The First Issue of Ms.

The Debut of Feminism's Famous Magazine

The first full-length issue of Ms. ​magazine was the Spring 1972 issue. Ms. went on to become a widely read publication, practically synonymous with feminism and the Women’s Liberation Movement. What was in that premiere issue of Ms.? Some of the most famous articles are still widely read and even used in Women’s Studies classes. Here are a few of the best-remembered pieces.

This article has been edited and expanded by Jone Johnson Lewis.

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The Cover

Gloria Steinem (L) and Patricia Carbine, cofounders of Ms. Magazine, May 7, 1987
Gloria Steinem (L) and Patricia Carbine, cofounders of Ms. Magazine, May 7, 1987. Angel Franco/New York Times Co./Getty Images

Gloria Steinem and Patricia Carbine were co-founders of Ms. Magazine, and helped transform it later to an ad-free periodical.

The cover of the first issue of Ms. featured a woman handling more tasks than would be physically possible.

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Welfare is a Women's Issue

John Amos as James Evans, Sr., and Esther Rolle as Florida Evans in 1974 TV series Good Times
John Amos and Esther Rolle portrayed the parents in a family in the housing projects in 1974 TV series Good Times. Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

An essay by Johnnie Tillmon, who drew attention to welfare as a valid concern of feminism.  The author was a woman herself on welfare after working for 20 years in a laundry, then becoming sick and unable to work.  Her thesis was that welfare could "happen to anybody" but was more likely to happen to women (which research confirmed and still confirms).

The later television show Good Times was criticized for failing to show a single mother heading the family in the housing project.  It would have been very difficult for a family as depicted in the series to get a home in the housing project in Chicago at that time.

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Rating the Candidates

Richard Nixon and George McGovern in 1972
Richard Nixon and George McGovern in 1972. Keystone/Getty Images

A study of the 1972 presidential candidates’ positions on women’s issues.  A common assertion of the time was that women were unduly influenced by their husbands in voting; this article was based on a different assumption, that women could make choices for themselves.

Housewife of the 1960s talking on the phone in her kitchen
Housewife of the 1960s. Tom Kelley Archive / Getty Images

Judy (Syfers) Brady's satire made some very serious points about relegating women to the role of “housewife.”  This was years before same sex marriage was a hot political issue -- it really was about wanting the kind of support that a housewife was often able to provide for men in the workforce. More »

New York Pro-Choice March, 1977
New York Pro-Choice March, 1977. Peter Keegan / Getty Images

A declaration signed by more than fifty prominent women.  Abortion was still illegal in much of the United Staes, prior to Roe v. Wade.  The intent of the article and declaration was to call for change, and making abortion available to all, not just those who were financially well off and able to find such options. More »

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De-Sexing the English Language

Flight attendant in 1960s attire
Flight attendant in 1960s attire. Stephen Swintek / Getty Images

Casey Miller and Kate Swift, both editors, looked at how sex bias is revealed by pronouns and other vocabulary choices.  It was more common then to refer to policemen and stewardesses, rather than the more recent inclusive "police officers" and "flight attendants."  And assuming that male pronouns were inclusive of women often led to an unconscious exclusion of women's experiences.

Language differences, it was argued, could lead to different treatment.  Thus, one of the legal struggles for women's equality came in the 1960s and 1970s as flight attendants worked against workplace discrimination.

Two small children and mother at table, mother serving cake topped with strawberries
First birthday party, 1960s. Bertil Persson / Getty Images

Jane O’Reilly's essay popularized the idea of a “click!” moment of feminist awakening.  The essay was very specific about what "click!" moments some women had had, mostly about rather common social behaviors, like who picks up the children's toys at night.  The basic question behind these experiences was this: what would women be if they had their own identity and choices, not just defined by what was expected of them because they were women?

The idea that personal inequalities like picking up children's toys were relevant to the politics of women's rights was sometimes in the 70s summarized by the slogan, "The personal is political."

Consciousness-raising groups were often the means by which women sought to find the insights described by the "click!" More »

Fist in female symbol, women's liberation
Women's Liberation. Shutterstock

As background to the choices in the first issue of Ms. Magazine, this list reviews ten key feminist ideas that influenced the selection of articles in that premier issue. More »