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Ms. (magazine)

Sandra Fluke on the cover of Ms.
Sandra Fluke on the cover of the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of Ms.
Executive Editor Katherine Spillar
Categories Feminism
Frequency Quarterly
Circulation 110,000[1][2]
Publisher Liberty Media for Women, LLC
First issue December 1971[3]
Company Feminist Majority Foundation
Country United States
Based in Arlington, Virginia
Language English
ISSN 0047-8318

Ms. is an American liberal feminist magazine co-founded by second-wave feminists and sociopolitical activists Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes.[4] Founding editors were Letty Cottin Pogrebin,[5] Mary Thom, Patricia Carbine, Joanne Edgar, Nina Finkelstein, and Mary Peacock. Ms. first appeared in 1971 as an insert in New York magazine.[6] The first stand-alone issue appeared in January 1972 with funding from New York editor Clay Felker.[6] From July 1972 to 1987, it appeared on a monthly basis.

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.


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."[7] 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."[7]

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).[8]

Controversy raged in the early 1970s over the "correct" title for women.[citation needed] 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 demanded that women use either Miss or Mrs. Many 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.[citation needed]

From 1972 until 1988 Suzanne Braun Levine was the first editor of Ms. [9]

Historic milestones

Ms. made history in 1972 when it published the names of women admitting to having had abortions when the procedure was still illegal in most of the United States.[10] A year later, Roe v. Wade would legalize abortion throughout the country. 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.[11]

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.

Ms. magazine's credibility was damaged in the 1980s and 1990s when it became swept up in the day care sexual abuse frenzy and moral panic about Satanic ritual abuse.[12]

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.[13]

Recent ownership

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.[14] 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.

File:Feminist majority foundation - stierch.jpg
Ms. Magazine offices in Los Angeles, California

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,[15] 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 comedian Wanda Sykes, performance artist Sarah Jones, Jane Fonda, actress Charlize Theron, Queen Noor of Jordan and former First Lady and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. 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.

Advertising policy

On January 10, 2008, the American Jewish Congress released an official statement[16] critical of Ms. magazine's refusal to accept from them a full page advertisement[17] 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.[18][19]

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.'[20] 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.[20]

See also

  • Joy Picus, Los Angeles City Council member, 1977–93, a Ms. Woman of the Year in 1985


  1. ^ Lefkowitz, Jay (2008-01-25). "Truth in Advertising". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  2. ^ "Ms. Magazine Names Editor". The New York Times. 2003-03-27. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  3. ^ "Ms. Magazine - HerStory". Ms. Magazine. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Ms. Magazine Online | Winter 2009". 2001-12-31. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  6. ^ a b Mclellan, Dennis (July 2, 2008). "Clay Felker, 82; editor of New York magazine led New Journalism charge". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  7. ^ a b Gloria: In Her Own Words (2011 documentary, directed by Peter Kunhardt)
  8. ^ "Fishko Files: Ms.". WNYC. 2012-06-28. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Willis, Jim (2010). 100 media moments that changed America. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood Press. pp. 121–122. ISBN 0-313-35517-7. 
  11. ^ Wonder Woman Wears Pants: Wonder Woman, Feminism and the 1972 “Women’s Lib” Issue, by Ann Matsuuchi, in Colloquy: text theory critique, no.24 (2012); archived at Monash University
  12. ^ Siano, Brian. "All the babies you can eat: Ms. magazine's reporting of unsubstantiated satanic rituals", Humanist, March–April 1993.
  13. ^ David Crary (October 3, 2006). "Women Sign "We Had Abortions" Petition". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  14. ^ Deutsch, Claudia H. (1988-04-03). "Sassy Publisher: Sandra Yates; The Ms. on the Masthead Wants the Magazine". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-09-08. 
  15. ^ Sheelah Kolhatkar (April 14, 2005). "'Desperate Housewives' Causes Another Breakup". New York Observer. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  16. ^ American Jewish Congress (January 10, 2008). "Ms. Magazine Blocks Ad on Israeli Women". Retrieved 2008-01-18. 
  17. ^ American Jewish Congress (January 10, 2008). "This is Israel. (PDF document)" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-01-18. 
  18. ^ Stewart Ain, The Jewish Week (January 16, 2008). "‘Feminist Moment Of Truth’ Ms. magazine’s refusal to print pro-Israel ad raises questions about the ‘Palestinianization’ of the women’s movement.". Archived from the original on 2008-01-20. Retrieved 2008-01-18. 
  19. ^ Dr. Phyllis Chesler, The Jewish Press (January 16, 2008). "Ms. Magazine's Msogyny Toward Israel". Retrieved 2008-01-20. 
  20. ^ a b Katherine Spillar, Ms. magazine (January 14, 2008). "Statement of Katherine Spillar, executive editor Ms. magazine concerning the AJC ad". Retrieved 2008-01-18. 

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