Looking through the Speculum: Examining the Women’s Health Movement (Hardcover)

Looking through the Speculum: Examining the Women’s Health Movement By Judith A. Houck Cover Image

Looking through the Speculum: Examining the Women’s Health Movement (Hardcover)

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Highlights local history to tell a national story about the evolution of the women’s health movement, illuminating the struggles and successes of bringing feminist dreams into clinical spaces.
The women’s health movement in the United States, beginning in 1969 and taking hold in the 1970s, was a broad-based movement seeking to increase women’s bodily knowledge, reproductive control, and well-being. It was a political movement that insisted that bodily autonomy provided the key to women’s liberation. It was also an institution-building movement that sought to transform women’s relationships with medicine; it was dedicated to increasing women’s access to affordable health care without the barriers of homophobia, racism, and sexism. But the movement did not only focus on women’s bodies. It also encouraged activists to reimagine their relationships with one another, to develop their relationships in the name of personal and political change, and, eventually, to discover and confront the limitations of the bonds of womanhood.

This book examines historically the emergence, development, travails, and triumphs of the women’s health movement in the United States. By bringing medical history and the history of women’s bodies into our emerging understandings of second-wave feminism, the author sheds light on the understudied efforts to shape health care and reproductive control beyond the hospital and the doctor’s office—in the home, the women’s center, the church basement, the bookshop, and the clinic. Lesbians, straight women, and women of color all play crucial roles in this history. At its center are the politics, institutions, and relationships created by and within the women’s health movement, depicted primarily from the perspective of the activists who shaped its priorities, fought its battles, and grappled with its shortcomings.
Judith A. Houck is professor of history and gender and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Product Details ISBN: 9780226830841
ISBN-10: 0226830845
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: January 19th, 2024
Pages: 384
Language: English
“A well-researched, eye-opening book about the evolution of the women’s health movement. Highly recommended for readers interested in feminist theory and activism. It’s also a must for people frustrated with and angered by the prevalent biases within the medical system.” 
— Library Journal

“At a moment when reproductive and bodily autonomy are under threat more than ever, Houck tells a timely story of women’s health movement activists who demystified and transformed reproductive medicine to establish liberatory health practices and institutions. Houck’s protagonists also grappled with intersectional marginalization, leading many to demand healthcare that embraced the particular needs and demands of lesbians, trans people, and women of color.”
— Jennifer Nelson, University of Redlands

Looking through the Speculum is a gripping account of the women’s health movement and the institutions women’s health activists built and ran from the 1970s into the twenty-first century. Houck chronicles how feminist health activists established women’s health clinics to offer an alternative to the patriarchal model of medicine in which male physicians controlled procedures, information, and medications central to women’s intimate lives. Houck takes us inside the clinics to illustrate how feminist activists put into practice ideas about feminist health care and feminist leadership models. Over time, as the patient population became less white, less heterosexual, and less cisgender, clinics had to deliver more expansive services and adjust to new leadership models to appeal to poorer and less privileged women, women of color, and patients seeking trans care. This is a book not only about women’s attempts to take control of their intimate health care needs, but also about struggles for democracy and leadership these changes brought. It is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand how political ideals were negotiated and renegotiated as women’s health activists struggled to adjust to the changing needs of their clients and the health care field at large.” 
— Johanna Schoen, Rutgers University