Academic journal article Journalism History

Inside Ms.: 25 Years of the Magazine and the Feminist Movement

Academic journal article Journalism History

Inside Ms.: 25 Years of the Magazine and the Feminist Movement

Article excerpt

Thom, Mary. Inside Ms.: 25 Years of the Magazine and the Feminist Movement. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1997. 224 pp. $25.

Nineteenth-century equal rights activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were so frustrated by the lack of sympathy for their suffragist cause in mainstream newspapers that they believed the only solution was to publish their own newspaper. And publish they did. Short-lived though it was, The Revolution provides media historians with fine examples of the strategies and motivations of the first wave of American feminism.

A century later, the issues were the same when activists behind the 1960s equal rights movement realized the need for a national publication that could inform, convert and entertain women in a way that traditional women's magazines could not (or would not?).

Mary Thom's book chronicles the rich history of Ms., the most highly visible, and one of the most long-lived, of all of the dozens of women's rights publications that traced their roots to the second wave of feminism. Thom, who was there at the genesis of the publication as a researcher in 1972, documents how the magazine's founders, most visibly Gloria Steinem, and a handful of committed feminists came to publish a slick monthly journal.

Thom describes the difficulty of transforming feminists into writers and converting professional writers into committed feminists. The latter was easier, she affirms, because professional journalists who were women had felt first hand many of the issues that feminists were promoting. Steinem, however, wanted to give a voice to women who had never been heard before and that meant seeking for and encouraging articles from women who had no experience in writing. The founders grappled with the difficulty of living in an environment of equality (where everyone was an editor and titles like "secretary" were verboten) while trying to put out a professional publication.

Many of the earliest staff members were simply women who pitched in to put out the Spring 1972 preview issue, which was tucked into New York magazine. …

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