Ms. Magazine records
Scope and Contents
These records document the administration, editorial choices, research, publication, and response to Ms. Magazine, as well as events and special projects created by the staff of the magazine. Particularly well documented are the editorial choices made by the magazine's staff and the changes in the magazine as it was transferred to Fairfax Publishing in the late 1980s.
The bulk of the collection is office files, editorial (including numerous manuscripts), publicity, promotion, circulation, and advertising. The editorial files were sampled. Also included are by Ms. staff, so it is not a complete documentation of the editorial work of the magazine. The collection also includes files on special projects (e.g. Stories for Children); files for Women's Action Alliance and Ms. Foundation for Women; individual editors' correspondence and other professional papers, including those of Gloria Steinem, Pat Carbine, and Letty Pogrebin. There are also research files, printed materials, audiovisual materials, photographs, and artwork.
Dates of Materials
- 1907 - 1996
- Majority of material found within 1965 - 1996
- Ms. Magazine (Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research use with the following restrictions on access:
At the direction of donor Pat Carbine acting as agent for Ms. Magazine, materials related to the Redstockings events and papers relating to Elizabeth F. Harris are closed.
Conditions Governing Use
To the extent that they own copyright, Ms. Magazine has assigned to Smith College all intellectual property rights in these materials; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Ms. Magazine, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.
In 1971, in response to a lack of journalistic media produced by and for women, Gloria Steinem founded Ms. Magazine, aided by an original editing team including Mary Thom, Mary Peacock, Patricia Carbine, Nina Finkelstein, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, and Joanne Edgar. Steinem had originally intended to start a newsletter to raise money for the Women’s Action Alliance, a feminist educational organization which the two also founded in 1971. Realizing that newsletters would not necessarily have the fundraising effect they desired, Steinem began looking into creating a glossy-cover magazine. Ms. filled a significant void in magazine publishing at the time: in Steinem’s words, before Ms., “...there really was nothing for women to read that was controlled by women.”
Despite the founding team’s doubts and overt skepticism from other -- largely male -- voices in the journalism business, Ms.’s debut as an insert in New York magazine showed tremendous potential, selling 300,000 copies in under one week. Ms. created a name for itself by addressing heavy-hitting issues like abortion and domestic violence which impacted many women’s lives but were often overlooked or stigmatized in popular culture. Ms.’s first issue famously contained a list of women, including Gloria Steinem, Anaïs Nin, and Billie Jean King, who admitted to having abortions before they were federally legalized through Roe v. Wade.
In the years following its birth, Ms. became a leading voice in the second-wave feminist movement. It continued to function as a source of groundbreaking journalism but also hosted events, published books, and acted as an “information clearinghouse” to help create nationwide feminist networks. The creators of Ms. sought to create a product which would be accessible for both nascent feminists and longtime supporters of the women’s movement. They also wanted to use their medium to critique the long-standing tradition of sexism in advertising. Advertisers for Ms. were carefully hand-picked by the staff, and the magazine published a weekly “No Comment” section which called out misogynistic advertising seen by readers.
While Ms. enjoyed unprecedented success as a nationwide feminist magazine, it also inspired a great deal of controversy. The magazine faced constant criticism both from the right for being too radical and from radical feminists for being too conservative. This criticism sometimes evolved from negative public feedback into active disputes, including legal action intended to censor Ms. and the Redstockings’ infamous claim that Gloria Steinem was secretly affiliated with the CIA. Ms. also drew internal critique for its focus on white womanhood: author Alice Walker left the magazine in 1986 after twelve years as a contributor, citing one too many covers featuring exclusively white women and a sense of tokenization amidst the majority-white staff.
While both controversial and flawed, Ms. changed the face of journalism and played a major role in bringing feminism into popular consciousness. In 1987, the Australian production company Fairfax bought Ms., concluding the first stage of its life. It has since been passed between several different publishers and continues to operate today through Liberty Media for Women, a company owned by the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Works Consulted Abigail Pogrebin, “How Do You Spell Ms.,” New York Magazine, Oct. 28 2011
200.523 linear feet (370 containers)
Language of Materials
The collection contains the office files of Ms. Magazine, a magazine edited, published, and written by women, focusing on women's issues and the women's movement, including fiction, poetry, readers' letters, and "No Comment" column on sexist journalism and ads.
The collection is divided into 8 series. The final series, Era of transition to Fairfax Publishing, covers many of the same types of material as the other series, but covers the time period when Ms. was bought by Fairfax Publishing and the changes that were made in that period.
- Administrative records
- Special projects and events
- Responses to Ms.
- Research and subject files
- Era of transition to Fairfax Publishing
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff or email email@example.com to request the creation of and access to digital copies.
This content was received from the donor in digital form and is not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request access to this digital content. Note that Special Collections may not be able to provide the required software to read all files.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Joanne Edgar and Mary Thom, starting in 1988.
In 2021 during processing, archivists removed a small amount of personnel records that contained confidential information. They also moved 5 boxes of Pat Carbine's personal papers to its own collection. 4 boxes of clippings and duplicates were also removed.
Sometime in the 2000s, Maida Goodwin and her students began processing the collection. They were close to completing processing in 2016 when Goodwin retired. They rearranged much of the collection into 51 series and had traditionally processed many of these series, but had not described and sorted all materials.
In 2020, Madeleine Michels, a student worker at Smith College Special Collections, took all the word inventories Goodwin and her students had written and imported them as a finding aid. She arranged the 51 series as sub-series to create a clearer structure. In 2021 when this work was complete, Madison White, the processing archivist, took overthe collection. She removed restricted personnell files, arranged and described later additions to the collection, and corrected errors in the description.
- Alice Walker
- Business records
- Edgar, Joanne
- Farrell, Amy
- Feminism -- Periodicals
- Feminists -- United States
- Man-woman relationships -- United States -- 20th century
- Minors -- Civil rights -- United States -- 20th century
- Motion pictures
- Ms. Foundation for Education and Communication
- Ms. Magazine
- Pogrebin, Letty Cottin
- Publishers and publishing
- Publishers and publishing
- Sex discrimination against women
- Smeal, Eleanor
- Steinem, Gloria
- Thom, Mary
- Women -- Economic conditions -- United States -- 20th century
- Women -- Employment -- United States
- Women -- Health and hygiene
- Women -- Legal status -- United States -- 20th century
- Women -- Political activity -- 20th century
- Women authors, American -- 20th century
- Women editors -- United States
- Women in advertising -- United States -- 20th century
- Women in mass media -- United States
- Women in the professions
- Women journalists -- United States
- Women's periodicals, American
- Women's rights -- United States -- 20th century
- Works of art
- Young women -- United States -- 20th century
- magazines (periodicals)
- press releases
- Finding aid to the Ms. Magazine records
- Enhanced Finding Aid (Completed)
- Madison White and Madeleine Michels
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid is written in English.
- 2017-07-26T17:48:24-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
- 2018-10-26: Updated to conform to DACS
- 2021-01-15: Updated after processing
- 2022-08-05: Updated to reflect terms in certificate of gift
Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063