What’s Your Ms. Story?

In our special anniversary issue—on newsstands now, with Wonder Woman on the cover!—we share the stories of Ms. readers. Of course, we couldn’t share them all, since we could fill an entire issue alone with the wonderful anecdotes and tales of feminist triumph that our community members sent our way as we prepped for our anniversary celebration. The stories below don’t appear in print, but we didn’t want to keep them all to ourselves—so we’re sharing them with you here. (Subscribe today to read the rest!)

@ellbell02 with a (signed) copy of our anniversary issue! Did you get yours yet?

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Janis from La Selva Beach, CA:

At 14, I self-identified as a feminist. In high school, as the editor of the school paper, I stirred up controversy with a column called “Chicks and Chucks,” asking why women and girls were constantly demeaned with animal references. I helped organize the “Ms. California Counter-Pageant” that organized the resistance to holding the Miss California Pageant in Santa Cruz, CA. I refused to dumb myself down. I learned a big lesson when I lost weight, got contact lenses, figured out what to do with my hair—and still scared boys away. I was a smart girl and I would always be a smart girl. When Ms. debuted, I subscribed. For me, like so many young women of my generation, it was a lifeline to know that others felt the same as I did and were fighting the same battles. I never called myself anything but “Ms.” from then on. As life continued, and it seemed some of our battles were being won, I stopped subscribing, although I never stopped fighting. But with the debacle of the recent election, and the clear evidence that despite the last 40 years, sexism is still alive and well, I realized it was time to get back to the barricades. I am now 63. I have re-subscribed to Ms. The fight goes on—and I am going with it.

Karen from Sacramento, CA:

Early in my career, in the 1970s, I was the only woman reporter working in a television newsroom in Fresno, CA. I had made it into a male-dominated profession but had not thought much about what that meant in terms of how the profession should be opened up to women and people of color. I heard another woman had been hired and was going to join us soon. I realized after a few days that I was extremely uptight about this development and not at all happy, but couldn’t figure out why. About this time, I received my copy of Ms. and there was a story about “Queen Bees” and the dynamic of how women who break the glass ceiling work to keep other women out, seeing them as threats to one’s own success. It was a “consciousness raising moment” for me—actually it was a slap upside the head! It changed my attitude immediately, and I ended up working closely with her and other women who entered the newsroom during my tenure. In fact, one Saturday when I was anchoring, virtually the entire news staff (all five of us!) was comprised of women—so we did a news story on it. From that point on, I became a champion for moving women and people of color into any field—mentoring them, encouraging them and challenging systems that kept them out. It was truly a life-changing moment for me.

Kathleen from Montara, CA:

When I became a charter subscriber to Ms., I was a newly married high school senior in small-town Pennsylvania planning to become a lawyer. Forty-five years later, I’m a Californian with a doctorate in Electrical Engineering, a wonderful daughter about to embark on her own journey in a world with more opportunity and a fabulous feminist son. Thanks for helping me believe in my goals when it seemed like no one else did!

Suzanne Lerner’s dog, @ms_simba!

Suzanne Lerner from Los Angeles:

To me, Ms. has always been synonymous with being a feminist. I’ll never forget opening the first-ever edition with Wonder Woman on the cover and knowing the time for women’s equality was just beginning for us.

Marilyn from Kensington, CA:

I first read Ms. when the preview issue appeared in 1972, as I was about to take qualifying exams for my PhD. I carried the first two issues, including the Wonder Woman issue, along to read on the plane that took me to Europe to begin research for a dissertation in women’s history. Her image told me that I was not alone in my feminist striving. Forty-five years later, I am still writing about women seeking social and gender justice.

Liz from Bridgeport, CT:

My Ms. Story takes place in the mid 70’s and early 80’s in college and graduate school, when I realized I was gay, I was a feminist and I needed some support. Ms. Magazine, and at the time Gloria Steinem, who remains one of my heroes today, were shaking things up. We weren’t activists as much as we were equality seekers. Ms. approached things from such an intelligent angle. Yes, there was anger there—and rightly so!—but the magazine became for me a “partner in equality” and in the fight for women to be heard. It was glorious to be in NYC and in graduate school in PA reading, seeking and searching with Ms. magazine (and Gloria and Betty and Ellie Smeal) as our leaders!

