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First Feminist Magazine Turns 40 – Thank You, Ms.!

First Feminist Magazine Turns 40 – Thank You, Ms.!

When it comes to feminist trailblazers in the second half of the 20th century, Ms. Magazine jumps to the head of the list. Before Ms., those of us growing up in the post-World War II years had little by way of models for strong, independent women.

Television was portraying us as happy housewives or victims or painted dolls. Newspapers and history books were ignoring us. In high school we were pointed toward careers as secretaries, teachers or nurses. My school’s counselor looked at my straight-A average and told me not to bother with university. It would be wasted on a wife and mother.

Women had only two designations, whatever our ages: Miss or Mrs. Both defined us by our marital status. Then along came a new magazine and a new title: Ms.

July 2012 marks 40 years since the life-changing magazine hit the news stands. A sample insert had appeared in the December 1971 New York Magazine. I never saw the test run, but the Ms. HerStory page says columnist James J. Kilpatrick dismissed it as “a C-sharp on an un-tuned piano.”

When Ms. made its stand-alone appearance the following July, Harry Reasoner taunted, “I’ll give it six months before they run out of things to say.”

How wrong he was. He overlooked the market for images of women who were identified as intelligent and multi-dimensional. The magazine’s co-founders, Gloria Steinem and Letty Cottin Pogrebin, were articulate and fearless and gave us courage. Ms. writers took on abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment, violence against women, and the whole patriarchal system that trivialized or denigrated women’s concerns.

In her essay celebrating the 40th anniversary of Ms., Marlo Thomas quotes Pogrebin’s summary of the magazine’s role in our lives:

A world without Ms. would be a world without feisty, fabulous, trouble-making, truth-telling women. For the last 40 years, wherever I go, women have told me how grateful they are to Ms., how reading it changed their lives for the better, inspired them to demand their rights, broaden their aspirations, feel less isolated, and speak truth to power. I’m proud to have been one of the magazine’s founding editors.

Ms. was one of the most important reasons we stopped being afraid to identify ourselves as feminists. “Women’s libber” had been a pejorative label for any woman who dared speak out for gender equality. The visibility of Ms. Magazine gave us allies and leaders, women who refused to be subservient, women for whom “feminist” was a badge of pride.

The magazine has gone through re-organizations, financing challenges, and editorial shifts in its 40 years, but one thing has never changed. From its first issue, the magazine has retained its integrity and leadership as the strongest voice for women.

Care2 community, please join me in thanking Ms. Magazine for 40 years as a beacon for women everywhere.

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Photo of Letty Cottin Pogrebin receiving Making Trouble/Making History Award from Gloria Steinem, by Jewish Women’s Archive via Flickr Creative Commons

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33 comments

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8:23AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Fabulous work Ms. Magazine, a trail blazer when you began publishing! Good to see such magazines thriving.

Kity W. is still at working spamming away, no profile!

11:59AM PDT on Jun 18, 2012

I have always been a bit puzzled by the idea that being called Miss or Mrs. is not a good thing because it shows a woman's marital status, but apparently it is not such a big deal to most women that women are expected to change their names when they get married. Oh, well. I have read that Hillary Clinton intended to continue to be known as Hillary Rodham after getting married, but it was not the thing to do at the time so she used her maiden name as her middle name. I do that now myself. "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

1:49PM PDT on Jun 15, 2012

PLEASE FLAG THE STUPID, STINKING, DISGUSTING SEX AD THAT IS THE #2 POST ON THIS THREAD!!!!
SUCH FILTHY, STUPID, STINKING, DISGUSTING ADS FOR SEX AND YOUR MONEY, HAVE NO PLACE ON CARE2 THREADS!!!
CARE2 SOMETIMES DOES, AND SOMETIMES DOES NOT, TAKE CARE OF THESE FILTHY, STINKING DISGUSTING ADS!!!
SO, PLEASE, PLEASE TAKE ONE MOMENT TO FLAG THAT SEX AD AS "INAPPROPRIATE".
IF CARE2 CAN'T KEEP THEM OFF, THE LEAST IT COULD DO, IS TO REMOVE THEM!
PLEASE HELP KEEP US CLEAN!!!

3:15AM PDT on Jun 15, 2012

Congratulation.

12:16AM PDT on Jun 15, 2012

Congratulations, Ms. I can't believe it's been around so long.

4:39PM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you and many more

4:38PM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

Congratulations and thank you, Ms. magazine,..
You were a great positive factor in me being able to define myself as a feminist and to realize that women actually DO have power

4:36PM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

I flagged David R too. Care2 has a strict policy against filth like that and personal attacks.

2:32PM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

wow, happy birthday Ms Magazine.

12:22PM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

Thanks for being there.

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