Durham Women’s Health Cooperative

Sign courtesy of Margie Sved.

Document courtesy of Margie Sved.


The Durham Women’s Health Collective, later known as the Durham Women’s Health Cooperative, was founded by Connie Winstead in 1974. It was a project that came out of the YWCA Durham Women’s Center with help from other women such as Suzi Woodard and Margie Sved .  The Durham Women’s Health Cooperative was based on women’s health collectives in places such as Berkley (where Connie had volunteered) and Boston. The Durham Women’s Health Cooperative provided many services and opportunities for women in the community including an information and review file on doctors (specifically OBGYNS and general/family practitioners), training for YWCA volunteer counselors, problem pregnancy counseling, pregnancy tests, and even sexuality education in local public schools.

Connie Winstead recalls what it was like to start the Durham Women’s Health Cooperative:

Courtesy of Margie Sved.

[audio:http://sites.duke.edu/docst110s_01_s2011_bec15/files/2011/04/Connie-Winstead-beginning-of-the-Durham-Womens-Center.mp3|titles=Connie Winstead – beginning of the Durham Women’s Center]

“There were some women who were already doing that kind of, you know, counseling and outreach trying to help women women who needed abortions and couldn’t get  them.  There wasn’t an abortion clinic in Durham and so there was a lot of, you know, scrambling around trying to figure out resources–getting together materials, putting together handouts for women about their choices, and basically the Y was a little building downtown, it was the YWCA it was separate from the YMCA and we just had a little office in there where we ran a, sort of a, we had office hours where we answered the phone and advised women and they could come in if they wanted to talk and get handouts and material.” [Connie Winstead 6:26-7:13]

Document courtesy of Margie Sved.

Suzi Woodard talks about how the Durham Women’s Health Collective got started.
[audio:http://sites.duke.edu/docst110s_01_s2011_bec15/files/2011/04/Suzi-Woodard-Durham-Womens-Health-Collective-beginnings.mp3|titles=Suzi Woodard – Durham Women’s Health Collective beginnings]

“I don’t remember how specific our plans were versus how much they evolved.  But what wound up happening was that we…heard from Connie Winstead, who had been out in Berkeley for…a couple years maybe, and had been involved in the Berkeley Women’s Health Collective out there and had just come back to Durham after that and she was very excited about that group and the networking that, you know, that they had done..the Boston Women’s Health Collective had just come out with “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and we were learning about what they had been doing in Boston, with some of their community education and empowerment.  We also knew that the Women’s Center had been doing some other activities but not specifically around women’s health.” [Suzi Woodard 46:22-47:28]

Connie Winstead describes the services the Durham Women’s Health Cooperative offered.
[audio:http://sites.duke.edu/docst110s_01_s2011_bec15/files/2011/04/Connie-Winstead-Cooperative-Services.mp3|titles=Connie Winstead – Cooperative Services]

“We had a telephone, kind of hot line for women to call in with questions about contraception and abortion and adoption, we always, you know, we included everything, we had a physician referral directory at the Co-op, so if a woman was looking for an OBGYN, we had a list of them and we actually asked the women to rate them, rate the doctors in terms of their sensitivity and you know, how well they liked them and how they were treated.  So we had kind of a rating system so that we could give referrals to women…They could come in and talk…we could direct them to rape crisis hotline or counselors.  It was just mostly referral and counseling.  [Connie Winstead 33:27-34:19]

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