Ms. Magazine

Ms. Women of the Year
Marleine Bastien
Jennifer Erikson +Robert Riley
Magda Escobar
Jane Fonda
Rebecca Gomperts
Naomi Klein
Barbara Lee
Yoko Ono
Sylvia Rhone
Venus + Serena Williams
The Women of Afghanistan
World Trade Center Heroes
Michelle Yeoh

Women Who Made A Difference
A few of the brave and tenacious women who left their mark on this momentous year—and one enduring female superhero.
30 Years of Ms.
A few of our words—and yours—about the magazine and its mission, and the roads we've traveled along the way.
Phantom Towers
An excerpt by Rosalind P. Petchesky

Editor's Page: Turning Point

Bold Before Her Time
Edna St. Vincent Millay's reckless life by Le Anne Schreiber

Books:
Reviews
Special: An Excerpt from
Families As We Are by Perdita Houston

Back Page
Inherit the War
Send a Letter to the Editor
>> click here

When the preview issue of Ms. appeared tucked inside New York magazine in December 1971, it flew off the newsstands. Those of us who grabbed that first issue have our own stories to tell about our responses to the articles and how we reacted when we saw that cover vividly capturing women's multitasking, long before the term was part of our vocabulary. There were women—feisty, funny, thoughtful, provocative women—talking up and out, breaking silences, questioning, claiming, challenging. It challenging. It seemed as if nothing was out of
November/December 1990

The section on violence against women was out-standing. As a lesbian working in the domestic violence movement, I want to thank you for reporting on the hate crimes committed against lesbians and gay men on a daily basis. I was also pleased to see reporting on lesbian battery. Issues of primary concern to lesbians have been in the effort to be "nonoffensive" within and without the movement. I salute the new Ms.for being serious about all our issues.


Terry Person, Boston, Mass., Retiring Chair, Lesbian Task Force; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
bounds. Imagine the shock (and relief) of seeing women publicly admit in 1972, before it was legal, that they had had abortions, something that women are loathe to do even today. There they were in Ms., signing their names to a statement proclaiming our right to safe, legal, abortions. And there was so much more: Ms. dissing the conventional "wisdom" that when it came to politics, women took their marching orders from the men in their lives, by offering advice on "Rating the Candidates"—declaring, in effect, that we had minds of our own. Ms. daring to suggest that before marrying, women think about what they were saying "I do" to and write their own contracts. Ms. touching nerves with "The Housewife's Moment of Truth," "Can Women Love Women?," "I Want a Wife," and "Heaven Won't Protect the Working Girl." Ms. desexing the language, challenging sexist child-rearing, and debunking a sexual revolution that ignored women's desire. Ms. exploring feminism in black families, questioning women's fear of success, celebrating the uncommon lives of ordinary women, and sharing "Stories for Free Children." And Ms. identifying and addressing concerns like, "Welfare is a Women's Issue," "Child Care Centers," and "Women and War," which are as relevant today as they were then.

No fashion, no recipes—at least none about cooking—no beauty tips; no talking to women about our hips, lips, weight—as if we were in need of constant remediation—no shop 'til you drop consumerism; no advice on how to get and keep a man.

The critics howled, "What kind of a women's magazine is this?" and predicted it would never make it. The conservatives denounced Ms., feminism, and the women's movement. (Sound familiar?) They just didn't get it, or they did and were scared as hell. But hundreds of thousands of readers most definitely got it—big time. Feminism is about your life! At last, a magazine exploring the truths and complexities of women's lives and patriarchal oppression. It stirred up conversations and heated debates; got us talking, sometimes for the first time about our experiences as female people and the way womanhood is both deeply personal and clearly political. The magazine encouraged us to question behavior, attitudes, beliefs (ours and everyone else's), personal history, and the "official" stories. And it sparked a flood of letters-more than 20,000 readers responded to the premiere issue alone—continuing the conversations; offering advice, criticism, information, and suggestions; asking questions; giving praise; nudging the editors; and declaring a bond with the magazine. From the beginning it was clear that the relationship this magazine would have with its readers was unlike any other.

October 1989
If I were a flag instead of a woman I would have a better chance of getting a constitutional amendment to protect me.

Joanne B. Carr, Englewood, Colo.


January/February 1992
Ms. is too good not to share with those who are most in need of broader perspectives-the policy makers in both the public and private sectors. I'd like to suggest that Ms. initiate an adopt-a-policy-maker campaign wherein gift subscriptions can be purchased for the policy maker(s) of your choice. To start the campaign off, I am enclosing a check. Please start a gift subscription in my name for each of the U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Wes Christensen San Jose, Calif.

