Live-Blogging Women’s History: March 18, 1970

March 18, 1970: Just 48 hours after 46 women filed an E.E.O.C. complaint against Newsweek charging sexism, another and far more radical action has been taken against a mainstream media giant.

“Never underestimate the power of a woman” is the motto of the Ladies Home Journal, so when more than 100 women occupied its offices today demanding a more relevant and liberated publication, there was clear confirmation of that old saying. The siege began at 9:15 this morning with Media Women joining members of Redstockings, the West Village-One consciousness-raising group, New York Radical Feminists, Older Women’s Liberation, NOW and Barnard College students. Among the more well-known feminists present today: Susan Brownmiller, Ti-Grace Atkinson and  Shulamith Firestone.

The action was called to protest LHJ articles that are “irrelevant, unstimulating and demeaning to the women of America.” Bearing a banner that renamed the second-largest women’s magazine in the U.S. the Women’s Liberated Journal,” protesters quickly packed into editor John Mack Carter’s office to present their arguments and demands. The demonstrators made concrete suggestions and even came with a mock-up for a cover and 20 pages of ideas for specific articles. As Carter looked on, their statement was read:

We demand that the Ladies Home Journal hire a woman editor-in-chief who is in touch with women’s real problems and needs. We demand that all editorial employees of the magazine be women. We demand that the magazine use women writers for all columns and freelance assignments because men speak to women through the bias of their male supremacist concepts. We demand that the magazine hire non-white women at all levels in proportion to the population statistics. We demand that all salaries immediately be raised to a minimum of $125 a week. We demand that editorial conferences be open to all employees so the magazine can benefit from everyone’s experience and views. Since this magazine purports to serve the interests of mothers and housewives, we demand that the Journal provide free day-care facilities on the premises for its employees’ children, and that the policies of this day care center be determined by employees. We demand an end to the basic orientation of the Journal toward the concept of Kinder, Kuche & Kirche and a reorientation around the concept that both sexes are equally responsible for their own humanity. We demand that the magazine cease to further the exploitation of women by publishing advertisements that degrade women, and by publishing ads from companies that exploit women in terms of salary and job discrimination. We demand that the magazine cease to publish ‘Can This Marriage be Saved?’ and all contributions by Drs. Bruno Bettelheim and Theodore Rubin. We demand an end to all celebrity articles, all articles oriented toward the preservation of youth (implying that age has no graces of its own), and an end to all articles specifically tied in to advertising: e.g., food, make-up, fashion, appliances. We demand that service articles perform useful services: e.g., real information along the lines of Consumer Reports, telling whether consumer goods really work. We demand that the Journal publish fiction on the basis of its merits, not specially slanted, romantic stories glorifying women’s traditional roles. The Women’s Liberation Movement represents the feelings of a large and growing mass of women throughout the country. Therefore we demand that as an act of faith toward women in this country, the Ladies Home Journal turn over to the Women’s Liberation Movement the editorial content of one issue of the magazine, to be named the Women’s Liberated Journal. We further demand a monthly column.

It was a long, and trying day for all. But media coverage was good, and although there was a close call when Shulamith Firestone made a lunge at Carter, she was prevented from reaching her target by Karla Jay. Finally, after 11 hours of confrontation and debate, Carter has now agreed to some demands, and the occupation is ending. Among the things he has endorsed are day-care programs for the employees, editorial training programs for women and a special section on Women’s Liberation in the August issue.

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FOLLOW-UP : An eight-page special section was published in August, 1970, written entirely by feminist women. They were paid $10,000 (equal to  approximately $57,934 in 2011) and the money was used to found the first women’s center in New York City.

Photo of 1932 Ladies Home Journal by Flickr user genibee under license from Creative Commons 2.0

Comments

  1. I can't find photos or video coverage of this anywhere on -line. Can anyone tell me where I can find these visual images that document this important event?

    • Try "The American Women's Almanac" by Louise Bernikow, page 281. There's another good one in "The Liberated Woman's Appointment Calendar And Survival Handbook, 1971" by Jurate Kazickas and Lynn Sherr for the week of March 14th.

  2. These demands are incredible. Can you imagine if Redbook or Cosmo met these demands today? There'd be nothing left!

  3. Paul Fischburg says:

    Hi, I teach history in high school in Seattle and have a unit on the women’s movement. I haven’t been able to get a copy of the August issue of Ladies Home Journal – or more specifically, the 8 page spread that the movement had won through the sit-in. Do you know where I can find that?

    Thanks! Paul Fischburg

    • Paul,
      Have you tried the Seattle Public Library? It looks like they may have it in microfilm or maybe print too: http://bit.ly/18kyy6Y (but you should check with them, I am just a librarian from across the country who was curious!)

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