It’s amazing to think that there was a day where women didn’t have a voice in journalism. Today, there are tons of magazines dedicated towards women in all different life stages. One of the most influential women in the industry is Gloria Steinem, who released Ms. magazine first as an insert in New York Magazine, and later as a stand-alone publication in 1972.
The 300,000 copies printed of their first issue sold out nationwide in three days. Steinem served as a co-founder, after realizing that there were minimal resources for women who wanted to read articles that were formed in an environment controlled by women. The first editor-in-chief was Suzanne Braun Levine, who worked at the magazine until 1988.
Let’s talk about Steinem for a bit, because she truly is a pioneer for women’s rights. In 1962, she wrote an article about how women were forced to choose between a career and marriage, and worked as a Playboy Bunny in New York in 1963, solely to report on how exploitative of a work environment it truly was.
The article actually blacklisted her from journalism for a short period of time, until she landed her next gig at New York Magazine in 1968.
The title of Ms. magazine was suggested by a friend of Steinem who had heard the term in a radio interview, and liked it based on the fact that it represented a woman who wasn’t “owned” by a father, nor “owned” by a husband.
Something that stood out about Ms. magazine was its lack of fear over discussing controversial topics. In 1972, they published the names and accounts of women who had abortions, even though abortions would only become universally legal in the United States the following year. Steinem had covered a speak-out for abortion during her time at New York Magazine, and had strong opinions on the topic. She made it no secret that she, herself, had undergone the procedure earlier in her life.
“Speaking for myself, I knew it was the first time I had taken responsibility for my own life. I wasn’t going to let things happen to me. I was going to direct my life, and therefore it felt positive. But still, I didn’t tell anyone. Because I knew that out there it wasn’t [positive],” she said.
This wasn’t the only hard-hitting topic the magazine decided to cover. In 1976, they were also the first magazine to cover domestic violence with pretty disturbing, yet truly groundbreaking imagery. Just imagine how important that topic was to women suffering the same consequences, who felt like they were alone or weren’t allowed to speak up and try to take control over the situation. It’s still a big issue now, but back then, the issue was even more taboo to discuss publicly.
In 1991, the magazine began running without any ads – which is big, if you think about how many ads today promote women’s products, and things women “need” to look a “certain way”. In 1992, Steinem co-founded Choice USA, a non-profit organization that provides ongoing support to a younger generation that lobbies for reproductive choice.
In 2005, Steinem worked alongside Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan to co-found the Women’s Media Center, an organization that works to amplify the voices of women in the media. Their prime focuses for women include advocacy, media and leadership training, and the creation of original content.
Steinem, who is currently 79-years-old, will be a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year. As for Ms. magazine, it’s still in print – and has won many awards throughout its run. Steinem still has an column which you can read online. As far as publications go, Ms. is still regarded as being one of the top that covers women’s status, women’s rights, and women’s points of view.
Image Credits: whereisyourline.org (featured)