Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MC 331

Letters to Ms., 1972-1980

Letters to the editor of Ms. magazine.

Dates

  • 1972-1980

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Letters concerning the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) are open to research. To use any other letters, readers must sign a statement agreeing not to use names or correct initials of letter-writers in any publication, thesis, or dissertation.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the letters written to Ms. Magazine is held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Letters may not be photocopied until 50 years after the year in which they were written, unless it is clear that they were published in Ms. Magazine.

Extent

7.51 linear feet (18 file boxes)

This collection consists of letters to the editor, 1972-1980, by women and men from all over the country and all backgrounds. It does not include the more than 20,000 letters written in response to the preview issue. Letters may describe personal experiences and problems, or praise, criticize or suggest new departures for the magazine. Many express feminist or anti-feminist points of view or make rhetorical or political statements about such issues as sexuality, medicine, human and family relationships, motherhood, life choices, credit, job discrimination, careers, the Equal Rights Amendment, and feminism. The "found women" files are letters enclosing biographical material about interesting women who are not well known.

Because the files of letters were voluminous and repetitious, they have been weeded to approximately half their original volume. No attempt has been made to preserve a representative sample of letters; rather, archivists have removed routine and non-biographical letters, photographs and resumes, and have moved clippings, articles enclosed with letters, and examples of sexist advertising to the Library's vertical files.

Letters written in response to articles or to other readers' letters are arranged in their original order, chronologically by date of the article to which they respond. "Personal letters" (that is, those that do not respond to particular articles) are arranged by date of letter. The letters in the "Crackpots" folders (#232-233) were selected and given this designation by Ms. Magazine staff. "Found women" files (#234-242) contain letters, clippings, and photographs of women readers believed Ms. should be aware of and are arranged alphabetically by subject. Letters about the Equal Rights Amendment are grouped together at the end of the collection (#243).

HISTORY

Ms. is a national monthly magazine, published and written by women to provide a forum for women and women's issues in the United States and internationally. Created in 1971 by Gloria Steinem and fellow journalists, activists, and feminists, Ms. survived disputes over content and financing, as well as several changes in ownership. The magazine covers the women's movement and women's issues, and includes poetry, fiction, non-sexist children's fiction, a readers' letters column, and a "No Comment" column on sexist journalism and advertising.

