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Cambridge Women's Heritage Project

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Yanow, Susan
Yona, Anna (Foa)

YWCA of Cambridge

Susan Yanow (b. 1952 in Oregon)
Reproductive Rights Activist, Writer, Social Worker

Photo by Phyllis Bretholtz.

     Susan Yanow was born in 1952 in Oregon and grew up in San Francisco, California. She graduated from Galileo High School and attended the University of California Santa Cruz, graduating with a B.A. in Psychology in 1970. Yanow moved to the East Coast to attend Boston College’s School of Social Work, graduating with an M.S.W. in 1975.
     Her 25-year career as a clinical social worker focused on working in inpatient, outpatient and private practice with survivors of violence and sexual abuse.
     Yanow was active with the Boston chapter of the Reproductive Rights National Network (R2N2), which was founded in 1978 amidst a national debate about abortion that had intensified since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Locally, R2N2 partnered with a number of other reproductive rights groups, including Act Up and the National Organization for Women, to sponsor protests, forums, speak outs and, starting in the late 1980’s, to provide clinic defense when anti abortion activists began blockading clinics in the greater Boston area.
     In 1992, Boston R2N2 launched the Abortion Access Project (AAP), which focused on expanding access by training new providers and breaking through abortion stigma. The AAP slogan was “Abortion may be legal, but who can get one?” AAP began to grow after the Brookline clinic shootings in 1994, and Yanow coordinated that project while continuing her clinical social work practice. In 2000, Yanow became the full time Executive Director of AAP, which had projects in 17 states to expand abortion access. In 2006 Yanow left AAP, which in 2012 changed its name to Provide and shifted its focus to improving referrals and changing social service attitudes in the Southeast.
     Since 2006, Yanow has consulted for a number of U.S. organizations that work to expand access to abortion, including the Byllye Avery Institute, Sister Song, the Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP), and Planned Parenthood New York City. She also worked with the International Consortium on Medical Abortion and Women on Waves/Women on Web.
     Yanow has also co-founded several organizations that directly support abortion access initiatives, including Women Help Women (WHW), Creating a Clinician Corps (C3), the Later Abortion Initiative (LAI; now at Ibis Reproductive Health) and EASE Project Expanding Abortion Services in the South.
     WHW is an international, multi-lingual online organization that Yanow co-founded on September 28, 2014 to provide information about medical abortion and abortion services. WHW’s staff answers thousands of emails from women seeking guidance on contraception, reproductive healthcare and abortion. In other countries, WHW helps provide access to abortion pills (misoprostol and mifepristone) and guidance on self-managed abortions. In April 2017, WHW launched SASS (Self-managed Abortion; Safe and Supported) to address dwindling access to abortion in many parts of the United States, and especially for women in rural and low-income communities. SASS provides direct, secure counseling to women who are self-managing an abortion with pills at home. SASS also guides women on information and options for clinic-based abortions. Yanow is the spokesperson for SASS. Most recently, WHW launched the Euki App which is a secure smartphone app that tracks women’s menstrual cycles, provides links, resources and information about sex, consent, pregnancy options and reproductive health. Euki is unique in its commitment to user privacy and not storing or sharing user data.
     In 2009, Yanow co-founded the Later Abortion Initiative (LAI) at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health. The project was moved to Ibis Reproductive Health in 2014. Ibis was founded in 2002 in Cambridge, Massachusetts to support clinical and social science research on abortion access and develop partnerships nationally and internationally. LAI advocates for later term abortions for women who are younger and financially vulnerable, in unstable situations or for health reasons. The goal of LAI is to protect and expand access to abortion later in pregnancy by developing innovative research models to inform advocacy and practice, coordinating with key advocacy, legal, clinical and activist leaders to promote later abortion access.
     Clinician Corps (C3) was founded in 2016 to address the dearth of abortion providers in some areas of the United States and Canada and match these clinics with skilled providers who are willing to travel. In 2018 this project was integrated into the work of the National Abortion Federation, where the project continues.
     Yanow is also a prolific writer, having written numerous articles and contributed to publications on abortion access and reproductive rights. She contributed to the “Abortion” and “The Politics of Women’s Health” chapters for the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Our Selves, and consulted on earlier editions as well. She has authored or co-authored 12 peer reviewed articles in publications such as Contraception Journal, The American Journal of Public Health, Reproductive Health Matters and Conscience. She has written for numerous other online and print publications. Yanow can also be heard in NPR radio interviews and news reports about abortion rights, speaking both from her long- time activism and also as the spokesperson for SASS. Yanow has been a panelist at numerous conferences, and also leads training workshops for those interested in learning about self-managed abortion.
     Yanow notes that one of the greatest ongoing challenges with abortion rights is the pernicious stigma associated with abortion. Stigma continues be a major obstacle to providing safe access to abortion, to providers offering the service, and for people understanding what abortion entails and why the numerous restrictions which purport to increase safety are unnecessary and present barriers to care.
     Yanow’s past Board service includes: Cambridge Women’s Center, Chennai Children Foundation, NARAL ProChoice Massachusetts, and Social Workers for Reproductive Justice.
     She currently serves on the Boards of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women (CCSW) and Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health (NSRH). In 2016, NARAL Massachusetts honored Yanow and Dr. Bigby at the annual Champions for Choice Susan Yanow for her work “toward the advancement of reproductive freedom”. Also in 2016, she was honored by the Jane Fund, the abortion Fund in Central Massachusetts that raises funds for those seeking abortion.
Arvind Dilawar, “Advocates For Self-managed Abortions Are Preparing For a Post-Roe World”, Pacific Standard, 7/12/2019,
Baker, Carrie. “We Heart: The Period Tracking App Resisting Anti-abortion Government Surveillance,” Ms. Magazine, 1/27/2020,
Harvard Library Hollis Catalogue of Susan Yanow publications, accessed 6/2/2020:,exact,Yanow%20Susan,AND&pfilter=pfilter,exact,articles,AND&tab=everything&search_scope=everything&vid=HVD2&mode=advanced&offset=0 Later Abortion, History of the Initiative:
NARAL Pro Choice Massachusetts 2016 Annual Champions For Choice Awardees:
NPR Radio interviews:,,
Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health:
Our Bodies, Ourselves:
Redden, Molly. “New website offers US women help to perform their own abortions,” The Guardian, 4/27/2017,
Rewire.News articles by Susan Yanow, accessed 6/2/1010:
Self-Managed Abortion Podcast, Part 1:
Women Help Women: Euki App.
Yanow, Susan. “It is time to integrate abortion into primary care.” American journal of public health vol. 103,1 (2013): 14-6. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.3011196

