Ms. is an American liberal feminist magazine co-founded by second-wave feminists and sociopolitical activists Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes. Its founding editors were Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Mary Thom, Patricia Carbine, Joanne Edgar, Nina Finkelstein, and Mary Peacock. Ms. first appeared in 1971 as an insert in New York magazine. The first stand-alone issue appeared in January 1972, with funding from New York editor Clay Felker. From July 1972 until 1987, it appeared on a monthly basis. It now publishes quarterly.
The preview issue of Ms., Spring 1972
|Executive Editor||Katherine Spillar|
|Publisher||Liberty Media for Women, LLC|
|First issue||December 1971|
|Company||Feminist Majority Foundation|
|Based in||Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.|
During its heyday in the 1970s, it enjoyed great popularity but was not always able to reconcile its ideological concerns with commercial considerations. Since 2001, the magazine has been published by the Feminist Majority Foundation, based in Los Angeles and Arlington, Virginia.
The first preview of Ms. magazine was published in December 1971 by New York magazine. The cover depicts a woman resembling an Indian goddess, with blue skin and eight arms, holding a clock, skillet, typewriter, rake, mirror, telephone, steering wheel, and an iron. 300,000 test copies of the magazine sold out in three days, and generated 26,000 subscription orders within the next few weeks. Gloria Steinem and Letty Cottin Pogrebin co-founded Ms.Magazine in 1972, during the Second-Wave feminist movement. At the time Ms. was first published, much of the feminist movement was driven toward fighting against the social and family-life norms expected of women.
The magazine was seen as a voice for women by women, a voice that had been hidden from and left out of mainstream media. Ms. Magazine's first publication as an independent issue included articles about women who had experience with abortions, promoting the removal of sexist wording from the English language, and literature focused on helping women realize they could stand up for themselves against social norms. Future issues continued to include articles on the topics brought up by feminists of the early 1970s and later.
Co-founder Gloria Steinem has explained the motivation for starting Ms. magazine, stating, "I realized as a journalist that there really was nothing for women to read that was controlled by women, and this caused me along with a number of other women to start Ms. magazine." Steinem wanted a publication that would address issues that modern women cared about instead of just domestic topics such as fashion and housekeeping. Steinem originally wanted Ms. to be a newsletter but was convinced to make it into a magazine by her peers. Patricia Carbine thought a magazine was better because of the money from advertisers and that it could reach their audience with its portable, visually pleasing, easy format.
As to the origin of the name chosen for the magazine, she has stated, "We were going to call it 'Sojourner', after Sojourner Truth, but that was perceived as a travel magazine. Then we were going to call it 'Sisters', but that was seen as a religious magazine. We settled on 'Ms.' because it was symbolic, and also, it was short, which is good for a logo." The title of Ms. magazine was suggested by a friend of Gloria Steinem who had heard the term in an interview on WBAI radio and suggested it as a title for the new magazine. Modern use of Ms. as an honorific was promoted by Sheila Michaels. Michaels, whose parents were not married to each other, and who was not adopted by her stepfather, had long grappled with finding a title that reflected her situation: not being "owned" by a father and not wishing to be "owned" by a husband. Her efforts to promote its use were ignored in the nascent Women's Movement. Around 1971, during a lull in an interview with "The Feminists" group, Michaels suggested the use of the title "Ms." (having chosen a pronunciation current for both in Missouri, her home).
In the early 1970s, feminists objected to the marriage-based female honorifics Miss and Mrs. Men had Mr., which gave no indication of their marital status since the formal address term "master" for an unmarried man had fallen largely into disuse; etiquette and business practices required the use of Miss or Mrs. for women. Some women did not want to be defined by their marital status and, for a growing number of women who kept their last name after marriage, neither Miss nor Mrs. was a correct title in front of that name.
Gloria Steinem placed Wonder Woman (in costume) on the cover of the first issue of Ms. (1972) — Warner Communications, DC Comics' owner, was an investor — which also contained an appreciative essay about the character. Steinem was offended that the world's most famous female superhero had been depowered. Wonder Woman's powers and traditional costume were restored in issue #204 (January–February 1973).
