Today in Feminist History: Ladies Home Journal Employees Stage a Sit-In (March 18, 1970)

March 18, 1970: Another radical action took place today against a second mainstream media giant: Ladies Home Journal.

PHOTO: Ladies’ Home Journal editor John Mack Carter surrounded by protesters earlier today (Jacqui Ceballos just above and Susan Frankel to the right), with Michela Griffo’s proposed cover for the publication being held up.

Just 48 hours after 46 of Newsweek‘s women employees announced that they had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging sexism in their workplace, another and far more radical action took place today against a second mainstream media giant.

“Never underestimate the power of a woman” is the motto of the Ladies Home Journal—so when up to 200 women occupied its offices today demanding a more relevant and liberated publication, there was a clear confirmation of that old saying.

Initially planned by Media Women—whose Ladies Home Journal Sit-In Committee is chaired by Signe Hammer—the siege began at 9:15 a.m., when the organizers were joined by members of Redstockings, as well as the West Village-1 consciousness-raising group, New York Radical Feminists, Older Women’s Liberation, the National Organization for Women and some Barnard College students. Among the well-known feminists present today were organizer Susan Brownmiller, as well as 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 brought a mock-up for a cover, plus 20 pages of specific ideas for 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 $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 [children, kitchen & church] 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—with many reporters crowding in among the demonstrators. And although there was a close call when Shulamith Firestone made a lunge at Carter (prevented from reaching her target by Karla Jay) it was peaceful.

Finally, after 11 hours of confrontation and debate, Carter has now agreed to some demands and the occupation is now ending. Among the things he has endorsed are day care programs for the employees, editorial programs for women and a special section on Women’s Liberation in the August issue. 


David Dismore is the archivist for the Feminist Majority Foundation. His journey from would-be weather forecaster to full-time feminist began with the powerful impression made by a photo and a few paragraphs about the suffragists in his high school history textbook; years later, he had his first encounter with NOW—in which he carefully peeked in a window before opening the door to be sure men were allowed. He was eventually active in the ERA extension campaign of 1978, embarked on a cross-country bikeathon for it in 1982 and even worked for pioneers Toni Carabillo and Judith Meuli.