JEB (JOAN E. BIREN)
In the early 1970’s, 90% of gynecologists were men, abortion was illegal, and married women couldn’t get a credit card without their husband’s consent. It was also the beginning of the second wave of feminism, the suffragette movement having been the first wave. Women across the nation were starting to organize health clinics for women. Our Bodies Ourselves was published to encourage us to take charge of our health, and it gave us a roadmap to do that. In Washington DC in 1972, we started a women’s health night at the Washington Free Clinic. While we were performing PAP smears and treating vaginal infections, we also showed women their cervix, and then taught them how to look in their vagina at home with a light and mirror. It was a matter of empowerment, learning about our bodies and taking charge! When Whitman-Walker Clinic was founded in 1978, the founders wanted a Lesbian Health component. So, a group of us founded the Lesbian Health Clinic in 1979. At that point, we were also discovering and learning about health disparities in the Lesbian community and being OUT in a doctor’s office. It was even more important to encourage Lesbians to have PAP smears, and we provided a comfortable and supportive environment to do that. We sent every woman home with a speculum!
So, here we are at our first Whitman Walker Clinic site at 17th and Q St NW, demonstrating how to show a woman to do her own pelvic exam.