An influential figure in the women’s health movement, Barbara Seaman, passed away Wednesday morning after battling lung cancer. Seaman co-founded the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN) and authored several books that raised awareness about women’s health issues and sexism in healthcare. Her first book, The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill, was published in 1969 and documented the problems with oral contraceptives as they were made in the 1960s. Her research led to safer oral contraceptives, containing a smaller dose of estrogen, for women today.
Seaman wrote six books about women’s health issues, including Women and the Crisis in Sex Hormones and The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth and contributed to many others. She was an activist and a health reporter who placed the safety of women patients over the concerns of the medical establishment. Seaman has said, “I didn’t start out as a muckraker. My goal was simply to try and give women plain facts that would help them make their own decisions, so they wouldn’t have to rely on authority figures.”
Seaman’s work was extremely influential in making the personal political in the women’s health movement. Cindy Pearson, executive director of the NWHN, said that Seaman’s work “touched the lives of all women in the country.” Because of Seaman’s research, women have access to safer contraceptives, more women have become doctors, men have been allowed in delivery rooms, and more research is being done on women’s health issues.
A memorial service will be held in her honor on Thursday, March 6 at 5:30 pm at the Riverside Memorial Chapel at 180 West 76th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan.