Montreal Health Press Handbooks 1980-2000


  • Birth Control Handbook 1979


Women’s health was an early mobilizing issue for the feminist movement. The Montreal Health Press (MHP) was ahead of its time in bringing up-to-date health information, accompanied by both social and political commentary, to a vast lay public throughout North America. Taking over the McGill Birth Control Handbook, the MHP collective continued to revise and distribute it via universities, colleges, health clinics and others, to the tune of millions of copies. Members of the Press tackled other crucial issues: sexually transmitted diseases, sexual assault, and menopause. For each issue, the analysis showed the situation of women in their personal and social relationships, and their choices limited by for-profit, male-dominated health care. Each publication was translated into French and adapted for the cultural context of Quebec.

Photos and illustrations in the publications highlighted the feminist message that the personal is political. Showing people from many walks of life, negotiating their relationships in the real world.

The Press solicited photo submissions from local photographers. Judith Lermer Crawley’s intimate portraits frequently made the cut! Judith joined the collective as photo coordinator in 1980 and played an important role in editing and layout as well.

The Montreal Health Press continued revising both the information and analysis in each Handbook until its Millennial editions. Despite the explosion of information technology, nothing has yet replaced its contribution for the generations to come.

Donna Cherniak, Co-founder of MHP, family physician