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Gloria's Victory

No sense of humor? Possibly. But changing everything—and the women who started Ms. definitely did—is serious business.

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FEMINISM 1971


Gloria Steinem in the 1970s, back when feminism was fun.  

The first issue of Ms. magazine was dreamed up in a cramped one-room office on Lexington and 41st Street. The masthead listed the editors alphabetically so as not to the create the impression of hierarchy, because hierarchies were male and hence undesirable. In fact, the magazine narrowly escaped the misfortune of being called Sisters, a name reportedly favored by Gloria Steinem in her aviator glasses, belted mini-dress, and white lipstick. The whole venture had a glamour that has since eluded political causes, and when the preview issue appeared as a 40-page excerpt in this magazine in December 1971, it was wildly successful.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I opened it 30 years later—something grim and humorless, I suppose. But I was wrong. The first few issues of Ms. have the deranged, appealing energy of sleepless nights and bad coffee in Styrofoam cups. They catch the world in a state of pure, intoxicating flux. The brief instant when all of the ideas that would be rehashed and rewarmed for decades were actually new. And how could anyone resist a magazine with a Dewar’s ad featuring not an actress or a model but a 28-year-old woman physicist with long, unwashed, center-parted hair, hovering awkwardly in front of a blackboard?

For the rest of this article, please buy the 35th Anniversary issue of New York Magazine.


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