"The Housewife's Moment of Truth", the first cover story for Ms. Magazine, was written by Jane O'Reilly. O'Reilly helped Steinem with the foundation of Ms. Magazine, and her article highlighted in the first issue spoke for feminist strength and the opposition against the repression of wives in society and the home. The Housewife's Moment of Truth was a revolution of a female who stood up against not only her husband, but all husbands, and their demanding push for women to be the proper housewife. The article helped women see that they could take a stand and pushed the idea of revolution and strength for women during the Second-Wave Feminist Movement. The article also helped introduce the idea of "click!", or the realization a woman acquires when she realizes the demands being pushed upon her to act, work and behave in a certain way can be fought against.
Ms. made history in 1972 when it published the names of 53 women admitting to having had abortions when the procedure was still illegal in most of the United States. Notable signatories included Billie Jean King, Judy Collins, Anaïs Nin, Gloria Steinem, Susan Sontag, and Nora Ephron. The petition noted that roughly one in four American women had had an abortion, in spite of it being illegal in most of the country at the time. A year later the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court of the United States would legalize abortion throughout the country. Called the American Women's Petition, the Ms. petition was inspired by the Manifesto of the 343 that had been published the previous year in which 343 French women publicly declared that they had had an abortion, which was also illegal in France at the time.
The Ms. petition included a tear-out section for women to remove, sign and send back to the magazine. The tear-out section stated:
The attitudes and laws against abortion in this country are causing untold suffering. Approximately one million American women had "illegal" abortions in 1971 — many of them self-induced or performed by the unqualified, some of them fatal.
I have had an abortion. I publicly join millions of other American women in demanding a repeal of all laws that restrict our reproductive freedom.
The petition was the inspiration for a similar campaign by Ms. in 2006, as well as an amicus brief signed by more than 100 American lawyers in support of overturning the abortion regulations at issue in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.
Ironically, also in 1972, science-fiction author Samuel R. Delany had a planned story arc for the Wonder Woman comic book that was to culminate in Wonder Woman protecting an abortion clinic. This story arc was cancelled because of Steinem's intervention - her disapproval of Wonder Woman being out of costume was used as a publicity stunt and excuse to remove Delany from the comic book and cancel the controversial storyline.
A 1976 cover story on battered women made Ms. the first national magazine to address the issue of domestic violence. The cover photo featured a woman with a bruised face. The "We Had Abortions" petition appears in the October 2006 issue as part of the issue's cover story. The petition contains signatures of over 5,000 women declaring that they had an abortion and were "unashamed of (the) decision", including actresses Amy Brenneman and Kathy Najimy, comedian Carol Leifer, and Steinem herself.
In conjunction with other contemporary efforts towards feminist language reform, Ms. challenged the common holiday greeting "Peace on earth, good will to men" by changing the salutation to "Peace on earth, good will to people." In its earliest years, the magazine's December cover proclaimed this altered holiday message in bold, colorful designs by Brazilian designer Bea Feitler, as well as in editorial addresses from Steinem.
In 1987, it was bought by Fairfax, an Australian media company, which installed the head of its US arm, Sandra Yates, to oversee the magazine's editorial and financial turnaround. In 1989, concerned about a perceived 'Cher cover'-centered editorial direction under Anne Summers, American Feminists bought it back and began publishing the magazine without ads.
Robin Morgan and Marcia Ann Gillespie served respective terms as Editors in Chief of the magazine. Gillespie was the first African American woman to lead Ms. For a period, the magazine was published by MacDonald Communications Corp., which also published Working Woman and Working Mother magazines. Known since its inception for unique feminist analysis of current events, its 1991 change to an ad-free format also made it known for exposing the control that many advertisers assert over content in women's magazines.
