A Tribute to Barbara Seaman: Triggering a revolution in women’s health care

A Tribute to Barbara Seaman: Triggering a revolution in women’s health care

Barbara Seaman was an author who persistently challenged the “givens” of the medical establishment. In the 1970s, she became a pioneer in a bustling new feminist health movement that focused on patient knowledge and decision-making. The New York Times wrote that she had “triggered a revolution, fostering a willingness among women to take issues of health into their own hands.”

Barbara Seaman (1935-2008) ©Linda Stein

A graduate of Oberlin College and Columbia University School of Journalism, Seaman wrote for many mainstream publications, including Ladies’ Home Journal, Family Circle and Ms. Magazine. Her first book, The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill in 1969, questioned harm caused by the estrogen levels in early birth control pills — 10 times current dosage — and became the basis for Senate hearings in 1970.

Seaman followed with books, Free and Female, about women’s sexuality, and Women and the Crisis In Sex Hormones, which persuaded the federal government to convene a task force on DES, a drug found to cause cancer and other problems in daughters of women who were given it. In 1975, Seaman co-founded the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN) in Washington, D.C.

Closed out of magazine writing by upset pharmaceutical advertisers, Seaman persisted. She contributed to a dozen anthologies and consulted on television documentaries; her review of five books on breast cancer appeared in On The Issues Magazine in 1997. All the while, Seaman burnished a reputation as a mentor to upcoming writers.

In 2000, she co-edited For Women Only: Your Guide to Health Empowerment with Gary Null, and in 2003 published The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth, reissued in 2009. Two more books, co-authored with Laura Eldridge, entered book stores after her death from lung cancer in 2008 at age 72 — The No-Nonsense Guide to Menopause in 2008, and in April 2011, The Body Politic, a history of writings on the female body.

Seaman lived in New York City near her three children and four grandchildren. “I didn’t start out to be a muckraker,” Seaman once said. “My goal was simply to try and give women plain facts that would help them to make their own decisions, so they wouldn’t have to rely on authority figures.”

Below are funny, irreverent and poignant tributes to Seaman — feminist, writer and activist. – By The Editors


Merle Hoffman's Choices: A Post-Roe Abortion Rights Manifesto

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“Merle Hoffman has always known that in a democracy, we each have decision-making power over the fate of our own bodies. She is a national hero for us all.” —Gloria Steinem

In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe V. Wade and a country divided, Merle Hoffman, a pioneer in the pro-choice movement and women’s healthcare, offers an unapologetic and authoritative take on abortion calling it “the front line and the bottom line of women’s freedom and liberty.” 

Merle Hoffman has been at the forefront of the reproductive freedom movement since the 1970s. Three years before the Supreme Court legalized abortion through Roe v. Wade, she helped to establish one of the United States’ first abortion centers in Flushing, Queens, and later went on to found Choices, one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive women’s medical facilities. For the last five decades, Hoffman has been a steadfast warrior and fierce advocate for every woman’s right to choose when and whether or not to be a mother.