sensitive to women's health needs and respected their female patients as people. Finding their list far too short, they decided to compile a manual of health advice and self-care instructions for women. A completely volunteer effort, researched and written by the women themselves, the book, the first edition of which was published in 1970 under the name "Women and their Bodies," was originally intended as a companion to a course on women's health. It quickly became an underground sensation, however, selling 250,000 copies in New England with no formal advertising.
The next, expanded version of the book was published in 1973, with the new title "Our Bodies, Ourselves." Since then, the effort has exploded, with a new, updated, and expanded version of "Our Bodies, Ourselves" coming out every few years, and a range of other books as well, including comprehensive manuals about younger women's heath, women's health in older age, and the specific health concerns of Latina women.
As the Boston Women's Health Collective's projects grew, so did the organization, moving from a completely volunteer effort to one with a permanent staff of 11, as well as a volunteer network and an internship program. The Collective is not only responsible for publishing the books, but also for advocacy and consulting in the arena of women's health. The most recent editions of the books have been translated into many languages, and the organization has worked to increase its focus on global women's health issues.