“Gloria Steinem: On Thirty-Five Years of Magazine Publishing, Activism and Joy”

Client:
New York Women in Communications


Project:
Article for The Matrix Times, April 2005


My Role:
To celebrate the 35th anniversary of its Matrix Awards for outstanding women in communications, New York Women in Communications decided to highlight the accomplishments of the women who had won the first awards, in 1971. I pitched the idea to Gloria Steinem, and won an interview with the legendary writer and activist. Some excerpts…


Gloria Steinem won the first Matrix Award for Magazines before the magazine she helped to create had even published its first “official” issue. … When the first regular issue, with Wonder Woman on the cover, hit newsstands in July 1972, its entire print run—300,000 copies—sold out in eight days. Ms. was clearly an idea whose time had come.

In words—starting with the name of the magazine, an old honorific brought back because it indicated female gender without reference to marital status—and pictures, Ms. defined the modern feminist revolution for millions of readers.

Today, both the 33-year-old Ms. and the 71-year-old Steinem are still going strong. Asked if her career had followed the path she had expected it to take, the tireless writer and activist blurts out, “No!” and then laughs. “Thirty-four years ago, I was thinking—and saying to people—that I would work on Ms. magazine for a couple of years and then go back to being a freelancer. That turned out to be a complete understatement of what it takes to make a magazine work.”

“It’s not a disappointment,” she’s quick to add. “I enjoyed every minute of it”—and indeed today she continues her association with the magazine, as a Consulting Editor. “But I celebrate not having to sell ads in recent years.”

When she began to market Ms., she says, “I had no idea advertisers would be so hostile. Most, especially those for products sold only for women, insisted on controlling the editorial content of all women’s magazines—not just Ms.” But the founders held true to their principles, even if it meant losing money: “We would refuse insertion orders that said ‘can’t be in a magazine with any large-size fashion or depressing stories.’”…

Asked if there’s anything else about which she’d like to talk, she says, “How about joy?” Joy?

“There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing some situation change for the better because you were part of it—and having friends, colleagues and companions to laugh with. It’s important that women in communications have that with each other. After all, the means are the ends. If we’re going to have joy and laughter and music and dancing at the end of the revolution, we have to have them along the way.”