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Ms. was the best-known and most widely circulated magazine devoted to the culture of the "liberated woman" that emerged out of the feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Ms. made its debut as a monthly in July 1972 with Gloria Steinem (1934–) as editor. Although denounced by some critics for its outspoken attitude, the magazine's preview issue, inserted in New York magazine and dated December 20, 1971, sold three hundred thousand copies in eight days, attracted twenty-six thousand subscribers, and twenty thousand letters to the editor.

From the start, Ms. tackled such issues as women's economic and psychological oppression, abortion, and lesbianism, positioning itself as a far more radical voice than the established women's magazines, which often focused on homemaking, fashion, cosmetics, cooking, and how to be a dutiful wife. The magazine also helped popularize the use of the title "Ms." (instead of "Mrs." or "Miss") to describe a woman in her own right, regardless of marital status.

The magazine was founded by Gloria Steinem of New York magazine and Patricia Carbine (1931–), who wanted to publish a glossy feminist-oriented magazine that would be supported by national advertising. They secured a $1 million investment from Warner Communications and brought together an editorial staff of experienced women journalists.

Ms. tried to support itself with advertising, though some companies were ambivalent about appearing in a magazine that challenged the image they wanted to create for women. When the magazine featured a cover shot of Russian women without makeup, for example, Revlon cosmetics pulled its advertising from the issue. In 1979, the struggling magazine had to seek not-for-profit status to stay alive, and was published as an organ of the Ms. Foundation for Education and Communication until 1987, then sold to an Australian conglomerate, next to two Australian feminists, and finally to Lang Communications.

By the late 1980s, Ms. was accused by critics and dissatisfied readers of toning down its radical stance in order to satisfy its advertisers. Circulation dropped from 550,000 to less than 100,000. Lang suspended publication of Ms. for nearly six months. It resumed publication in the summer of 1990 as a bimonthly, with feminist writer-activist Robin Morgan (1941–) as editor. The new Ms. was fully reader-supported, with no advertising. It was purchased by MacDonald Communications in 1996, which suspended publication again in 1998. In 1999, it was acquired by Liberty Media for Women, a newly formed group that included Steinem as well as younger entrepreneurs and activists. Ms. resumed bimonthly publication with the March/April issue.

—Edward Moran

For More Information

Farrell, Amy Erdman. Yours in Sisterhood: Ms. Magazine and the Promise of Popular Feminism. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

Ms. Magazine. (accessed March 27, 2002).

Thom, Mary. Inside Ms.: 25 Years of the Magazine and the Feminist Movement. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1998.

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