The following provides a brief history of Ms.:
  1. 1969: Gloria Steinem reports for New York Magazine and becomes an advocate for women's rights after covering an abortion rights rally in New York City.
  2. 1970-1971: Steinem talks with New York writers and activists about starting a women's newsletter.
  3. 1970-1971: Steinem and Brenda Feigen Fasteau establish the Women's Action Alliance. The group connects women to one another, to women's movement information and activities, and provides Steinem with further evidence of the need for a women's publication.
  4. 1971: Steinem and co-founders Elizabeth Forsling Harris and Patricia Carbine establish Majority Enterprises, the original parent company of Ms.
  5. 1971: Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham contributes $20,000 in seed money to help start Ms
  6. 1971: New York Magazine editor Clay Felker publishes a forty-page Ms. insert in his December double issue.
  7. 1971: Letty Cottin Pogrebin becomes Ms. founding editor along with Gloria Steinem.
  8. 1972: Clay Felker helps to publish another full-length preview issue of Ms. in the spring. It sells 300,000 copies, and reader response is heavy.
  9. 1972: Warner Communications invests $1 million in Ms., but agrees to accept only twenty-five percent of the magazine's stock, allowing Ms. to remain woman-controlled and managed.
  10. 1972: Majority Enterprises publishes the first regular issue in July.
  11. 1973-1982: Ms. operates successfully and receives an increasing number of letters to the editor. Many of these letters praise the magazine but also criticize sexist advertisements that appear in it.
  12. 1973-1982: Ms. publishes its ten-year anniversary issue in July/August 1982.
  13. 1983-1986: Ms. maintains a steady readership but readers increasingly criticize the magazine for becoming too traditional and continuing to include sexist advertising.
  14. July-August 1987: Ms. celebrates its 15th anniversary as it seeks to expand advertising and raise circulation from 450,000. Efforts to raise capital include an offer of 49% interest to potential investors.
  15. September-October 1987: Escalating debts force Ms. founders to sell the magazine.
  16. November-December 1987: Ms. is sold to Fairfax (U.S.) Ltd., a subsidiary of John Fairfax Holdings, an international media company with offices in Australia and New Zealand. Sandra Yates is appointed president and publisher of Fairfax (U.S.) Ltd. and Anne Summers becomes the new editor-in-chief.
  17. January-February 1988: To attract advertisers and reach a projected circulation goal of 650,000, Yates and Summers replace the magazine's image with a more commercial format and place greater emphasis on celebrity profiles, fashion and beauty.
  18. ca. April-May 1988: Fairfax launches Sassy, a magazine targeted for teenagers.
  19. ca. June-July 1988: Impacted by the stock market crash of 1987 and internal family issues, Fairfax (U.S.) Ltd. begins negotiations for the sale of Ms. and Sassy
  20. August-September 1988: Aided by financial backing from the State Bank of New South Wales and Citibank Venture Capital Fund, Sandra Yates and Anne Summers negotiate a successful management buy-out of Ms. As partners they form Matilda Publications Inc. and continue publication of Ms.
  21. July-August 1989: Major companies withdraw advertisements after Ms. publishes a controversial issue declaring war on the Reagan administration for its attempt to overturn women's reproductive rights.
  22. September -October 1989: Advertisement sales continue to decline and Sandra Yates is forced to resign after advertisers are boycotted by Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority for the sexual content of articles in Sassy. Cumulative losses result in the sale of Ms. and Sassy
  23. November-December 1989: Publication is temporarily suspended as Lang Communications becomes the new owner of Ms. and Sassy. Readers complain about the lack of formal notification.
  24. 1990: Publication of Ms. resumes. For the first time in its history the magazine is advertisement free but readers pay a higher cost. Robin Morgan serves as the new editor-in-chief.
  25. 1993: Marcia Gillespie assumes the role of editor-in-chief.
  26. Sassy is sold to Petersen Publishing Company but Lang Communications retains Ms. and its other publications Working Women and Working Mother
  27. 1996: Ms. is purchased by MacDonald Communications. Editors and staff retain control over the magazine's editorial content but lose financial autonomy.
  28. 1998-2001: Eleanor Smeal, activist and president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, Gloria Steinem, Marcia Gillespie, and others form Liberty Media for Women and purchase Ms. from MacDonald Communications. Feminist Majority Foundation remains the sole publisher of Ms. Magazine, an advertisement-free publication

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 81-M117

These letters were given to the Schlesinger Library by Ms. Magazine in April 1981.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Letters to Ms., 1970-1998 (MC 568)

CONTAINER LIST

  1. Box 1: Folders 1-11a
  2. Box 2: Folders 12-24
  3. Box 3: Folders 25-38
  4. Box 4: Folders 39-48
  5. Box 5: Folders 49-58a
  6. Box 6: Folders 59-69
  7. Box 7: Folders 70-84
  8. Box 8: Folders 85-101
  9. Box 9: Folders 102-122
  10. Box 10: Folders 123-137
  11. Box 11: Folders 138-150
  12. Box 12: Folders 151-164
  13. Box 13: Folders 165-180
  14. Box 14: Folders 181-201
  15. Box 15: Folders 202-215
  16. Box 16: Folders 216-230
  17. Box 17: Folders 231-236
  18. Box 18: Folders 237-243

Processing Information

Processed: October 1981

By: Jane S. Knowles
Link to catalog
Title
Ms. Letters to Ms., 1972-1980: A Finding Aid
Author
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
EAD ID
sch00236

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future.

Contact:
3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-8647