Anna (Foa) Yona (b. 1908 in Turin, Italy, d. October 2006 in Newton, MA)
Teacher, Radio Host
     Anna Foa was the middle daughter of Lelia and Ettore Foa of Turin, Italy. She married David Yona, a civil engineer, in that city in 1932. The couple fled Mussolini’s Italy in 1940, arriving in New York City; a few years later the couple moved to Cambridge with their young daughters. Anna began to teach Italian and during the Second World War hosted the “Italian Hour” radio show that included information on relatives in Italy. She also served as a translator. For many years, Anna Yona also taught Italian at the New England Conservatory of Music. After the war, her cousin, Primo Levi, sent her a manuscript; she translated a chapter of what would later be published as Survival in Auschwitz. (She submitted the manuscript to Little, Brown, which chose not to publish the book; forty years later, the book would make Levi famous in America.)
     In her old age, she provided information and material about the Foa family for a book on the experiences of five Italian Jewish families under Mussolini, which was published in 1991. Her papers and those of her husband, which include memories of her early life in Turin, are held at the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota. She died in a Newton nursing home at the age of 98.
References: Sergio Parussa. I Would Have Liked to Flee to Patagonia: Conversations with Anna Yona Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal Autumn 2005, Vol. 10, No. 2: Pages 10-27; Alexander Stille. Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families under Fascism (1991); Anna Yona Papers, Immigration History Research Center, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota ; Obituary, Gloria Negri “Anna Yona at 98; hosted Italian-Hour” radio show” Boston Globe, October 15, 2006

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YWCA of Cambridge (est. 1892)
     The YWCA of Cambridge was established by women in the Cambridgeport branch of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. It was incorporated in February of 1892 to provide safe and inexpensive accommodations for working women and transients. During its first thirty years, it offered classes in music, dressmaking, cooking, Bible study, watercolors, German, hygiene, and physical culture. Over time, it included additional programs and services, including vocational guidance, an employment office, youth programs, day care, senior citizens’ activities, recreational facilities, and study groups on public affairs. Currently, it is the largest residential facility for women in the city.
     The YWCA of Cambridge is self-governing and administered by a volunteer Board of Directors and a small professional staff. Originally funded by membership fees, benefits, lectures, and bazaars, since the late 1930s, it receives part of its budget from United Community Services (the United Way). A collection of the records of its parent group, the Cambridgeport Woman’s Christian Temperance Union from 1881 to 1925, is held at Schlesinger Library, as well as photographs, clippings, publications, and office files of the YWCA of Cambridge from 1891 to 1981.

Cambridge YWCA Girls Basketball Team, 1916.
Photo courtesy of the Cambridge Historical Commission.

References: YWCA papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute; YWCA of Cambridge website

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Cambridge Women's Heritage Project
June 2020

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