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Toni Bond Leonard Papers

Identifier: harsh-2011-03

Scope and Contents

The collection includes organizational and biographical records, as well as manuscripts, correspondence and educational resources regarding women's reproductive rights.


  • Creation: 1948-2012
  • Creation: Majority of material found in (1995-2011)


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

Toni M Bond Leonard Toni M. Bond Leonard became involved in the reproductive justice movement in the 1980s, eventually becoming executive director for the Chicago Abortion Fund. In 1996, Bond Leonard 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, Toni Bond Leonard 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, Mrs. Bond Leonard’s life work has been to create a society where Black women are healthy, have healthy families, and live in healthy communities. Considered by many of her colleagues as a highly skilled strategist, she has served on the boards and advisory committees of numerous organizations, including SisterSong, the Trust Black Women Partnership, the National Network of Abortion Funds, and the Guttmacher Institute. In 1994, Mrs. Bond Leonard was one of several Black women who coined the phrase, “reproductive justice”, which laid the groundwork for a whole new framework to advance reproductive health and rights. That concept has profoundly changed the way women’s activists have come to understand when and where women of color enter the women’s movement and their significance in creating change and formulating social and political analyses.


National Network of Abortion Funds In 1993, the National Network of Abortion Funds was founded by a group of collaborative people who work to help fund women in financial need to obtain safe and legal abortions in the United States.

In 1973, the Roe v Wade decision had legalized abortion in the United States. While the ability to proceed with a pregnancy became a legal choice it was not always affordable for some women. In 1976, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which banned Medicaid coverage for abortion. Abortion procedures are the only medical procedure banned by Medicaid. The early abortion funds consisted of groups of men and women who came together to help provide abortion funding for impoverished women in need.

By the 1990s, activists from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Iowa began searching for abortion funds from around the nation. At the time, there were a total of 28 different abortion funds that raised money for women in need to obtain safe and legal abortions. In 1993, 50 women and men from 22 abortion funds came together to found the National Network of Abortion Funds.

Since its founding, the National Network of Abortion Funds has grown to include nearly 100 abortion funds in the United States, Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The Network has expanded and includes an international internet-based abortion fund that helps women who live in countries where access to abortion care is severely limited or where facilitating abortion is a criminal act.

Chicago Abortion Fund In October of 1985, the Chicago Abortion Fund was founded. The Chicago Abortion Fund’s main objective is to help provide women in financial need with access to first and second trimester abortions.

Black Women for Reproductive Justice [African American Women Evolving] In 1996, African American Women Evolving was co-founded by Toni M. Bond Leonard and Winnette P. Willis. This organization was a product of women who were working for the Chicago Abortion Fund. The objective of the organization expanded from solely being an abortion fund to also providing women of color with educational resources concerning reproductive health issues and rights. The mission statement of African American Women Evolving defines its work as: “(1) to increase the activism and leadership of African American women around reproductive health and (2) to examine and draw the connections between other social justice and basic human rights issue (i.e., violence against women, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, economic development and sustainability, etc.) that directly and indirectly affect African American women’s ability to exercise complete autonomy over their lives and bodies.” (

In 2009, under the leadership of Bond Leonard African American Women Evolving decided to rebrand their name to Black Women for Reproductive Justice. After attending a leadership conference, the two major reasons for the name change were that, “Black Women for Reproductive Justice represented a much clearer projection of the organization’s identity. Secondly, the board wanted to capitalize on the fact that the organization’s President/CEO was one of the women who helped to coin the phrase “reproductive justice” in 1994.” (

Black Women for Reproductive Justice created programs and outreach for the community. All of the outreaches were specifically geared towards educating women of color about their reproductive health and rights.

After 15 years of service to the community, however, funding for Black Women for Reproductive Justice became problematic, and in 2012 the organization closed its doors.

SisterSong Incorporated At symposium conferences in New York City and Atlanta, during 1997 and 1998 the organization SisterSong was founded. The organization’s mission is “bringing women of color together, encouraging our collective sustainability through mentoring and self-help, providing a framework that resonates with our lived experience, and organizing and mobilizing to affect change.” (

SisterSong is unique because it incorporates collaboration with five major ethnic groups. One of the major focuses of SisterSong is to promote education to minority groups regarding sexual health. SisterSong ‘achieves these goals through public policy work, advocacy, service delivery and health education within our communities on the local, national and international levels.”

There are currently about 80 local, regional, and national organizations that contribute to SisterSong. Some of the groups instrumental in founding SisterSong include National Latina Health Organization, Women’s House of Learning Empowerment, Casa Atabex Aché, Grupo Pro-Derechos Reproductivos, SisterLove, National Center for Human Rights Education, California Black Women’s Health Project, Project Azuka, MoonLodge, Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center, Wise Women Gathering Place, Minnesota Indigenous People’s Task Force, Kokua Kalihi Valley, Comprehensive Family Services, Asian Pacific Islanders for Reproductive Health (now Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice), National Asian Women’s Health Organization, and T.H.E. Clinic.

Raising Women’s Voices In 2007, Raising Women’s Voices was founded when the Black Women’s Heath Imperative, the National Women’s Health Network and the MergerWatch Project came together. Currently Raising Women’s Voices has 25 regional coordinators in 23 states – including the District of Columbia. The mission of the organization is “a national initiative working to make sure women’s voices are heard and women’s concerns are addressed as policymakers put the health care law into action.”

Raising Women’s Voices “believe health coverage should be lifelong, portable from job to job and from workplace to home, non-discriminatory, user-friendly and affordable for our families.” One major focus of the organization pushes to “cover women’s health care throughout the lifespan, including comprehensive reproductive health care, pre-natal care, maternity care, primary and preventive services, acute care, dental and mental health care, as well as chronic care.”

Raising Women’s Voices has a unique mission “to engage women who are not often invited into health policy discussions, including women of color, low income women, immigrant women, young women, women with disabilities and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.” In most instances the issues of importance facing these women are overlooked in policymaking. The advisory board and regional coordinators at Raising Women’s Voices, help represent the interests of these constituencies.


42 Linear Feet (in 65 boxes, including 7 audio cassette tapes, 2 compact discs (CDs), 1 video disc (DVDs) and 46 video cassette (VHS) tapes)

Language of Materials



Toni M. Bond Leonard became involved in the reproductive justice movement in the 1980s, eventually becoming executive director for the Chicago Abortion Fund. In 1996, Bond Leonard 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. The collection includes organizational and biographical records, as well as manuscripts, correspondence and educational resources.


The papers are arranged into 5 Superseries, each with subsequent series and sub-series when applicable.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Toni Bond Leonard, 2011

Guide to the Toni Bond Leonard Papers
Processed by Angelique Schuler, Archivist, Harsh Archival Processing Project. Supervised by Michael Flug, Senior Archivist, Harsh Archival Processing Project. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by C Fife Townsel, 2022
March 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Guide written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection Repository

Woodson Regional Library
Chicago Public Library
9525 S. Halsted Street
Chicago IL 60628 United States
(312) 745-2080