So, when Ms. was officially launched as an independent magazine in July 1972, with Wonder Woman on the cover, expectations were high. Some folks asked, "How can you top that premier issue?" Well, throughout these 30 years, Ms. has kept faith with the spirit and substance of that first edition. We have continued addressing issues that have changed individual lives and the life of this society, naming our experiences, claiming our history, denouncing our oppression, celebrating our individual and collective heroism, finding lost women, and encouraging activism. Ms. making and breaking news, ruffling feathers, sparking debate. Ms. offering feminist activism, analysis, art, criticism, facts, feuds, fiction, humor, poetry, reporting, research, theories, and always a diverse range of women's stories.

It's been a bumpy ride. There was never enough money; the wolf was forever panting at the door. During the years that the magazine took advertising, there was constant struggle. (We went ad-free in 1990.) Many potential advertisers were leery of being associated with a magazine that didn't play "girlie," or were downright hostile to feminism. Advertisers not traditionally associated with women's magazines at the time, like automakers, insurance companies, and financial services providers had to be persuaded over and over that women really did purchase their products. And readers were often offended by ads pushing cigarettes or beauty products, or by the imagery or message.

We've always known that this is your magazine, not ours. Ms. readers made that crystal clear from the beginning. You've cheered us on and been our toughest critics. At any given time during these 30 years, Ms. has been called "too radical" by some and "too mainstream" by others. We've been rightly and wrongly criticized for ignoring or failing to respond to issues, to particular groups of readers and their concerns. We've been chastised for not being inclusive enough and for trying to be too inclusive; for using work by male writers, illustrators, and photographers; for focusing too much on women who work outside the home; for doing too little or too much on mothering; for being too heavy or too light; for. . . . You've kept us on our toes, constantly reminding us how important this magazine is to you, how much you depend on Ms.; and we rely on you to keep pushing us. Your letters have enriched this magazine in so many ways: sparking great articles, intense debates, and soul searching; sounding the alarm, educating, and always raising the bar.

This Women of the Year issue begins our 30th anniversary celebration—just a taste of what's to come. We intend to commemorate this milestone all year long. As part of the celebration, we will be looking back at many of the articles that have moved you, that have broken new ground, that have changed this nation. We're proud to have made it to this point and hope that you'll find the look back at our past over this coming year as exhilarating, thought-provoking, and joyful as we have. What better time, as our nation confronts new challenges that demand our most thoughtful, reasoned responses, to see once again the ways in which Ms. has always championed women's ideas and activism, and fought for our right to be at the center of the decision-making.
-Marcia Ann Gillespie

June 1981
Let's forget about abortion and get at the root of the problem-semen! Let's hope that the legislators will make laws limiting the amount of semen that a man may unleash in a given time period and forcing any man who has caused a prescribed number of pregnancies to submit to a vasectomy. Let us not just legislate women's bodies. That way, men can take the responsibility for allowing children to be born.

name withheld


March/April 1996
Upon hearing of O.J. Simpson's total acquittal, I felt physically ill and had to get air. I went straight to the bookstore to buy Ms. and find some voice of reason in this misogynist world. Thank you for remaining the strong beacon of hope that you have been so many times in my life. I will run to you as often as I can.

Susan Gosnell, Philadelphia, Pa.


December 1976
Everyone worries about violence in the street. But there are more women beaten and broken than anybody knows. It happens in their homes. I was one of these battered women, and I told lies for my husband and kept it from our families. I put up with it for eight years, during three pregnancies. Now I'm living alone with four children, from four to eleven years old, and I am charged with murder. My husband would get drunk, come home, and take out all his frustrations, failures, and anger on me. I would try to get away, taking my children. Sometimes I could; sometimes I didn't have money for gas or food for the kids, so I would have to stay. A lot of times he would take my car keys beforehand, and I couldn't do anything about it. He weighed about 245 pounds and was six feet, two inches. I weigh 140 pounds and am five feet, two inches. What kinds of odds were these? You can take out warrants for assault, but if you decide to prosecute and a fine must be paid, where does the money come from? It's money your kids need for food and clothes, money for house payments, power bills, phone bills. And then the next time you really get a good beating for taking your husband to court. If I'd had a choice between being mugged on the streets or being at home when my husband was drunk, I'd take my chances with a mugger. After you decide you can't take it anymore and want a divorce, that doesn't end it either. I was legally separated for about five months. I never had a good night's sleep, because he wouldn't stay away from me. He threatened to kill me or to hire someone to do that. So I went back to him and tried to make a good marriage after 12 years. It worked: he stayed sober for two weeks! I stayed on four weeks more before I decided I was fed up. I left again. He came to Virginia, where I was staying at my sister's house, and he tried to make me go home with him. He was slapping me when I shot him. I'm the villain now. I'm charged with murder, and I've got four children to feed and no job. It takes about three or four months for the Social Security people to start sending me checks. And unless I'm cleared of the murder charge, I won't get them anyway. What do we do, we women with kids? We don't have a chance with men or without them! Sometimes I feel like killing myself. I can't see where it will all end. If all the women in the world stood up for their own rights and raised hell about it, things would be different. I am writing this letter for them.

