Women of the Year
Jennifer Erikson +Robert Riley
Venus + Serena Williams
The Women of Afghanistan
World Trade Center Heroes
Who Made A Difference
A few of the brave and tenacious women who left their
mark on this momentous yearand one enduring female
Years of Ms.
A few of our wordsand yoursabout the magazine
and its mission, and the roads we've traveled along the
An excerpt by Rosalind P. Petchesky
Page: Turning Point
Before Her Time
Edna St. Vincent Millay's reckless life by Le Anne Schreiber
Special: An Excerpt from
Families As We Are by Perdita Houston
Inherit the War
When the preview issue of Ms. appeared tucked inside
New York magazine in December 1971, it flew off the newsstands.
Those of us who grabbed that first issue have our own stories
to tell about our responses to the articles and how we reacted
when we saw that cover vividly capturing women's multitasking,
long before the term was part of our vocabulary. There were
womenfeisty, funny, thoughtful, provocative womentalking
up and out, breaking silences, questioning, claiming, challenging.
It challenging. It seemed as if nothing was out of
bounds. Imagine the shock (and relief) of seeing women publicly
admit in 1972, before it was legal, that they had had abortions,
something that women are loathe to do even today. There they
were in Ms., signing their names to a statement proclaiming
our right to safe, legal, abortions. And there was so much more:
Ms. dissing the conventional "wisdom" that when it came
to politics, women took their marching orders from the men in
their lives, by offering advice on "Rating the Candidates"declaring,
in effect, that we had minds of our own. Ms. daring to
suggest that before marrying, women think about what they were
saying "I do" to and write their own contracts. Ms. touching
nerves with "The Housewife's Moment of Truth," "Can Women Love
Women?," "I Want a Wife," and "Heaven Won't Protect the Working
Girl." Ms. desexing the language, challenging sexist
child-rearing, and debunking a sexual revolution that ignored
women's desire. Ms. exploring feminism in black families,
questioning women's fear of success, celebrating the uncommon
lives of ordinary women, and sharing "Stories for Free Children."
And Ms. identifying and addressing concerns like, "Welfare
is a Women's Issue," "Child Care Centers," and "Women and War,"
which are as relevant today as they were then.
The section on violence against women was out-standing.
As a lesbian working in the domestic violence movement,
I want to thank you for reporting on the hate crimes committed
against lesbians and gay men on a daily basis. I was also
pleased to see reporting on lesbian battery. Issues of
primary concern to lesbians have been in the effort to
be "nonoffensive" within and without the movement. I salute
the new Ms.for being serious about all our issues.
Terry Person, Boston,
Mass., Retiring Chair, Lesbian Task Force; National Coalition
Against Domestic Violence
No fashion, no recipesat least none about cookingno
beauty tips; no talking to women about our hips, lips, weightas
if we were in need of constant remediationno shop 'til
you drop consumerism; no advice on how to get and keep a man.
The critics howled, "What kind of a women's magazine is this?"
and predicted it would never make it. The conservatives denounced
Ms., feminism, and the women's movement. (Sound familiar?)
They just didn't get it, or they did and were scared as hell.
But hundreds of thousands of readers most definitely got itbig
time. Feminism is about your life! At last, a magazine exploring
the truths and complexities of women's lives and patriarchal
oppression. It stirred up conversations and heated debates;
got us talking, sometimes for the first time about our experiences
as female people and the way womanhood is both deeply personal
and clearly political. The magazine encouraged us to question
behavior, attitudes, beliefs (ours and everyone else's), personal
history, and the "official" stories. And it sparked a flood
of letters-more than 20,000 readers responded to the premiere
issue alonecontinuing the conversations; offering advice,
criticism, information, and suggestions; asking questions; giving
praise; nudging the editors; and declaring a bond with the magazine.
From the beginning it was clear that the relationship this magazine
would have with its readers was unlike any other.
So, when Ms. was officially launched as an independent
magazine in July 1972, with Wonder Woman on the cover, expectations
were high. Some folks asked, "How can you top that premier issue?"
Well, throughout these 30 years, Ms. has kept faith with
the spirit and substance of that first edition. We have continued
addressing issues that have changed individual lives and the
life of this society, naming our experiences, claiming our history,
denouncing our oppression, celebrating our individual and collective
heroism, finding lost women, and encouraging activism. Ms.
making and breaking news, ruffling feathers, sparking debate.
Ms. offering feminist activism, analysis, art, criticism,
facts, feuds, fiction, humor, poetry, reporting, research, theories,
and always a diverse range of women's stories.