Mara from Miami, FL:

I was thrilled the first time Ms. was on the newsstands. I felt hope for women—that equality might actually happen one day… Those were thrilling and hopeful times. Everything and anything seemed possible!

Claudia from Winnetka, IL:

First read Ms. in late 60’s, early 70’s. I was a too young mother of four and heading towards divorce. I saw myself in your pages. I felt affirmed and strengthened.

Barbara from Peoria, IL:

In the 70’s, when I was a young, budding feminist—before I knew what a feminist was—I found Ms. magazine. It was a cherished source of enlightenment and connection. Throughout the many years since, I’ve developed into an aware activist and Ms. is still with me as a faithful friend, still serving as a web of connection with the vast network of my Sisters everywhere, providing news and insights available no where else. Ms. gets me—and I’ll always get Ms.

Rebecca from Chicago, IL:

My mother, Susan Goldman Feinglos, collected Ms. magazines until her death from brain cancer when I was a teenager. She was my Wonder Woman, introducing me to what a powerful, unstoppable, fearless woman looked like. I am a feminist because of her. I try to live up to her legacy every day. When my mother passed away, my family donated her Ms. Magazine collection to the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at Duke University. My mother had been the director of the Duke Medical Center Library at the dawn of the Internet search engine age, and we know she, forever a dedicated librarian, would be honored to have her magazines there for all to access. I read Ms. Magazine today to stay connected with my mom’s legacy.

Shannon from Indianapolis, IN:

Ms. made me understand that I was not alone. As a young feminist growing up in a small town in East Texas, I had plenty of strong female role models—and many of them were fighting the good fight—but Ms. allowed me to define who I was and understand what we were fighting for. I will be forever grateful.

Diane from Wichita, KS:

I first read Ms. and subscribed after the first issue in 1972. Ms. spoke to me as a woman who, even as a girl growing up in small town Kansas, knew there was a bigger world out there and women were to be an important part of that world. Ms. helped solidify my pro-choice stance, and when Operation Rescue came to Wichita in 1991, I was one of the counter-demonstrators who showed people that Wichita people did support Dr. Tiller. I’ve been involved in women’s issue ever since, even as I taught in high school and at a community college. My sons, their wives, and my granddaughters, grandson and his wife are feminists. I’m married to feminist man. I owe a debt of gratitude to women like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and my late brave friend Colleen Kelly Johnson. We are now in the fight of our lives. We must win it by sticking together.

Maura from Arlington, MA:

Ms. has followed me through the years—starting when I was 24 and beginning my first teaching job. It has informed me, emboldened me, supported me and entertained me through my years as an ever stronger feminist.

Jaime from Medford, MA:

I’ll never forget finding Ms. for the first time in my high school’s library, some time in the mid-90s. I had heard of the magazine, but didn’t know where to get it, or if it was even still in print. One day it was sitting on the shelves with all the other magazines and I began to regularly go and read it, anticipating the next issue. I became a subscriber soon after, pooling my teen resources to pay for the subscription, knowing the importance of its continued existence beyond my own personal contentment. I’m so happy to be part of the network of a long history of feminists and activists. Ms. has always highlighted important work happening locally in communities all over the world. It’s inspiring.

Joanna from Boston, MA:

Ms. was an affirming and hopeful voice which contributed brilliantly to the awareness of the many obvious and subtle ways women and girls are stereotyped to their detriment on so many levels. The “No Comment” page was testimony to the subliminal power of advertising in objectifying and otherwise demeaning women. We are beginning to see some positive changes in such ads in the media with an increasing disruption of gender roles. It takes time and constant vigilance against the insidious factors that impede such efforts. Ms. has stayed the difficult course to empowering girls and women and hopefully will continue to do so for years to come. There is still a long way to go! Thank you for being an iconic voice for the feminist agenda with your intellectualism, social and historical commentary and humor!