name withheld

October 1984
I am writing just moments after watching history being made: Geraldine Ferraro has been nom-inated for vice president of the United States! I happily admit I cried throughout the announcement and speeches. I cried because I was filled with gratitude, hope, and pride. To me, the outcome of theelection is almost irrelevant. I know that more great, pride-filled moments such as this one lie ahead for all Americans and that, as Gerry Ferraro suggested, more and more of those heavy old doors will be opening.

Lucy Allen St. Louis, Mo.


January 1986
I read Ellen Sweet's article on "Date Rape" (October 1985) with more than casual interest. At the end of my freshman year at Cornell, I was raped by a man I knew. A graduate student 12 years my senior, whom I had dated for a week, deflowered me in his room while holding one hand over my mouth to keep my screams from being heard. For over a year, I could not admit to myself what had happened. I did not seek counseling or call the incident a rape for almost two years. This is what defeats many women, I think: the inability to consider that rape can occur in a situation that is supposed to be friendly, and above all, romantic. Unable to accept what my feelings were telling me, I continued to reason that if it really was rape, I would instantly have stopped thinking of him in a positive light and would have thought of him as a criminal and adversary. I could not reconcile my denial with his apologies afterward, his obvious fear of being found out, my pain, my identification with rape victims, and my subsequent fear of sex.

name withheld


October 2001
As a grrrl weaned on second wave feminism, why has abortion been more important to us than childbirth? If I want someone to help me through my abortion experience, women line up to volunteer. But in the maternity ward where I had my child, no one was there helping the three teenagers who gave birth that night. As a teenage feminist born of a feminist, I wrote off my much older half-sister because she was a stay-at-home mother of three. When I became pregnant, she took me on to mentor as no one ever had and introduced me to a world of books, magazines, and ideas around natural childbirth and attachment parenting. And my own girlfriends were there to cheer me on, feed me cheeseburgers, and show my baby girl our world of friendship and love.

Jen Stromsten Newtown, Pa.


November 1982
In 1972 I asked "What's wrong with me? Now at thirty three I ask "What the hell is the matter with them? Kathryn A. Olsen, Park Forest, Ill. December 1973 Yeah, I watched that tennis match. Like a whole lot of people, I was anxious as hell, looking forward to it. Every time Bobbie Riggs opened his mouth, I got madder. When it comes time for the match, I'm on the edge of my seat . . . digging Billie Jean's cool and ready for her to cream this cat. Now I got to admit that, deep down, there's a little doubt-can she really do it? After the first set man, no more doubt. I'm yelling at the television. Billie Jean wins the second set, and I'm wild-shouting for a love set to really finish Mr. Riggs. Then it hits me-the fast heartbeat and the high emotion and the gulping beer without tasting it-damn! This scene I'm watching ain't just some Billie Jean King versus Bobbie Riggs. This is Joe Louis fighting Max Schmeling. Jackie Robinson against the baseball world. Sugar Ray fighting Jake La Motta. Althea Gibson playing Darlene Hard, and Jim Brown trying to run over Sam Huff. And, well, damn, for two hours, Billie Jean King is black! Mel Williamson, New York, N.Y. June 1975 When I saw in my spelling book that they had "the Queen is the wife of a King," I got really mad. Even though I'm only nine years old, and only in the fourth grade, I've written five poems. One from the five I thought you might want to put in Ms. Here it is: If you think I'm going to slave/in the kitchen for a man who is /supposed to be brave,/ Then I'm sorry to say /But you're wrong all the way,/ Because I'm going to be an/ astronaut.

Anita Buzick II, Killeen, Tx.

Copyright Ms. Magazine 2009