Barbara Seaman

Barbara Seaman was an American author, activist, and journalist, and a principal founder of the women’s health feminism movement.

When the birth control pill came on the market in 1960, Barbara was writing columns for women’s magazines such as Brides and the Ladies’ Home Journal. She launched her career as a women’s health journalist and brought a new kind of health reporting to the field, writing articles that centered more on the patient and less on the medical fads of the day. Seaman was first to reveal that women lacked the information they needed to make informed decisions on child-bearing, breast-feeding, and oral contraceptives. She even went so far as to alert women to the dangers of the Pill, whose primary ingredient was estrogen (also the active ingredient inPremarin, which had contributed to the death of her aunt).

Due to her criticism of the birth control pill and other commercially important pharmaceutical products, Seaman was fired, blacklisted, and censored on numerous occasions including dismissals from Ladies Home Journal, Family Circle, Omni and Hadassah magazines.

U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney, in the Congressional Record (October 17, 2005), stated that “In the 1980s Barbara was essentially blacklisted from magazines by pharmaceutical companies who would not advertise in publications that carried her stories. Her relentless insistence on questioning the safety and effectiveness of their products earned her their condemnation and our praise. Barbara took advantage of this forced lull by turning to biography.”

Until the end of her life, she was writing articles and advocating for women’s safety and participation in their own medical treatment. Seaman continued to write about hormonal contraceptives, childbirth, and the unwillingness of some doctors and pharmaceutical companies to disclose risks to patients and consumers, effectively denying them the ability to make informed decisions. On 27 February 2008, Barbara Seaman died of lung cancer. Hundreds of friends and family from around the country joined her family for a memorial service shortly after her death.

In June 2000, the New York Times published a piece by Seaman, “The Pill and I: 40 Years On, the Relationship Remains Wary”.

Categories: Woman of the Day

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