Liberty Media for WomenEdit
In 1998, Gloria Steinem and other investors created Liberty Media (not the cable/satellite conglomerate of the same name) and brought the magazine under independent ownership. It remained ad-free and won several awards, including an Utne award for social commentary. With Liberty Media facing bankruptcy in November 2001, the Feminist Majority Foundation purchased the magazine, dismissed Gillespie and staff, and moved editorial headquarters from New York to Los Angeles. Formerly bimonthly, the magazine has since published quarterly.
In the Spring 2002 issue commemorating the magazine's 30th year, Gloria Steinem and Feminist Majority president Eleanor Smeal noted the magazine's increased ability to "share research and resources, expand investigative journalism, and bring its readers the personal experience that has always been the source of the women's health movement".
In 2005, under editor-in-chief Elaine Lafferty, Ms. was nominated for National Magazine Award for Martha Mendoza's article "Between a Woman and Her Doctor". Despite this success, Lafferty left the magazine after only two years following various disagreements including the editorial direction on a cover story on Desperate Housewives, and a perceived generation gap towards third-wave feminists and grunge, a genre that Lafferty had trashed as being oppositional to feminism.[verification needed]
Over the years the magazine has featured articles written by and about many women and men at the forefront of business, politics, activism, and journalism. Writers have included Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Susan Faludi. The cover has featured Hillary Clinton, Angelina Jolie, Wanda Sykes, Sarah Jones, Jane Fonda, Charlize Theron, and Queen Noor. The magazine's investigative journalism broke several landmark stories on topics including overseas sweatshops, sex trafficking, the wage gap, the glass ceiling, date rape, and domestic violence.
In 2013, Gloria Steinem was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama for her activism in women's equality.
In 2017, Ms. celebrated its 45th anniversary of publication. In honor of this event, Ms. made a reference to their very first issue in 1972 that featured Wonder Woman on the cover. This choice was based on Wonder Woman's belief in "sisterhood and equality", something Ms. states is a "driving value" for feminist beliefs not only when the magazine first began, but in today's society. Because of this, Ms. made the decision to showcase Wonder Woman on their 45th anniversary issue in 2017, as they have done in the past for other anniversary issues.
In 2018, Irene Lusztig released a documentary called Yours in Sisterhood, this features strangers in communities all over the US to read aloud and respond to letters from the 1970s sent to the editor of the magazine. It matched letters to readers, such as a letter from a lady who was not accepted into the police force read by a female cop.
On January 10, 2008, the American Jewish Congress released an official statement critical of Ms. magazine's refusal to accept from them a full page advertisement honoring three prominent Israeli women: Dorit Beinisch (president of the Supreme Court of Israel), Tzipi Livni (Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel), and Dalia Itzik (speaker of the Knesset).
The New York Jewish Week reported that a number of Jewish feminists, including Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance founder Blu Greenberg, were mostly disappointed with Ms.'s decision to reject the ad.
However, Katherine Spillar, executive editor of Ms. magazine, responded to these criticisms on Ms. magazine's website, denying an anti-Israel bias. She argued that the proposed advertisement was inconsistent with the magazine's policy to accept only "mission-driven advertisements from primarily non-profit, non-partisan organizations", suggesting that the advertisement could have been perceived "as favoring certain political parties within Israel over other parties, but also with its slogan 'This is Israel', the ad implied that women in Israel hold equal positions of power with men". Spillar stated that the magazine had "covered the Israeli feminist movement and women leaders in Israel ... eleven times' in its last four years of issues".
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After nearly five years of Diana Prince's non-powered super-heroics, writer-editor Robert Kanigher and artist Don Heck restored Wonder Woman's... well, wonder.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ms. magazine.|
- Ms. Magazine official website
- Feminist Majority Foundation official website
- Alternet: "Wake Up and Smell the Estrogen—The Return of Ms. Magazine"
- Maud Newton blog discussing the disagreement over the editorial direction for the Desperate Housewives story
- Monica Lewinsky coverage on sexual misbehavior and feminism
- Feminism and the digital divide includes a critique of the Ms. magazine blogs never being updated as not effectively trying to reach out to young feminists
- Ms. Magazine Letters. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.