Seaman, Barbara 1935-
SEAMAN, Barbara 1935-
PERSONAL: Born September 11, 1935, in New York, NY; daughter of Henry Jerome (a public welfare administrator) and Sophie (a high school English teacher; maiden name, Kimels) Rosner; married Peter Marks (divorced); married Gideon Seaman (a psychiatrist), January 13, 1957 (divorced); married Milton Forman (a textile executive); children: (second marriage) Noah Samuel, Elana Felicia, Shira Jean. Education: Oberlin College, B.A., 1956; Columbia University, Advanced Science Writing Certificate, 1968. Politics: Independent. Religion: Jewish.
ADDRESSES: Home—300 West End Ave., New York, NY 10023. Agent—McIntosh & Otis, Inc., 475 5th Ave., New York, NY 10017; (lectures) National Student Association, 2115 S St., Washington, DC 20008.
CAREER: Hamilton County Welfare Department, Cincinnati, OH, caseworker in Children's Services Division, 1956-57; freelance writer, 1960-65; Brides, New York, NY, columnist, 1964-66; Ladies' Home Journal, New York, NY, columnist and contributing editor, 1965-69; Family Circle, New York, NY, child care and education editor, 1970-73; taught at College of New Rochelle and Sagaris Institute, 1975; "Health Watch" columnist, Hadassah magazine. Columbia University School of Journalism, advanced science writing fellow; lecturer on women and women's health matters. Vice-president, Women's Medical Center, New York, NY, 1971-73; cofounder, Women's Health Lobby, beginning 1975. Has appeared on more than 200 radio and television discussion and seminar programs. Member of advisory boards of many women's organizations and institutions including Women's History Library, beginning 1973; New York Women's Forum, 1974; Feminist Press, 1975—; DES Action, 1977—; Older Women's Health Project of New York University's Medical Center, 1980; Abortion Rights Mobilization, 1981—; Women's Health Newsletter, 1983—. Judge for various journalism awards.
MEMBER: American Society of Journalists and Authors, Society of Magazine Writers, PEN, National Association of Science Writers, Authors Guild, National Organization of Women, National Council on Family Relations, American Civil Liberties Union, Overseas Press Club of America, Education Writers Association, Women's Ink.
AWARDS, HONORS: Ford Foundation Early Admissions scholar; Matrix Award, New York Women in Communications Inc., 1978.
The Doctors' Case against the Pill, Peter H. Wyden, (New York, NY), 1969, 25th anniversary edition, Hunter House (Alameda, CA), 1995.
Free and Female: The Sex Life of the Contemporary Woman, Coward, McCann (New York, NY), 1972.
(Author of foreword) Louise Lacey, Lunaception: A Feminine Odyssey into Fertility and Contraception, Coward, McCann (New York, NY), 1974.
(With husband, Gideon Seaman) How to Get off the Pill and Hormones and Be Better Than Ever, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1976.
(With Gideon Seaman) Women and the Crisis in Sex Hormones, Rawson Associates (New York, NY), 1977.
Lovely Me: The Life of Jacqueline Susann, Morrow (New York, NY), 1987, Seven Stories Press (New York, NY), 1996.
(With Gary Null) For Women Only! Your Guide to Health Empowerment, Seven Stories Press (New York, NY), 1999.
(Editor, with Gary Null) The Practice and Politics of Women's Health, Seven Stories Press (New York, NY), 1999.
The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to newspapers and magazines; writer of radio and television scripts, poetry, and song lyrics. Many of Seaman's books and articles have been published in Spanish, German, Dutch, Turkish, Japanese, Hebrew, and other languages.
SIDELIGHTS: Longtime women's health activist and cofounder of the National Women's Health Network, Barbara Seaman has worked on behalf of women for more than four decades. She has published a handful of books dealing with women's reproductive health, including works on contraception, hormone replacement therapy, and medical politics as they pertain to the treatment of women.
In her first book, The Doctors' Case against the Pill, Seaman explains the serious, sometimes lethal effects of using the high-estrogen oral contraceptives that were prescribed during the 1960s. This was a groundbreaking work, one that "set in motion women and organizations that were the heart of the early women's health movement," noted Cindy Pearson in the Network News, a publication of the National Women's Health Network. Thanks to Seaman and other women activists of the 1960s, the high-dose estrogen contraceptive was replaced with lower-estrogen pills that had to include information describing possible side-effects. This case before the federal Food and Drug Administration raised questions about the level of testing of drugs before marketing them, and it put the concept of patients' rights on the medical radar.
During the next few decades, journalist Seaman continued to write on women's health topics for periodicals and in books authored with her husband, Gideon. In the late 1990s she teamed up with Gary Null to publish two titles: For Women Only! Your Guide to Health Empowerment and The Practice and Politics of Women's Health.
