Chicago has a strong history of reproductive rights activism. This activism is documented in Chicago Public Library's archival repositories, particularly in the papers of Dr. Toni Bond.
Dr. Bond and the Reproductive Justice Movement
Dr. Bond became involved in the reproductive justice movement in the 1980s, eventually becoming executive director for the Chicago Abortion Fund. In 1996, Dr. Bond was one of the founding members of African American Women Evolving, which was formed to provide educational services to the African American community about reproductive justice, equality and education.
For more than 20 years, Dr. Bond has worked tirelessly to make the voices of Black women heard around what she calls the “very essence of who we are as women, our reproductive and sexual health.” The co-founder and former President/CEO of Black Women for Reproductive Justice, Dr. Bond’s life work has been to create a society where Black women are healthy, have healthy families and live in healthy communities.
In 1994, Dr. Bond was one of several Black women who coined the phrase, “reproductive justice,” which laid the groundwork for a new framework to advance reproductive health and rights. That concept has profoundly changed the way women’s rights activists have come to understand when and where women of color enter the women’s movement, as well as their significance in creating change and formulating social and political analyses.
The Toni Bond Leonard Collection at CPL
Dr. Bond donated her archival collection, the Toni Bond Leonard Collection, to Chicago Public Library's Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature in 2011. This collection is open to researchers by appointment.
Library patrons are also welcome to view a selection of the collection's materials in the display Continuing the Fight: Black Women for Reproductive Justice and the Legacy of Toni Bond, currently in the lobby of Carter G. Woodson Regional Library.
Watch Previous Events with Dr. Bond
The fight for reproductive rights continue, on a local and national level. Dr. Bond continues to be a key figure in this movement. In March 2022, Dr. Bond was a speaker with additional reproductive justice activists on a panel titled Illinois' Reproductive Health Act & the War on Women's Choice: History, Policy and Practice. The recording of the event, which was co-sponsored by the Chicago Women's History Center, may be viewed on CPL's YouTube channel.
The Chicago Foundation for Women also partnered with CPL to host Reproductive Justice: Trusting Womxn with their Bodies in June 2022. This program featured Dr. Bond and journalist and author Natalie Moore in a moderated discussion by CFW's President and CEO, Felicia Davis Blakley, that focused on the origin and current state of the reproductive justice movement. The program also highlighted Moore's most recent publication, The Billboard: A Play about Abortion, for which she conducted research in Dr. Bond's archival collection. The recording of the event may be viewed on the Chicago Foundation for Women's YouTube channel.
Additional Resources on Reproductive Justice
- CPL's Special Collections contains brochures and pamphlets from Jane, an abortion service in Chicago in the late 1960s and early 1970s that is the focus in the 2022 documentary The Janes. The repository also holds the Women and Girls Collective Action Network Records.
- Reproductive Rights as Human Rights by Zakiya Luna discusses the modern day reproductive rights movement. She focuses on SisterSong, an organization Dr. Bond also worked with in Chicago.
- Author and journalist Natalie Moore's play The Billboard focuses on a fictional Black women's clinic in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood.
- Jane Against the World by Karen Blumenthal looks at the complicated battle for reproductive rights in the U.S. from the late 1830s to today's continued challenges.