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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 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. In More 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 Medicine poignantly 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.


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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 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. In More 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 Medicine poignantly 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.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    l.

    I realize that activist history is important but tbh a lot of the time, it’s really boring reading.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    The writing style was quite dry, but the topic matter and historical information on this movement greatly interests me, so I was able to look beyond that. "Demands to satisfy basic needs cannot be separated from reproductive politics, because a right to reproductive control is hollow without a right to live free of hunger, racism, and violence and without the dignity that facilitates real choices for one's own future community." "The goals of NHCs (Neighborhood Health Centers) surpassed the simpl The writing style was quite dry, but the topic matter and historical information on this movement greatly interests me, so I was able to look beyond that. "Demands to satisfy basic needs cannot be separated from reproductive politics, because a right to reproductive control is hollow without a right to live free of hunger, racism, and violence and without the dignity that facilitates real choices for one's own future community." "The goals of NHCs (Neighborhood Health Centers) surpassed the simple distribution of medical care commodity form--to be exchanged within a marketplace that at best lowered the cost for the poor. Instead, NHCs were designed to empower the least powerful members of society and to radically transform a deeply anti-egalitarian culture that had embedded inequalities within institutions such as clinics and hospitals."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    613.04244 N4273 2015

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Mellington-Smith

    In the light of the current political atmosphere, this is another worthy read!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Octavia Cade

    It's always such a relief, when coming across an academic book on an interesting subject, to find that the book is readable as well as informative. (Academic prose often has such a soporific effect.) Fortunately, Nelson's language is clear and her argument uncluttered, making this an especially useful text for someone like me, who lacks much background in the topic. The title, More than Medicine, is a direct reference to a feminist perception of health that is particularly broad-based in approach It's always such a relief, when coming across an academic book on an interesting subject, to find that the book is readable as well as informative. (Academic prose often has such a soporific effect.) Fortunately, Nelson's language is clear and her argument uncluttered, making this an especially useful text for someone like me, who lacks much background in the topic. The title, More than Medicine, is a direct reference to a feminist perception of health that is particularly broad-based in approach, and encourages the folding-in of social and economic services in addition to what we typically think of as healthcare. If someone lacks the money to buy food, for instance, then the sensible thing to do, so the argument goes, is not only to treat the malnutrition but to ensure that the individual can access sufficient resources in the future to make sure that malnutrition does not recur. In a practical example from my own country, there's been an increase in rheumatic fever in Auckland because of the poor housing available to low-income families. Yes, the affected kids need treatment, but what's the use of sending them to Starship Hospital for treatment if they have to go straight back to that substandard housing afterwards? Treating the result instead of the cause is merely slapping a Band-Aid on until the problem re-occurs... which seems an eminently sensible perception to me. Nelson argues that this broad-based approach has, historically, been more often found in feminist health and justice organisations run by women of colour. White feminists, who have tended to be better off economically, have prioritised protecting the abortion rights of women. Which is a necessary thing, but is not the only thing. Women of colour feminists, for instance, have been equally if not more concerned with racially-based sterilisation abuses and the disproportionate rate of HIV/Aids in women of colour. How these various groups work together - or don't - is the subject of much of the book, and the conclusion, that multiple groups representing different cultures working alongside each other are often more effective than one big multicultural group, seems reasonable given the evidence presented.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Interesting history of the feminist women's health movement, from its roots in the civil rights movement to the present day. Although it's pretty repetitive at times, it is good because it gives serious attention to women of color and how their exclusion from mainstream feminist movement organizations shaped their crusade for reproductive justice. It also tells interesting stories about women's health clinics outside the Boston/Chicago/San Francisco areas (the movement in those cities has been w Interesting history of the feminist women's health movement, from its roots in the civil rights movement to the present day. Although it's pretty repetitive at times, it is good because it gives serious attention to women of color and how their exclusion from mainstream feminist movement organizations shaped their crusade for reproductive justice. It also tells interesting stories about women's health clinics outside the Boston/Chicago/San Francisco areas (the movement in those cities has been well covered by other writers). Another strength of the book is that it covers the women's health movement through the late 80s and 1990s, when the mainstream women's movement was fighting clinic bombings and protests and the increasing restrictions on abortion access in the legal sphere. All in all, a fast read. I'd consider assigning excerpts of it to undergraduates, and would recommend that graduate students skim it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  8. 4 out of 5

    Trixielle Rose

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cait

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brooke Bullington

  11. 4 out of 5

    B

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bigwangenergy

  14. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Bradley

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ericka

  16. 5 out of 5

    Beth

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lourdes Vera

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Betts-Green (Dinosaur in the Library)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anna Lyon

  20. 5 out of 5

    Prashasti Bhatnagar

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katie Stottlemire

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kate

  23. 4 out of 5

    Erin

  24. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

  25. 5 out of 5

    Madison

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura Gregor

  29. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

  30. 4 out of 5

    Annette

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