Seaman's 2003 offering, The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth, is an expose about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and how doctors and drug manufacturers have pressured women into using estrogen during menopause. In what Booklist's Donna Chavez described as a "story [that] reads like an X-Files conspiracy script," Seaman traces the creation in 1938 of a formula for synthetic estrogen and its subsequent use in contraceptives and during menopause. Although the drug's manufacturer, Wyeth, had touted it for supposed benefits, after several decades and many more studies it was learned that estrogen use actually posed greater health risks—such as cancers, blood clots, and strokes—than it provided benefits. Seaman contends that the companies producing synthetic estrogen and many doctors colluded to encourage women to take hormones. She carefully reviews the scientific findings regarding HRT's impact on such diseases as Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, and heart disease, and provides descriptions of HRT drugs, their effects, and contraindications. She also provides information on such nonhormonal alternatives for treating problematic menopausal symptoms, including herbs, phytoestrogens (plant estrogens), soy products, and antidepressants.
Treating such a controversial topic, Seaman's book was sure to attract attention, and it did. Pearson, this time writing in the Women's Review of Books, commented that "Seaman recounts the stories of menopausal hormone therapy and oral contraceptives with the juicy details of an insider and the biting analysis of a feminist critic. By sharing these stories, Seaman tells us not only how women's health has been poorly served by the mythology of estrogen, but also how we can undo the harm done and create a better, healthier future for all women." A Health Facts reviewer predicted that "Seaman's book provides the historical perspective that should make any reader into an educated skeptic once the next 'miracle' drug comes along." Some reviewers worried that the book's length might prove daunting to readers. For example, a Publishers Weekly critic noted Seaman's passion about the topic but asserted that "a more tightly focused book would have made her case much stronger." Liza Mundy maintained in her Washington Post review that "Seaman is a conspiracy theorist by temperament and training," one who has held an antihormone stance for over forty years. Mundy alleged that "at times Seaman's charges seem both unfair and unfounded" and that "she also favors some studies while dismissing others." "If I were a woman thinking about taking estrogen supplements, I'd consult a few more sources besides this book," she concluded.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Journal of Psychotherapy, January, 1978, Natalie Shainess, review of Women and the Crisis in Sex Hormones, p. 135.
Book, September-October, 2003, Stephanie Foote, review of The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth, pp. 93-94.
Booklist, February 15, 2000, Mary Carroll, review of For Women Only! Your Guide to Health Empowerment, p. 1065; July, 2003, Donna Chavez, review of The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women, p. 1854; January 1, 2004, review of The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women, p. 775.
Family Planning Perspectives, January, 1970, "Facts and Fantasies about Oral Contraceptives," pp. 45-46.
HealthFacts, September, 1995, "The Book That Brought Consumer Advocacy to the Medical System"; September, 2003, "Two New Books Take a Critical Look at Hormone Therapy," p. 4.
Lambda Book Report, March, 1998, Melissa Anderson, review of Lovely Me: The Life of Jacqueline Susann, pp. 8-9.
Library Journal, April 1, 1987, Revecca Sturm, review of Lovely Me, p. 143; October 1, 1995, Michael Rogers, review of The Doctors' Case against the Pill, p. 70; February 1, 2000, Barbara M. Bibel, review of For Women Only!, p. 110; June 15, 2003, Elizabeth Williams, review of The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women, p. 93.
Network News, November-December, 1994, "Barbara Seaman Today," p. 3; July-August, 1995, Cindy Pearson, "The Doctors' Case against the Pill: 25th Anniversary Edition," p. 3; March, 2000, Pearson, "Provocative New Resources Cover Gamut," p. 5; July-August, 2003, Pearson, review of The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women, p. 3.
New York Times Book Review, July 5, 2003, Gina Kolata, "On the Trail of Estrogen and a Mirage of Youth," p. 7.
People, April 20, 1987, Mary Vespa, review of Lovely Me, p. 21-23.
Philadelphia Inquirer, October 8, 2003, "The Researching, Creating and Selling of Estrogen Therapy."
Publishers Weekly, January 1, 1996, Paul Nathan, "Susann and the Pill," p. 34; April 14, 2003, review of The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women, p. 57.
Time, March 30, 1987, review of Lovely Me, p. 73.
Washington Post, October 5, 2003, Liza Mundy, "Better Living through Chemistry," p. T3.
Women's Review of Books, April, 2004, Cynthia A. Pearson, "The End of HRT," pp. 12-13.
National Women's Health Network, http://www.nwhn.org/ (May 25, 2004), Amy S. Bloom, "The 25th Anniversary of The Doctor's Case against the Pill."
Women's E News, http://www.womensenews.org/ (October 17, 2003), Joe Lauria, "Barbara Seaman: Muckraker for Women's Health."*