The enormous practical changes to women’s health care that have taken root since the late 1960s can be directly attributed to the work of the women’s health movement. Particularly in the United States, the movement relied on feminist self-help strategies including self-education, sharing information, the hands-on practice of cervical and breast self-exam, and the creation of laywoman-operated clinics. Self-helpers destabilized the naturalized authority of the medical professional and asserted that women were the true experts on their own bodies. This thesis examines the work of the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective (VWHC)—the first women’s health organization in Canada to take up feminist self-help strategies—from its inception in the early 1970s until the early 1980s. This thesis traces the movement of feminist ideas across the US-Canada border and analyzes the VWHC’s relationship to Canadian feminisms, the state, and the mainstream medical system.
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Thesis advisor: Chenier, Elise
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