233 Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation 1999 Ministry to Women Award

Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation Workshop

1999 Ministry to Women Award Presented to the Boston Women's Health Book Collective

After introductions by Nancy Van Dyke, Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation (UUWF) Board member, and Tina Jas, UUWF president, Carole Eagleheart led the group in her original song, "Standing Before Us," and called on women to shout out the names of women who had influenced and enriched their lives.

This years UUWF Ministry to Women Award went to the Women's Health Book Collective, and to its Program Directory, Judith Norsigian. Because a family health crisis prevented Ms. Norsigian from attending, NH/VT District President Lynn Thomas accepted the award on behalf of the group, and spoke about how our culture raises special health issues for women.

The Women's Health Book Collective has addressed women's health issues—like the ways that marketing increases smoking and weight problems among women—as well as racist and classist health problems. Housing, good food, violence, and other problems are related to our health, said Ms. Thomas, both in this country and around the world. The Women's Health Book Collective is concerned with the problem of heavily indebted poor countries, where debt service, including payments to the World Bank, soak up all the funds which could be used for investment in social services and in small businesses that benefit women and families.

The awards ceremony closed with another song led by Carole Eagleheart, who set the tune of "Jacob's Ladder" to new words, "We are dancing Sarah's circle."

About the Award Recipient

In 1969, an organization called the Doctor's Group formed following a women's liberation conference. Their discussions and research resulted in Women and Their Bodies, a course booklet that put women's health in a radically new political and social context. The Boston Women's Health Book Collective formally incorporated in 1972 to publish commercially its renamed underground success, Our Bodies, Ourselves.

The collective of twelve women, who met weekly for more than ten years and made decisions through consensus, entrusted the organization's evolution to a new generation of employees and the remaining founders. They have worked together to create the infrastructure required of an intentionally feminist and multicultural social change organization.

Today, Boston Women's Health Book Collective (BWHBC) operates according to a model designed to capture some of the participatory nature of a collective and the efficiency of more structured management. It works in three program areas:

  • Our Bodies, Ourselves and its translations and adaptations;
  • The Women's Health Information Center, a library serving the information needs of BWHBC program areas and the public; and
  • Public Voice, the advocacy, public speaking, media outreach, and coalition-building activities that amplify the voices of Our Bodies, Ourselves and the women's health movement.

BWHBC's other publications include Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century; Changing Bodies, Changing Lives (for boys and girls); and The New Ourselves, Growing Older.

About the Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation and the Ministry to Women Award

The Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation is a continental membership organization working to preserve and celebrate the unique experience of Unitarian Universalist women.

UUWF has given the Ministry to Women Award at General Assembly since 1974 to an individual or group that has ministered to women in an outstanding manner. Previous recipients have included: Ms. magazine; Maggie Kuhn; the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights; May Sarton; Marian Wright Edelman; Carolyn McDade; and, in 1998, Lucile Shuck Longview and Rosemary Matson, initiator and implementor of the 1977 Unitarian Universalist Association's Women and Religion Resolution.

Reported by Margy Levine Young