Sanford, Leda 1933–

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SANFORD, Leda 1933–


Born October 11, 1933, in Tuscany, Italy; came to the United States in 1939, naturalized, 1939; daughter of Fausto (an artist) and Josephine Giovannetti; married Howard Sanford (divorced); married Mort Gordon, 1982 (divorced); children: (first marriage) Robert Wayne, Scott Howard. Ethnicity: "Italian." Education: Fashion Institute of Technology, A.A.S., 1953. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Presbyterian.


Home—Sausalito, CA; fax: 415-331-9688. E-mail[email protected].


Teens and Boys (magazine), New York, NY, staff member, beginning as editorial assistant, 1966-71, editor in chief, 1971-72; Men's Wear, New York, NY, editor in chief, 1972-75; American Home, New York, NY, president, publisher, and editor in chief, 1975-78; Chief Executive, New York, NY, publisher and editor in chief, 1978-79; Attenzione, New York, NY, publisher, chief operating officer, and editor in chief, 1979-81; Bon Appetit, New York, NY, vice president and publisher, 1982-83; Lafayette Publishing Co., New York, NY, editorial director of Living Anew, 1983-84; FMR International, Inc., New York, NY, general manager and publisher, 1986-89; Modern Maturity, New York, NY, advertising director, 1989-92; Age Wave, Inc., Emeryville, CA, vice president for specialty publishing, 1993-98; Age Wave Communications Corp., Emeryville, senior vice president and editorial director, 1998-99; publishing consultant, 1999—. Pacific Institute, director and board member.


American Society on Aging, Italy-America Chamber of Commerce (member of executive board), Fashion Group, Fashion Institute of Technology Alumni Association, Advertising Women of New York, New York Women in Communications.


Forum of Italian-American Educators Award, 1980; Mortimer C. Ritter Award, Fashion Institute of Technology Alumni Association, 1981; award for design excellence, American Society of Magazine Editors, 1981, for Attenzione; gold medal, Chamber of Commerce of Lucca, Italy, 1981; achievement award, National Association of Italian American Women, 1989; Amita Award; Astrid Award, 1998, for Living Smart.


Look for the Moon in the Morning (essays), Elders Academy Press (San Francisco, CA), 2005.

Author of column "For Your Information from the Desk of Leda Sanford," American Home, 1975-77; columnist for Get Up and Go! Contributor to Folio and other magazines. Editor, Boomer Report.


Leda Sanford once admitted in an article in Folio that after graduating from high school at age sixteen, she wanted more than anything "to be the editor of a magazine, live in a Manhattan penthouse, [and] be a glamorous and strong woman." Not until age thirtythree, following fashion designing, marriage, the birth of two sons, a suburban lifestyle and a divorce, did her journalism dream begin to come true. But the delay had little effect on Sanford's success. Within six years, she worked her way up from editorial assistant to editor in chief of the trade magazine Teens and Boys and then became the first woman editor of Men's Wear. Since then, she has published and edited magazines with an intensity that makes it "impossible to react unemotionally to her," noted Ira Ellenthal in Folio.

When she became president, publisher, and editor in chief of American Home in 1975, Sanford faced the difficult task of rescuing a debt-ridden giant from collapse. The Charter Company, which acquired the struggling magazine from John Mack Carter, was losing about 100,000 dollars an issue, according to Philip H. Dougherty in the New York Times, and its chairman, Raymond K. Mason, looked to Sanford to reverse the trend. Believing that American Home needed a more enthusiastic, more aggressive staff to execute the magazine's repositioning, Sanford fired several salesmen and replaced them with saleswomen—a move that led certain trade media to brand her as a woman who fires men. Ellenthal quotes a publishing analyst as saying: "Believe it or not, some people have neither forgotten nor forgiven [Sanford's move]."

But Sanford's main effort was devoted to changing the editorial content of American Home. Convinced that women's service magazines had become voyeuristic, "glorified Photoplays " in their efforts to compete with television, Sanford wanted American Home to support and inform the woman of today, but in a less radical fashion than the feminist publications like Ms. "Interesting as it was," she commented in Folio, "I never want to repeat the experience of trying to turn around a magazine…. As you revitalize or change the edito rial, you attempt to attract a new audience, a costly undertaking. At the same time, you can't afford to dump all the old readers overboard because you need them to renew your rate bases. Trying to pick up new readers fast enough to replace old ones is a tough proposition. Circulation pressures tend to cause an ambivalence that holds you back from following through completely on your editorial goals."

After two and a half years of repositioning, Charter merged American Home with Redbook, and Sanford became head of Chief Executive. A year later, she met fast-food magnate Jeno Paulucci, developed a plan to start a magazine for people with roots or interest in Italy, and introduced Attenzione. Italian-born and fluent in the language, Sanford acknowledged in Folio that she "was as emotionally involved with Attenzione as Gloria Steinem is with Ms. " She described the magazine as "the first non-ethnic/ethnic publication," differing from general interest magazines only in the "emphasis and degree to which we [used] the Italian connection."

Ellenthal reported that even though Attenzione was "nurtured lovingly by Sanford and a small dedicated staff, it … ran aground in treacherous circulation waters. Locating its exact market proved costly and tedious." Sanford admitted there were problems but believed the magazine was canceled prematurely: "The last issue produced by the original staff had forty pages of advertising and the editorial product was a gem. It's not fair to call a magazine a failure when it's not given enough time to mature."

From her experience in the business, Sanford offered in another Folio article this advice to aspiring publishers: "First of all, be absolutely sure in your own mind what you believe about the product, the audience, your goals, and where the magazine fits into the total scheme of publishing. Second, don't compromise. Compromise kills in publishing; while fine-tuning and adjustments are necessary, compromise is usually the beginning of the end. Third, tight budgetary controls and monthly reviews of the financial state of affairs are essential because early detection of problems can often save the 'patient.' Circulation expenses and income are the quicksand of publishing … In regard to personnel, … give people you trust a lot of rope. If you don't trust them, hang over their shoulders. Don't expect, inspect. Misplaced confidence, misplaced authority, misplaced freedom can drag you down. Direct strongly. A new magazine doesn't have time to be polite."

Sanford told CA: "My primary motive for writing is to share my life experiences and to communicate with other women. I am a product of the women's emancipation movement of the sixties and seventies. I have written numerous columns for the readers of the magazines I edited, and in every case they tried to encourage the reader to accept challenges, try new things, live life fully, and resist the temptation to buy into the misleading messages of the media.

"My thinking and writing have been influenced by Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, and by Emerson and Thoreau, Erich Fromm, and Rollo May.

"At this stage of my life, my goal is to be a role model for women, both young and old, showing them that it is never too late to reinvent ourselves and to revise our life plan. My theme now is how to make the most of the new longevity.

"I am currently writing my memoir—my life played out against the backdrop of the magazine publishing business—sharing openly my personal and professional life. I think it will have particular interest for women who are trying to balance it all and are torn between their allegiance to family and their desire for self-realization outside the home."



Advertising Age, April 26, 1999, Kimberly Woods, review of Get Up and Go!

Folio, February, 1982, Ira Ellenthal, interview with Sanford; November, 1982, interview with Sanford.

New York Times, June 15, 1976, Philip H. Dougherty, profile of Sanford; December 23, 1997, Stuart Elliot, "Advertising: Efforts Are under Way to Change the Image of Older Consumers as Tradition-Bound Tightwards."


Leda Sanford Web site, (June 3, 2006).

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