Dianne from Fort Washington, MD:

In 1972, I was a young wife and mother of 29 years old with two children three and under in an unhappy marriage. I did get divorced but I could not get a credit card in my own name; I could not sign a lease with my own name without a co-signer, such as my father. I was so happy to use the designation “Ms.” as soon as possible and feel like the college-educated adult I was then. I made my professional positions pay the salaries I deserved, and raised my daughter and son to be independent! Thank you, Ms. Magazine, Gloria Steinem, and all the feminists before and after!

Brenda from Columbia, MD:

I have always been a feminist—long before I knew that word. I felt deeply about inequality, discrimination and injustice. When I had daughters, those feelings only intensified as I looked at a world without fairness for them. Reading Ms. magazine, the premier issue in 1972, was the most affirming experience. The magazine, its words and images, affirmed my experience—speaking my thoughts and expressing my deepest feelings. I still have that issue. A prized possession.

Jean from Kennebunk, ME:

Shortly after I graduated from college in May 1972, I bought the second issue of Ms. magazine, thinking sarcastically, “Yeah, this oughta be good!” Then I sat down and read the entire issue, cover-to-cover. I subscribed right away and continued to read each issue in its entirety. I was excited to know that other women felt the way I did and I wanted to get the feminist “take” on the issues of the day. It was a real “consciousness raising” publication. And it served to focus the energy of feminists for optimal effectiveness in working for change in the world. It gave me the courage and the confidence to speak up for myself. I’m happy to say it still does those things—45 years later!

Sue from Orono, ME:

Ms. has followed me from my first professional job, graduate school and associated work on gender equity, to retirement. Through the ebbs and flows of gender (and intersecting) equity, Ms. has always been there as a voice by, for and about women without the domination of male publishers. Knowing Ms. was there, whether it was a period I was actively reading it or not, made it easier to advocate for change in the male dominated academic world I which I lived.

Suzanne from Plymouth, MN:

I grew up in the 80’s with a mother who thought “feminist” was a dirty word. She told her three daughters we could do anything, but we were best off learning the skills to get men to do things for us. I asked for a subscription to Ms. Magazine for every birthday and Christmas through my teens but never got it. My sister gifted me a subscription for my 40th birthday and it was the best gift ever!

Ilene from Somerset, NJ:

My first subscription to Ms. was a gift from my aunt. Not only did Ms. provide me with opportunities to read about things that not only matched my values, but also enhanced them, it had the added bonus of really pissing off my misogynist stepfather.

Selma from Rochester, NY:

As a loyal Ms. subscriber since the very first issue, I cherish the ways the magazine continues to inspire, reveal, embolden and encourage feminists throughout the world to keep fighting for human rights.

Dorothy from Cleveland, OH:

I have been reading Ms. since the first issue. I remember it well. I was hungry for feminist information and encouragement. Living in New York at the time, I read it on the subway but, I am sorry to say, actually hid it from others so that no one could see what I was reading! It was like that back then. But I read it cover-to-cover because there was nowhere else to find out what was really going on! Eventually I got a PhD and taught Women’s Studies.

Renee from Tulsa, OK:

Ms. and Gloria Steinem are heroes to me. Probably now more than ever. I’m 59 and I’ve been what I thought was a feminist most of my life. I didn’t really know what that meant until the idiot Donald Trump was elected president over an extremely qualified woman. I had no idea just how sexist and racist our country really was, and I am dumbfounded and grief stricken over this realization. The good news is it has also made me a truly powerful feminist for the first time in my life. I’m grateful to and re-inspired by all of the women then and now at Ms. Magazine. Thank you for holding the lamp and leading the way.

Janice from Portland, OR:

Ms. magazine came into my life the first year I was married, 1965, in one of our town’s first biracial marriages. I was ready for the women’s movement and fell into it gratefully. It fit my needs, helped me understand my anger and gave me confidence in a professional world controlled (and still is, to this day) by “white men in suits.” Along the way I became a chapter president for NOW at Ohio University, and attended the Women’s March on Washington. Today, at 73 years old, I deplore the continuing fight to carve out places for ourselves, but it is painfully still required. And thank you, Ms., for still being there for successive generations of women!

