New Moon Girls: A Feminist Magazine for Girls, by Girls

Eighteen years ago, Nancy Gruver was looking for a way to help her twin ten-year-old girls navigate the rocky road to tween-dom.  She wanted their experience to be less fraught than hers had been, and she thought surely that in the gap between her coming of age and that of her daughters’, new information and resources would be out there and available.  

But what did she find? “Nothing. Zippo. No books. No discussion. Nothing,” Nancy recalls. “I just knew that if there was anything in the world that I could do to help my daughters have a better transition for themselves growing up, I was going to do it.” But Nancy didn’t know what “it” was. She continued on her search and a few months later it came to her. “After finding one fabulous book called Meeting at the Crossroads by Lyn Mikel Brown and Carol Gilligan, I got the idea to work together with girls to create a feminist magazine by and for girls.”

It started out as a family project, a hobby really, an idea that at the time, the twins, Nia and Mavis, said sounded like “another one of Mom’s crazy ideas.” But Nancy’s concept was quite simple really: to create content by girls, for girls, so that their voices would be heard — and taken seriously — so that girls would feel empowered to pursue their dreams, despite societal messages that try to derail and undermine their belief in themselves. 

Nancy asked Nia and Mavis to invite a group of friends to help out and together they grew into the founding Girls Editorial Board of what would soon become New Moon Girls magazine. “We worked for nine months, and then we came to a decision point. We still had our regular jobs. We had to decide whether to spend money to print our first issue,” Nancy says.

New Moon Takes Off

Suddenly, after a story about the project ran in their hometown newspaper in Duluth, Minn., and then across the country through the paper’s syndicate, people took notice. “What we had done without any marketing studies, or knowing what we were doing really, was hit a nerve,” says Nancy. So much so that they found themselves with over 500 subscription orders before the magazine had even gone to print. They realized there was no turning back. Nancy and her husband, Joe Kelly, took their life savings and invested $10,000 in New Moon Girls. “We were young we were crazy, and we were willing to take the risk,” she says. 

That was in 1993. By the end of the year, subscriptions had swelled to 10 thousand. Joe quit his job as a radio journalist about a month after the inaugural issue came out in order to handle New Moon full time. Nancy, who worked in human services and healthcare planning, followed suit 18 months later. They refinanced their mortgage and that was that.

No Stereotyping Allowed: Let Girls’ Voices Be Heard

But what exactly was it about New Moon Girls that struck such a chord?  Nancy has at least two theories. First off: “We were user-generated content before there was a term for it.” But what’s really at the heart of New Moon’s success is this: “The media that was available to girls then, is much like it is now — it’s not a lot better unfortunately — it’s full of ads that are designed to make girls feel they’re lacking in some ways and that they need to buy something to fix that. And New Moon doesn’t have that. New Moon is about girls telling the world who they are, rather than the media telling girls who they should be.”

Throughout the years, New Moon has held to its first tenet that content be created, chosen and edited by tween girls (in fact, once a girl on the Editorial Board hits the ripe old age of 15 she has to “retire” -– and outgoing board members select replacements through an annual application process). 

“The experience is very powerful for the girls,” says Nancy. “They’re doing it, and to them, that’s the way it ought to be, which I like a lot! They think ‘I should be able to say what I think about the oil spill in the Gulf, or the war in Afghanistan, or who my favorite celebrity singer is. I should be able to be interested in all these things. I don’t have to be the stereotype of a tweeny bopper.’” 

It’s been a powerful tool. Nancy gets letters regularly from current, and even past readers, who tell her of the huge impact the magazine has had on their lives and their feelings of self-worth.

New Moon Rises to the Challenge

The recession and consequent shift in publishing has been a challenge to New Moon these past few years, especially in light of the fact that it remains an independent magazine. In order to bolster readership, in 2008 New Moon morphed into New Moon Girl Media, and launched a girl-centered online community for girls ages 8-12 called newmoon.com. Like the magazine, the content is completely girl-driven. Anyone with a subscription to the magazine can post to the site, either publicly, or privately in her “room” — a safe environment monitored and moderated by parent volunteers from Girls Editorial Board. 

“It took a community to make it a safe place for girls online,” Nancy says. And it’s working. To date, the site has 8,000 active members. “It’s connecting girls from all over the world who don’t know each other, who have a common interest in creative self-expression through whatever medium that might be,” Nancy explains. “We have generally 100,000 or more unique visitors to the website per month,” she says, adding that subscriptions are beginning to rise again. Today, New Moon is read by girls in over 40 countries.

When I ask Nancy whether or not she ever envisioned New Moon becoming this big, she doesn’t hesitate. “No, no I didn’t,” she answers with a laugh. “I really thought it would be a wonderful, hugely engrossing and rewarding hobby for our family.” 

And now that Nia and Mavis, the twins who inspired it all, are in their 30′s and working at their own careers, what is it that keeps Nancy going? “Over the course of our 18 years, 500 to 600,000 girls have been readers at various times,” she says. “And if they have the experience that they feel like they’re part of this community and that they belong and that they can be themselves and still belong, that just feels really great.”  

One can also hope that New Moon and its now global community, will continue to open up new worlds, not only for the girls but for mainstream media as well. As Nancy says, “As girls’ opportunities and rights and freedoms in the rest of their lives keep helping them be better in touch with themselves so they know who they are and explore all the possibilities for themselves, media is eventually going to have to acknowledge that. If I didn’t have that hope I don’t think I would still be doing this 18 years later.”

Here’s some great news for Care2 Causes: Nancy Gruver is now part of our blogging community, so be sure and keep a look out for her posts. Nancy’s first post for us was on 30 Great Books About Girls – so check it out.

 

Photo of Nancy and her daughters courtesy of New Moon Girl Media

51 comments

Chloe GJ
Chloe Bubbles5 years ago

New Moon Girls ROCKS!

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Georgette B.
Georgette B.8 years ago

A copy of your July/August 1995 magazine found it's way into my hands and I am passing on gratefully in 2011 to my granddaughters and other girls -THANKS for your continued belief and work in a worthy exciting endeavor!

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Bente S.
Bente S8 years ago

Thank you for your guts and effort!

I will check out the site for my daughters future participation, she is yet to young.

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Pete C.
pete c8 years ago

thanks

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Philippa P.
Philippa P8 years ago

Great stuff! Empowering young woman is a wonderful thing.

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Beng Kiat Low
low beng kiat8 years ago

Thanks

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Shannon S.
Shannon S8 years ago

Thank you so much, New Moon Girls, for creating such a wonderful magazine! Now, why hadn't I heard about this when I was a tween? I would have loved such a magazine! Oh well. There's always the awesome gender studies section at the library and fun discussions with my feminist mother ;) Not to mention gender studies classes! Gotta love college! Happy 4th, everyone, by the way!

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Elsa Ferreira
Elsa Ilieva8 years ago

Great idea! Long live this feminist magazine!

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Jessie H.
Jessie H8 years ago

Great job!!

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Janice P.
Janice P8 years ago

LOVE IT! LOVE IT! LOVE IT! And, the best part is the entire enterprise is so supportive of young women. It did not sell out to the predominant ideas of what these girls are supposed to like, be, think, etc.

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