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How Do You Spell Ms.

In the first issue, 53 women disclosed that they’d had abortions—or supported those who had.  

Braudy: I was always a little bit of the outsider—not part of this tight “in” group of Gloria, Letty, Mary Thom, and Robin Morgan. I wanted to put Robert Redford on the cover of the men’s issue, and Gloria said, “No, we can’t do that.” So she takes a vote, and the staff voted to put just his back on the cover. Such a stupid idea.

New York Magazine, September 22, 1975
“Guess Whose Back”
“Who’s that beefy hunk of fascinating manhood on Ms. Magazine’s October cover?”

Lippert: We leaked to Liz Smith for her column that it was actually Redford’s butt. The issue got attention.

Braudy: This is one of my quarrels with the Ms. people: They never told me that it was one of the highest-selling issues in the magazine’s history. They never told me it was a success.

Lyons: Susan Braudy also argued that Warren Beatty should be the cover subject for our issue on the Equal Rights Amendment because he was pro-ERA. But at the time, he was the ultimate womanizer, and she was booed off the stage.

Braudy: Gloria hated it. She said she’d had dinner with Beatty in London, and he got down on all fours and looked under the tablecloth to see her legs. She was wearing a high miniskirt, and you know, she had these perfect legs. She said to me, “Okay, look, let’s just see if Warren Beatty will do it first.”

Steinem: I don’t remember it—either Beatty being on the cover or under a tablecloth. I would have been grateful for Beatty’s support for the ERA.

Braudy: I had the task of calling Warren Beatty and asking him for a time to talk, and he proposed lunch at the Palm Restaurant. It’s a very old-school, male place. I ordered a Caesar salad, and he ordered a huge steak and said to me, “Have a piece of steak.” I said, “No, thank you,” and he pushed the plate at me hard. We pushed it back and forth about fifteen times until we laughed and then I stopped being afraid of him. Anyway, he agreed and said he would do the cover. I said to Gloria, “This will be great.” But she finally said no, and I was left holding the bag.

Intra-Feminist Discord

Ellen Willis’s Resignation Letter, 1975 (contributor, 1973–75; co-founder of the Redstockings, a radical feminist group; died in 2006.)
“No attempt has ever been made to recruit and hire experienced feminist writers, theorists, organizers … Ms.’s politics [include] a mushy, sentimental idea of sisterhood designed to obscure political conflicts between women … I hope that this explanation will be received as the honest feminist criticism it is meant to be.”

Carbine: Compared to every other magazine being published primarily for women, Ms. was—and was thought to be—wildly radical. But that didn’t help us with our downtown friends.

Gornick: People in Redstockings started calling Gloria and Ms. enemies of the movement because the “message,” from the radicals’ point of view (and here I include myself), was too watered down. But I hated the Steinem-bashing. I wrote a piece to say, “If you don’t like Ms., start a magazine of your own.”

Morgan: Some of the carping from self-described radicals was plain crankiness at not running things, or resentment at feeling not included (despite repeated invitations), or jealousy when Ms. succeeded beyond expectations.

In 1975, the reconstituted Redstockings accused Steinem and Ms. of being part of a CIA plot to collect information on the women’s movement. Steinem refused at first to dignify the charges with a response, and Betty Friedan, feminist pioneer and author of  The Feminine Mystique, seized on her silence.

The New York Times, August 29, 1975
“Dissension Among Feminists: The Rift Widens,”
By Betty Friedan
“By dismissing the Redstockings’ charges as ‘McCarthyism,’ I don’t think she shows respect for the women’s movement.”

Braudy: Betty Friedan was jealous of Gloria and claimed (with some justification) that because Gloria was younger and beautiful, the media anointed her spokesperson. That said, when I was trailing after Betty for a piece for Playboy, I was appalled by her loud vocal disdain for some women. For example, she cruelly berated an older woman selling train tickets at Philly’s Penn Station for being too slow. In a hundred years, Gloria would never do such a thing.

Ephron in Crazy Salad, 1975
“It is probably too easy to go on about the two of them this way: Betty as the Wicked Witch of the West, Gloria as Ozma, Glinda, Dorothy—take your pick … Betty Friedan, in her thoroughly irrational hatred of Steinem, has ceased caring whether or not the effects of that hatred are good or bad for the women’s movement.”