Susan from Armidale:

I first read Ms. in the Australian National Library in Canberra. It was a bus ride there, and the magazine was always three months behind. I read about demonstrations, pro-choice politics, art by women, books about girls. I learned about stereotypes and started to read about psychology. It was really exciting when the Internet came along and the news on the website was immediate. It has always been exciting to read Ms.

Laura from Lacey, WA:

Ms. has been an inspirational and informative magazine for me since the 80’s. I love the powerful stories of women and their fights for justice, control over their bodies and their persistence to have their voices heard. I have felt part of the Ms. community and am grateful for the empowering journalism Ms. provides. Thank you for creating an incredible, feminist magazine!

Kate from Olympia, WA:

I don’t know the exact date that I read Ms. for the first time, but I did pull my Spring 1972 Preview Issue ($1.50) from the stack of Ms. magazine favorites that I kept. I was a student at the University of Wisconsin at the time. Reading Ms. was like finding a light in the darkness. Thank you for the years of encouragement and hope!

Jo from Kent, WA:

I began reading Ms. the year after I graduated from High School. Although I’d lived through the 60’s, I was still fairly ignorant of “feminism” and where I fit. Growing up quite naive, being introduced to Ms. began to enlighten me to the world of women and what it is to be female. I’ve kept years of Ms. magazines—so far, I’ve found them back to 1981. I’ve more in a trunk I’ve yet to delve into. I’ve worked jobs where I’ve been asked during the interviewing process if I was engaged to be married and was I planning on having children. I’ve been sexually discriminated against. I’ve been treated like a lesser person. I’ve been ignored, harassed, had damage done to personal property by “the boys club,” been non-supported, lied to, well, pretty much disrespected and treated unfairly because I have a vagina, boobs, estrogen and have become a strong woman. Heaven forbid! A strong woman who can DO things that MEN do? Use tools? Fly airplanes? Fix toilets? Change water pumps in cars? Speak up when she sees something unfair or illegal? Caregive and advocate for my elderly mother? Give CPR to my dead husband? Bake a cake from scratch? Quit taking a bunch of shit from others because she had had it with that? Well, that’s me. And I believe that Ms. has helped round me out into the strong, feminist, tool-wielding/aircraft piloting/fun gramma that she is, along with everything else! I guess that’s my story—so far. I still have a lot to do. THANK YOU, Ms., FOR ALL OF OUR YEARS TOGETHER.

Ann from Bellingham, WA:

I think Ms. Magazine is just about the most important magazine on the market. I’ve been a subscriber for years and am always excited to get a new issue. As a younger woman, divorced with two young kids, I felt a lot of support from reading it. It kind of helped get me through that part of my life. Thanks for being there for me. I’m so glad you are still going strong. We need you now more than ever.

What’s your Ms. story? Tell us in the comments!

Carmen Rios is the Digital Editor at Ms., Managing Editor of Argot Magazine and a Contributing Writer at Everyday Feminism. She’s also the co-host of THE BOSSY SHOW. Previously, she was the Community Director and Feminism Editor for Autostraddle, a Contributor at Mic, Blog Editor at WIYL and a SPARK blogger; her work has also appeared at BuzzFeed, MEL, BITCH and Feministing. She stays very zen in L.A. traffic. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.ms. blog digest banner

Comments

  1. I a
    Started reading M’s. Magazine and using that title with the premier issue. I found a snow woman for my classroom which my principal sneered at. She appeared every winter until two. A man and woman replaced her, a gift from one of my student’s parents. I used feminist stories with them, inserted comments about pink and blue into conversations, tried to lead them to a different way of viewing girls and boys.
    I think my history as a strong woman is a companion piece. I’ve had a total of 35 surgeries, beginning at 3 months, 17 by the end of high school, the remainder between ages 55 and 70. Others say I’m stronger, have character and courage.
    I’ve been an activist for teachers and children. Our students, as a local and state leader. In retirement. I continue to advocate as I continue to write replies to newspaper editorial letters about education and teachers. I consider myself a building representative sharing information with retired former colleagues.
    I served on my state union’s committees and commissions as long as I could drive at night. I am a life member of the CT. And National Education Associations.

  2. I love reading these Ms. stories, tho I don’t have one to share with you, I’d love to give my support. =)

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