Tribute to Lorraine Rothman, one of our founding mothers

Lorraine Rothman (1932-2007) died September 24, 2007 at home with her family in Fullerton after a diagnosis of advanced cancer. Read the wonderful article in the Los Angeles Times written by Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, October 3, 2007 - excerpt below

Lorraine Rothman, 75; feminist clinic's co-founder helped demystify gynecology

Lorraine Rothman, a founder of the feminist self-help clinic movement who demystified basic gynecology for thousands of women at centers in Los Angeles and Orange counties, died of cancer Sept. 25 at her home in Fullerton. She was 75.

In 1971, Rothman, a teacher and mother of four, founded with Carol Downer the Los Angeles Feminist Women's Health Center, which taught women how to perform their own cervical self-examinations and pregnancy tests.

They also popularized a procedure called menstrual extraction, which could be used as a method of early abortion.

The two women's pioneering efforts helped unleash a cultural revolution that, according to writer and social critic Barbara Ehrenreich, "legitimized the notion that we have the right to know and to decide about procedures -- from sterilization to hormone treatments -- that affect our bodies and our lives."

more at The LA Times website,1,5981288.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

Lorraine made a major contribution to the women of the world as described in this biography from Feminists Who Changed America: 1963 – 1975 edited by Barbara J. Love: 

“A pioneer of the Self-Help Movement, Rothman has dedicated her life to women’s rights of self-determination and control of their bodies.  She was a founding member of Self-Help Clinic One (1971), and in the fall of that year traveled throughout the U.S. with Carol Downer, speaking to NOW chapters and other women’s groups about self-examination and menstrual extraction.  In 1972, Rothman applied for and received a U.S. patent for the Menstrual Extraction Kit, the Del’Em, and co-founded the first Feminist Women’s Health Center (FWHC) in Los Angeles.  Women were taught cervical and vaginal self-exams and how to perform their own pregnancy tests.  They also set up a patient advocacy program with local hospital administrators and doctors to provide simple outpatient suction abortions, on demand, without the hospital board’s approval  or a necessity clause.  Concurrently, Rothman co-founded the second FWHC in Santa Ana, CA.  Following the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade, both centers opened licensed out-patient well-woman clinics providing a full range of well-woman healthcare services, including abortion.  Rothman served as an administrator and director of these facilities.  From 1973 to 1974, feminist health activists from across the U.S. were introduced to the Self Help Clinic’s patient participatory and educational concepts and opened their own feminist women’s health centers.  In 1975 Rothman’s self-help clinic concept was the subject of the books A New View of a Woman’s Body, How To Stay OUT of the Gynecologists Office and Woman-Centered Pregnancy and Birth.  She co-wrote (with Marcia Wexler, Ph.D.) Menopause Myths and Facts, What Every Women Should Know About Hormone Replacement Therapy (Feminist Health Press, 1999).  Through 1986, Rothman worked in administration at the FWHC’s in Los Angeles and Santa Ana, and with it’s umbrella organization, The Federation of Feminist Women’s Health Centers, which included over a dozen sites.  In 1999, she joined the FWHC’s website as a consultant and self-help clinic advocate.”



Links to Lorraine Rothman’s life and work: 


Cheri Reisman
Lorraine was a vigorous, inspiring person in the church.  I have only begun to realize how our professional lives were parallel because we never talked about them.  As her associates have responded about her work and furnished information, I am again invigorated to take steps to make sure that women have the health care they seek and furthermore require..  Kaiser's urology department has said it  will find an experienced female urologist.  I will not let this rest.
-Retired RNP from Kaiser, Cheri Reisman

Women's Space/The Margins
The women who post and read to Women's Space/The
Margins honour Lorraine Rothman as one of our most
radical and revolutionary feminist foremothers.

Online with Zoe (Zoe Ann Nicholson) We have lost a great friend, Lorraine Rothman. "Women came to their Summer Institutes and were able to return home and open their own feminist women’s health centers – among them: Atlanta, Tallahassee, Chico (CA), Oakland (CA), Cambridge (MA) and San Diego (CA)."
Cathy Courtney

A poem written to Lorraine before she passed. "Of all the wonderful memories I have of Lorraine, I have to say the one that sticks in my mind at this moment is visiting Lorraine at her home in Fullerton and being introduced to a microwave oven.  Lorraine was "baking" potatoes for her family in this outrageous little "oven" which had them cooked in 10 minutes.  Leave it to Lorraine to figure out about microwaves before the rest of us."

Sharna One of my favorite memories is when our group at the Westside Women's Center in Venice demonstrated self-help and handed our speculums to a group of astonished Moroccan women who were at some summer institute at USC.

Updated: Oct 9, 2007

"She questioned authority from the time she was a little kid," said her daughter, Andrea.

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