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.|
Ms. is an American liberal feminist magazine co-founded by second-wave feminist and sociopolitical activist Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes. It was the first national American feminist magazine. The original editors were Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Mary Thom, Patricia Carbine, Joanne Edgar, Nina Finkelstein, Mary Peacock, Margaret Sloan-Hunter, and Gloria Steinem. Beginning as a one-off insert in New York magazine in 1971, the first stand-alone issue of Ms. 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.
At its peak in the 1970s, Ms. enjoyed great success 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, illustrated by Miriam Wosk, depicts a version of the Hindu goddess Kali using eight arms to hold 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.
The magazine was viewed 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.
Co-founder Gloria Steinem 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."Ms. was being promoted by Sheila Michaels. In particular, when Michaels suggested the use of Ms. in 1969, in a lull during a WBAI-radio interview with The Feminists group, a friend of Steinem heard the interview and suggested it as a title for her new magazine.
Gloria Steinem placed Wonder Woman, in costume, on the cover of the first independently published issue of Ms. in 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 had her powers removed in the most recently published comics. The progressive author Samuel R. Delany wrote two issues of the Wonder Woman comic book in 1972, during this controversial period in the publication's history when the lead character abandoned her superpowers and became a secret agent. Delany was initially supposed to write a six-issue story arc that would culminate in a battle over an abortion clinic, but the story arc was canceled after Steinem led a lobbying effort protesting the removal of Wonder Woman's powers, a change predating Delany's involvement. Scholar Ann Matsuuchi concluded that Steinem's feedback was "conveniently used as an excuse" by DC management. 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's article spoke for feminist strength and the opposition against the repression of wives in society and the home. 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.
In 1972, Ms. published the names of 53 women who admitted to having had abortions when the procedure was illegal in most states of the country. 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.
Signatories included Billie Jean King, Judy Collins, Anaïs Nin, Gloria Steinem, Susan Sontag, and Nora Ephron. The petition drew on evidence that around 25% of American women had chosen to have an abortion, despite its variable legal status. 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. In 1973, the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court of the United States would legalize abortion throughout the country.
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.
From 1974 to 1977, Ms. collaborated with public broadcasting and, with the help of a grant from the Corporation for Public Funding, produced the television series Woman Alive!. The show was formatted to reflect the magazine, and consisted of short documentaries made by independent women filmmakers, interviews, and entertainment segments.
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.
In conjunction with other efforts towards feminist language reform, Ms. challenged the common holiday phrase "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.
Over its long history, the magazine has featured articles written by and about many women and men at the forefront of business, politics, activism, and journalism. 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 1987, Ms. was bought by Fairfax, an Australian media company, which appointed 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.
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 2005, under editor-in-chief Elaine Lafferty, Ms. was nominated for a 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 opposed to feminism.[verification needed]
Another "We Had Abortions" petition appeared in the October 2006 issue as part of the issue's cover story. This time, the petition contained 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 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.
On January 10, 2008, the American Jewish Congress released an official statement which was 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, rejecting claims of 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".
Contributors have included:
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.