Women's Magazines

Women's magazines first appeared in the United States in 1792 when The Lady's Magazine and Repository of Entertaining Knowledge was published. The pioneering women's periodical was followed by other journals which were relatively expensive, aimed at high-class readers. These magazines included information on literature, fashion and etiquette.Magazines for the mass market were not available until the second half of the 19th century. New print technology made it possible to produce numerous copies in a short time and advertising became popular. As a result, a press boom ensued, including women's journals with a variety of content.

By the end of the century, a group of six magazines were the most influential. These included Delineator, McCall's, which was renamed Rosie in 2001 and ceased publication a year later; Ladies' Home Journal; Woman's Home Companion, which has not been in print since 1957; Good Housekeeping and Pictorial Review, which merged with Delineator in 1937 and went out of print two years later. Together these magazines were named the "Big Six" - the most influential women's magazines for decades, with thousands of faithful readers.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the magazine industry was flourishing. There were 2, 835 monthlies with sales of $75 million. Ladies' Home Journal had the widest circulation of a million copies. In the first decades of the century, the publishers turned their attention to the quality of the print work and the diversity of topics, whereas the prices of the magazines dropped even further but the Great Depression changed the situation dramatically. Advertisers withdrew and sales plummeted. However, by the 1930s there were two more names that were still in print, Woman's Day and Family Circle. During World War II, women's magazines concentrated on information on how the readers could help the country.

During the 1960s and the 1970s, magazines faced intense competition from television and magazines were seen as more vulnerable than newspapers to this pressure. Many women's magazines had to undergo radical changes to keep their audience and new ones appeared. The "Big Six" became the "Seven Sisters" - including Ladies' Home Journal, McCall's, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Redbook, Woman's Day and Better Homes and Gardens, all of which were aimed at housewives with children.

However, the profile of the American woman was changing and the "new woman" needed different magazines. More women started work and married later, if at all. The feminist movement thrived and the "Seven Sisters" failed to follow their previous success. Magazines like Ms. and Working Woman focused on radically different topics including women's rights and business. Essence magazine was specifically aimed at African-American women, combining serious topics on career and finance with more informal subjects such as beauty and fashion tips.

The magazine which faced the most dramatic transformation was Cosmopolitan. It was launched in 1886 as a family magazine, covering topics close to the ones appearing in the Seven Sisters. In the 1890s, it was transformed into a literary magazine, dealing with book reviews, serials and other publications and became a leading market name in the field of fiction. The magazine reached its peak circulation of two million copies in the 1940s, when it featured one novelette, several short stories, articles, reviews and a digest of current fiction and non-fiction books. Sales started to drop and Cosmopolitan was turned into a woman's magazine in the 1970s, publishing articles with explicit sexual content, a cover with a beautiful model and content largely aimed at young women focusing on careers, behavior, sex, health and beauty. The magazine often featured an interview with a female celebrity.

In the 21st century, there is a wide range of women's magazines which cover all aspects of life. There is far less fiction featured, as readers have plenty of opportunities to find out information from other sources, including television, cinema or by surfing the Internet. Therefore, magazines tend to focus on practical information. A large number of stories aim to inspire and to encourage readers, such as stories of famous personalities who have achieved success through hard work, women who have defeated illness or others who have helped a good cause. Social issues like violence, women's rights in developing countries and healthcare are also common topics in modern women's newspapers.

Women's Magazines: Selected full-text books and articles

Consumption, Identity, and the Sociocultural Constitution of "Preferences": Reading Women's Magazines By Starr, Martha A Review of Social Economy, Vol. 62, No. 3, September 2004
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