If I were a flag instead of a woman I would have a
better chance of getting a constitutional amendment to
Joanne B. Carr, Englewood, Colo.
Ms. is too good not to share with those who are most
in need of broader perspectives-the policy makers in both
the public and private sectors. I'd like to suggest that
Ms. initiate an adopt-a-policy-maker campaign wherein
gift subscriptions can be purchased for the policy maker(s)
of your choice. To start the campaign off, I am enclosing
a check. Please start a gift subscription in my name for
each of the U.S. Supreme Court justices.
Wes Christensen San Jose, Calif.
It's been a bumpy ride. There was never enough money; the wolf
was forever panting at the door. During the years that the magazine
took advertising, there was constant struggle. (We went ad-free
in 1990.) Many potential advertisers were leery of being associated
with a magazine that didn't play "girlie," or were downright
hostile to feminism. Advertisers not traditionally associated
with women's magazines at the time, like automakers, insurance
companies, and financial services providers had to be persuaded
over and over that women really did purchase their products.
And readers were often offended by ads pushing cigarettes or
beauty products, or by the imagery or message.
We've always known that this is your magazine, not ours. Ms.
readers made that crystal clear from the beginning. You've cheered
us on and been our toughest critics. At any given time during
these 30 years, Ms. has been called "too radical" by
some and "too mainstream" by others. We've been rightly and
wrongly criticized for ignoring or failing to respond to issues,
to particular groups of readers and their concerns. We've been
chastised for not being inclusive enough and for trying to be
too inclusive; for using work by male writers, illustrators,
and photographers; for focusing too much on women who work outside
the home; for doing too little or too much on mothering; for
being too heavy or too light; for. . . . You've kept us on our
toes, constantly reminding us how important this magazine is
to you, how much you depend on Ms.; and we rely on you
to keep pushing us. Your letters have enriched this magazine
in so many ways: sparking great articles, intense debates, and
soul searching; sounding the alarm, educating, and always raising
This Women of the Year issue begins our 30th anniversary celebrationjust
a taste of what's to come. We intend to commemorate this milestone
all year long. As part of the celebration, we will be looking
back at many of the articles that have moved you, that have
broken new ground, that have changed this nation. We're proud
to have made it to this point and hope that you'll find the
look back at our past over this coming year as exhilarating,
thought-provoking, and joyful as we have. What better time,
as our nation confronts new challenges that demand our most
thoughtful, reasoned responses, to see once again the ways in
which Ms. has always championed women's ideas and activism,
and fought for our right to be at the center of the decision-making.
-Marcia Ann Gillespie
Let's forget about abortion and get at the root of
the problem-semen! Let's hope that the legislators will
make laws limiting the amount of semen that a man may
unleash in a given time period and forcing any man who
has caused a prescribed number of pregnancies to submit
to a vasectomy. Let us not just legislate women's bodies.
That way, men can take the responsibility for allowing
children to be born.
Upon hearing of O.J. Simpson's total acquittal, I felt
physically ill and had to get air. I went straight to
the bookstore to buy Ms. and find some voice of reason
in this misogynist world. Thank you for remaining the
strong beacon of hope that you have been so many times
in my life. I will run to you as often as I can.
Susan Gosnell, Philadelphia, Pa.
Everyone worries about violence in the street. But
there are more women beaten and broken than anybody knows.
It happens in their homes. I was one of these battered
women, and I told lies for my husband and kept it from
our families. I put up with it for eight years, during
three pregnancies. Now I'm living alone with four children,
from four to eleven years old, and I am charged with murder.
My husband would get drunk, come home, and take out all
his frustrations, failures, and anger on me. I would try
to get away, taking my children. Sometimes I could; sometimes
I didn't have money for gas or food for the kids, so I
would have to stay. A lot of times he would take my car
keys beforehand, and I couldn't do anything about it.
He weighed about 245 pounds and was six feet, two inches.
I weigh 140 pounds and am five feet, two inches. What
kinds of odds were these? You can take out warrants for
assault, but if you decide to prosecute and a fine must
be paid, where does the money come from? It's money your
kids need for food and clothes, money for house payments,
power bills, phone bills. And then the next time you really
get a good beating for taking your husband to court. If
I'd had a choice between being mugged on the streets or
being at home when my husband was drunk, I'd take my chances
with a mugger. After you decide you can't take it anymore
and want a divorce, that doesn't end it either. I was
legally separated for about five months. I never had a
good night's sleep, because he wouldn't stay away from
me. He threatened to kill me or to hire someone to do
that. So I went back to him and tried to make a good marriage
after 12 years. It worked: he stayed sober for two weeks!
