Barbara Seaman

Writer and social activist Barbara Seaman warned about the dangers of high-estrogen birth control pills and cofounded the National Women’s Health Network.


After graduating from Oberlin College, Barbara Seaman (nee Rosner) began reporting on the dangers of high-dose estrogen birth control pills in the 1960s. Her first book, The Doctor's Case Against the Pill (1969) led to the development of a new, lower estrogen, generation of the drugs. In 1975, she helped found the National Women's Health Network to publicize the effects of synthetic estrogen.

Foray into Writing

Born Barbara Rosner on September 11, 1935, in Brooklyn, New York, Barbara Seaman is best known for challenging the medical establishment on issues related to women's health, and for establishing the National Women's Health Network.

A graduate of Oberlin College, Seaman began making waves in the 1960s with her reporting on medical issues, including birth control. She wrote for several magazines and newspapers, including Ladies' Home Journal and Family Circle. Seaman worked to make sure that women got all of the information they needed to make informed decisions about their personal well-being.

First Book Published

Seaman's first book, The Doctors' Case Against the Pill (1969), explored the possibly dangerous side effects of taking high-dose estrogen birth control pills. Her work, along with the efforts of other health advocates, led to the creation of birth control with lower estrogen levels. Seaman wrote about women's sexuality in her second book, Free and Female (1972).

National Women's Health Network

A feminist and health activist, Barbara Seaman worked with Belita Cowan on developing an organization that would support and promote the women's health movement. In 1975, she became one of the founders of what is now known as the National Women's Health Network. Seaman and other NWHN members brought awareness to the hazards of hormone replacement therapy, as well as the risks of a birth control birth pill known as DES, through demonstrations, congressional hearings and other advocacy means. The group has worked on behalf of women's health issues for the past several decades.

Written with her first husband, psychiatrist Gideon Seaman, Barbara Seaman continued to get the word on the dangers of estrogen with her books How to Get Off the Pill and Hormones and Be Better Than Ever (1976), and Women and the Crisis in Sex Hormones (1977). These works helped cement her reputation as a leading feminist and health advocate.

Warnings about HRT

After a brief turn as a biographer in the 1980s, Seaman returned to the topic closest to her heart—health—with For Women Only! (1999), written in collaboration with health and fitness expert Gary Null. Her work came full circle in 2003's The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth. Once dismissed for her concerns about estrogen usage, Seaman showed readers once again the dangers of hormones and hormone replacement therapy, supported by the latest medical research.

Continuing to work as a women's health advocate in her later years, Seaman served on the boards and committees of several organizations and initiatives, including the Feminist Press, over her decades-long career. She also made numerous television and radio appearances.

Personal Life and Death

Seaman's first marriage, to Peter Marks, was annulled. In 1957, she wed Gideon Seaman; the couple separated in 1978, later divorcing. In 1982, Seaman married for a third time, to Milton Forman.

Seaman died in New York City on February 27, 2008, at the age of 72, from lung cancer. She was survived by three children from her second marriage to Dr. Gideon Seaman, Noah, Elana and Shira; two sisters, Jeri Drucker and Elaine Rosner-Jeria; her stepmother, Ruth Gruber; and four grandchildren.

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