Women's Health Library: archive

  • Women's Health Library (1988-2006)
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


This collection consists of information files on a huge variety of subjects. The information files have been used to create an archive based on the Women's Health Library's own system of categorisation. Under this system, each subject is assigned a specific code ("Kk" for "Cancer" and "Ol" for "infertility" for instance) which additionally allowed for composite subject files (OlKk meaning "infertility and cancer").

Alongside this archive, publications from the Women's Health Library have been added to Wellcome's History of Medicine and Medical collections.



Physical description

71 boxes, 1 outsize box, 1 outsize item


The arrangement follows the Women's Health Library's own system of classification.

Biographical note

Women's Health was formed in 1988 as a merger between the Women's Reproductive Rights Information Centre (WRRIC) and Women's Health Information Centre (WHIC). The Women's Health Information Centre formed in 1982; Women's Health Information Centre was established in 1983 after a split from the National Abortion Campaign. At the time of the merger, the group was known as the Women's Health and Reproductive Rights Information Centre (WHRRIC), before changing its name to Women's Health. The aim of the centre was to provide information and support to women on health and reproductive issues, motivated by the idea of information as a form of political empowerment. They worked with, and acted as a resource for, medical professionals, women in health groups, self-help groups, community groups and trade unions in line with the ethos of the Women's Liberation Movement. The centre collected resources relating to all areas of women's health, including books, leaflets, journals, press cuttings and articles. (Topics include: women's health, self help, politics of women's health, diverse specific medical conditions, reproductive health, reproductive rights, sterilisation, women and learning disabilities,women in medicine, alternative/complementary medicine, lesbian health, refugees, minorities.) The centre also published titles on women's health, including a regular newsletter. Using these resources, the centre answered enquiries, with a dedicated phone line for dealing with calls from individuals, the media and health professionals. The centre referred enquirers to relevant support groups and networks, organisations, and government bodies around the country. In addition, Women's Health conducted outreach work focusing on women least likely to have adequate access to health information - older women, black minority and ethnic women, women with learning disabilities, and lower-income women. A number of its publications were aimed at women with learning disabilities, or translated into other languages. One of the centre's notable publications, Getting Pregnant our own way: a guide to self-insemination proved controversial, with the group's funders threatening to cut funding if they continued to 'promote homosexuality'. As well as providing an information service, the centre was politically active, and made submissions to the House of Commons Select Committee on AIDS, as well as acting as a point of contact for the media on women's health and reproductive issues. Women's Health was based near Old Street and closed in 2006.

Related material

Books and grey literature from the Women's Health Library have been donated to Wellcome and added to our History of Medicine and Medical collections.

Terms of use

This collection has been catalogued and is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records.

Ownership note

Following the closure of Women's Health in 2006, the Feminist Library acted as custodian of the Women's Health Library. One of the directors of the Feminist Library heard that Women's Health was closing and was able to rescue the boxes before the centre shut, storing them in the Feminist Library. However, the material was not within scope for permanent retention. In December 2014, the Feminist Library approached Wellcome about acquiring the collection. The materials were transferred to Wellcome in two tranches, on 28 October 2016 and 16 August 2017.

Permanent link


Accession number

  • 2311
  • 2371