Ciel Benedetto: A History of the Santa Cruz Women's Health Center, 1985-2000

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Ciel Benedetto: A History of the Women's Health Center, 1985-2000

Photo: Ciel Benedetto (center) with Dolores Huerta and Gloria Steinem. 1992. Photograph by Annie Valva.

For the complete text [PDF] of Ciel Benedetto: A History of the Women's Health Center, 1985-2000 (e-scholarship) Includes complete audio (streaming or download) for the oral history. Note: Due to editing by the narrator and the Project, there may be minor differences between the audio recording and the transcript. Please quote from the transcript as the record and not the audio. Audio will be found under "Supporting Material."

2000, 158 pp., 2 illus., appendix

Santa Cruz Women's Health Center (SCWHC) director Benedetto traced the evolution of this unique community institution, celebrating its 25th anniversary at the time of this interview in the year 2000. Founded in 1974 as a pioneering, feminist health collective, SCWHC is now a thriving health organization operating in today's complex managed care environment. Benedetto guided the center through this transition, maintaining its feminist perspective while overseeing an annual budget of more than $1 million.

SCWHC is one of the country's few remaining women's health centers, providing more than 8,000 patient visits annually in general medicine, gynecology, prenatal care, family planning, and pediatrics. The agency also offered information and referral services, low-cost acupuncture, free mental health and nutritional counseling, and health and HIV education.

Benedetto began her commentary with a discussion of the agency's socialist-feminist political origins as a collective and its commitment to consensus decision making. This phase eventually gave way to a more traditional organizational structure as the agency matured.

Benedetto detailed the agency's myriad activities, including its highly developed volunteer training program, which produced a remarkable number of alumni over the years who became agents of change as physicians, health care providers, and women's rights advocates.

Among the other activities of the center were the production of its internationally distributed newsletter and health education materials; the provision of new contraceptive methods such as the cervical cap; and its participation in breast cancer research studies. SCWHC maintained its commitment to diversity in its staff and patient population over the years and a singular reputation among international health agencies for women and children.