I stayed on four weeks more before I decided I was fed
up. I left again. He came to Virginia, where I was staying
at my sister's house, and he tried to make me go home
with him. He was slapping me when I shot him. I'm the
villain now. I'm charged with murder, and I've got four
children to feed and no job. It takes about three or four
months for the Social Security people to start sending
me checks. And unless I'm cleared of the murder charge,
I won't get them anyway. What do we do, we women with
kids? We don't have a chance with men or without them!
Sometimes I feel like killing myself. I can't see where
it will all end. If all the women in the world stood up
for their own rights and raised hell about it, things
would be different. I am writing this letter for them.
I am writing just moments after watching history being
made: Geraldine Ferraro has been nom-inated for vice president
of the United States! I happily admit I cried throughout
the announcement and speeches. I cried because I was filled
with gratitude, hope, and pride. To me, the outcome of
theelection is almost irrelevant. I know that more great,
pride-filled moments such as this one lie ahead for all
Americans and that, as Gerry Ferraro suggested, more and
more of those heavy old doors will be opening.
Lucy Allen St. Louis, Mo.
I read Ellen Sweet's article on "Date Rape" (October
1985) with more than casual interest. At the end of my
freshman year at Cornell, I was raped by a man I knew.
A graduate student 12 years my senior, whom I had dated
for a week, deflowered me in his room while holding one
hand over my mouth to keep my screams from being heard.
For over a year, I could not admit to myself what had
happened. I did not seek counseling or call the incident
a rape for almost two years. This is what defeats many
women, I think: the inability to consider that rape can
occur in a situation that is supposed to be friendly,
and above all, romantic. Unable to accept what my feelings
were telling me, I continued to reason that if it really
was rape, I would instantly have stopped thinking of him
in a positive light and would have thought of him as a
criminal and adversary. I could not reconcile my denial
with his apologies afterward, his obvious fear of being
found out, my pain, my identification with rape victims,
and my subsequent fear of sex.
As a grrrl weaned on second wave feminism, why has
abortion been more important to us than childbirth? If
I want someone to help me through my abortion experience,
women line up to volunteer. But in the maternity ward
where I had my child, no one was there helping the three
teenagers who gave birth that night. As a teenage feminist
born of a feminist, I wrote off my much older half-sister
because she was a stay-at-home mother of three. When I
became pregnant, she took me on to mentor as no one ever
had and introduced me to a world of books, magazines,
and ideas around natural childbirth and attachment parenting.
And my own girlfriends were there to cheer me on, feed
me cheeseburgers, and show my baby girl our world of friendship
Jen Stromsten Newtown, Pa.
In 1972 I asked "What's wrong with me? Now at thirty
three I ask "What the hell is the matter with them? Kathryn
A. Olsen, Park Forest, Ill. December 1973 Yeah, I watched
that tennis match. Like a whole lot of people, I was anxious
as hell, looking forward to it. Every time Bobbie Riggs
opened his mouth, I got madder. When it comes time for
the match, I'm on the edge of my seat . . . digging Billie
Jean's cool and ready for her to cream this cat. Now I
got to admit that, deep down, there's a little doubt-can
she really do it? After the first set man, no more doubt.
I'm yelling at the television. Billie Jean wins the second
set, and I'm wild-shouting for a love set to really finish
Mr. Riggs. Then it hits me-the fast heartbeat and the
high emotion and the gulping beer without tasting it-damn!
This scene I'm watching ain't just some Billie Jean King
versus Bobbie Riggs. This is Joe Louis fighting Max Schmeling.
Jackie Robinson against the baseball world. Sugar Ray
fighting Jake La Motta. Althea Gibson playing Darlene
Hard, and Jim Brown trying to run over Sam Huff. And,
well, damn, for two hours, Billie Jean King is black!
Mel Williamson, New York, N.Y. June 1975 When I saw in
my spelling book that they had "the Queen is the wife
of a King," I got really mad. Even though I'm only nine
years old, and only in the fourth grade, I've written
five poems. One from the five I thought you might want
to put in Ms. Here it is: If you think I'm going to slave/in
the kitchen for a man who is /supposed to be brave,/ Then
I'm sorry to say /But you're wrong all the way,/ Because
I'm going to be an/ astronaut.
Anita Buzick II, Killeen, Tx.