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IOTM – Elizabeth Noble

MARCH 2015: Just a few weeks ago, the intactivist movement lost one of our great champions, Elizabeth Noble. Throughout her career, Elizabeth focused on the physical and spiritual well-being of mothers and their infants; and she made waves when she featured a photograph of her naked, intact son on the cover of her book, The Joy of Being a Boy.

Elizabeth was born and raised in Australia, where she received degrees in physiotherapy, philosophy, and anthropology. She moved to the United States in 1973, and in 1977 she founded the Section on Women’s Health of the American Physical Therapy Association. From 1970 to 1990, she was founder and director of the Maternal and Child Health Center and Cambridge Physical Therapy in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Elizabeth was internationally celebrated for her focus on women’s health and the importance of education. She gave prenatal education classes, and taught infant massage to new mothers. Her friend Marilyn Milos, founder of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers, recounts: “During one class, Elizabeth mentioned the difficulty circumcised babies have in their pelvic region because of the trauma held there. When she said the word ‘circumcision,’ one of the babies who had been quietly suckling pulled his head away from his mother’s breast and let out a high-pitched scream that went on for several minutes. Elizabeth, although amazed and startled by the baby’s reaction, knew he had been circumcised. A couple of years later, when she was teaching another class, she mentioned what had happened in that earlier class and, again, another baby reacted to the word circumcision in exactly the same way. Elizabeth immediately knew this baby was also circumcised.”

“Elizabeth always said what was on her mind and she didn’t hold back,” says Milos. “She always was outspoken about the harm of circumcision and was delighted to have The Joy of Being a Boy so welcomed and appreciated by the intactivist community.”

Intactivist photographer and videographer James Loewen interviewed Elizabeth in 2013. In this video, among other topics she discusses the controversy surrounding the publication of that book (pictured at right) and how surprised she remained that so many otherwise enlightened Americans manifested an aversion to the normal male body.

Elizabeth Noble with Ron GoldmanElizabeth attended the Genital Autonomy Symposium in Boulder, Colorado last summer. She was clearly ailing, but able to partake in the events. You can see her below in thoughtful conversation with Ronald Goldman, author of Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma. “She was a pioneer,” says Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America. “She will be missed.”

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Marilyn Fayre Milos, multiple award winner for her humanitarian work to end routine infant circumcision in the United States and advocating for the rights of infants and children to genital autonomy, has written a warm and compelling memoir of her path to becoming “the founding mother of the intactivist movement.” Needing to support her family as a single mother in the early sixties, Milos taught banjo—having learned to play from Jerry Garcia (later of The Grateful Dead)—and worked as an assistant to comedian and social critic Lenny Bruce, typing out the content of his shows and transcribing court proceedings of his trials for obscenity. After Lenny’s death, she found her voice as an activist as part of the counterculture revolution, living in Haight Ashbury in San Francisco during the 1967 Summer of Love, and honed her organizational skills by creating an alternative education open classroom (still operating) in Marin County. 

After witnessing the pain and trauma of the circumcision of a newborn baby boy when she was a nursing student at Marin College, Milos learned everything she could about why infants were subjected to such brutal surgery. The more she read and discovered, the more convinced she became that circumcision had no medical benefits. As a nurse on the obstetrical unit at Marin General Hospital, she committed to making sure parents understood what circumcision entailed before signing a consent form. Considered an agitator and forced to resign in 1985, she co-founded NOCIRC (National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers) and began organizing international symposia on circumcision, genital autonomy, and human rights. Milos edited and published the proceedings from the above-mentioned symposia and has written numerous articles in her quest to end circumcision and protect children’s bodily integrity. She currently serves on the board of directors of Intact America.


Georganne Chapin is a healthcare expert, attorney, social justice advocate, and founding executive director of Intact America, the nation’s most influential organization opposing the U.S. medical industry’s penchant for surgically altering the genitals of male children (“circumcision”). Under her leadership, Intact America has definitively documented tactics used by U.S. doctors and healthcare facilities to pathologize the male foreskin, pressure parents into circumcising their sons, and forcibly retract the foreskins of intact boys, creating potentially lifelong, iatrogenic harm. 

Chapin holds a BA in Anthropology from Barnard College, and a Master’s degree in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University. For 25 years, she served as president and chief executive officer of Hudson Health Plan, a nonprofit Medicaid insurer in New York’s Hudson Valley. Mid-career, she enrolled in an evening law program, where she explored the legal and ethical issues underlying routine male circumcision, a subject that had interested her since witnessing the aftermath of the surgery conducted on her younger brother. She received her Juris Doctor degree from Pace University School of Law in 2003, and was subsequently admitted to the New York Bar. As an adjunct professor, she taught Bioethics and Medicaid and Disability Law at Pace, and Bioethics in Dominican College’s doctoral program for advanced practice nurses.

In 2004, Chapin founded the nonprofit Hudson Center for Health Equity and Quality, a company that designs software and provides consulting services designed to reduce administrative complexities, streamline and integrate data collection and reporting, and enhance access to care for those in need. In 2008, she co-founded Intact America.

Chapin has published many articles and op-ed essays, and has been interviewed on local, national and international television, radio and podcasts about ways the U.S. healthcare system prioritizes profits over people’s basic needs. She cites routine (nontherapeutic) infant circumcision as a prime example of a practice that wastes money and harms boys and the men they will become. This Penis Business: A Memoir is her first book.