Explicitly feminist magazines in the United States date from shortly after the 1848 Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention, though earlier magazines printed feminist work; for example, the Philadelphia Lady's Magazine
in 1792 published selections from Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women
. In a cultural climate with most popular magazines for women endorsing and representing a conservative, separate spheres mentality, domesticity, fashion, and consumerism, the new magazines met a small, but eager, niche in the periodical marketplace.
In the 1840s, Margaret Fuller edited and contributed to the transcendentalist Dial, which published her "The Great Lawsuit: Man vs. Men. Woman vs. Women," among other feminist writing.
Suffrage magazines published the proceedings of suffrage conferences and news of the movement, along with literature and discussion of reform and social issues. The Lily (1849-1856), first edited by Amelia Bloomer, advocated dress reform and woman suffrage and provided the first publication for Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The monthly Genius of Liberty (1852-1854) was published from Cincinnati, the Pioneer and Woman's Advocate from Providence, and the Woman's Advocate (1856-1860) from Philadelphia, the first magazine to be owned, edited, typeset, and printed by women and to focus on the rights (and wrongs) of working-class women. Boston's Una (1853-1855), founded by Paulina Wright Davis, specifically set out to counter the period's ladies' magazines, offering an alternative of suffrage news, legal and political issues, education, and literature. Sibyl: A Review of the Tastes, Errors and Fashions of Society (1856-1864) was the journal of the National Dress Reform Association and advocated women's voting rights, arguing that women, like black Americans, were enslaved. The Revolution (1868-1870) was edited by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. During Reconstruction, The Revolution promoted voting rights for black and white women; equity for working-class women; and marriage, divorce, and dress reforms. The Chicago Agitator (1869), the Woman's Campaign (1872), the Ballot Box, later the National Citizen and Ballot Box (1876-1881), the Chicago Sorosis (1868-1869), the Nebraska Woman's Tribune (1883-1909), the Oregon New Northwest, the Denver Queen Bee (1879-1896), and The Farmer's Wife give some indication of the national coverage of suffrage and women's issues. At the most radical extreme was Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly (1870-1876), which championed woman's rights and free love.
Later in the suffrage movement, the weekly Woman's Journal (1870-1917), edited by Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell, became the chief periodical for the U.S. National Woman Suffrage Association (1870-1890) and then the National American Woman Suffrage Association. It was among the most highly subscribed, if more conservative, of the suffrage journals. Suffrage periodicals continued to appear, replacing earlier journals or adding to the mix: the Woman's Tribune, based in Washington state from 1889; the Woman's Column (1888-1904), a livelier version of the Woman's Journal, edited by Alice Stone Blackwell until she became coeditor of the Journal, Progress (1902-1910) from Ohio; and the state suffrage organization newsletters, for example, the New York Suffrage Newsletter (1899-1913). In addition to the suffrage periodicals, the growing women's club movement produced a number of journals, some with a feminist slant, and specialized journals for independent women?for example, the Business Woman's Journal (1889-1896)?gained audiences and shared commentary on issues like dress reform.
In England, Bessie Rayner Parkes and Barbara Boudichon established in 1858 the English Woman's Journal, a wholly women's concern focused on stories of exemplary women, women's employment, and literature. In 1888, Louisa Lawson, an active suffragist, created Dawn, the first feminist periodical in Australia. The Freewoman, edited by Dora Marsden from 1911, and its successors?The New Freewoman, edited by Harriet Shaw Weaver from 1913, and the Egoist?pioneered the use of advertising to subsidize their publications and radical suffrage politics. Time and Tide, a London journal organized by Lady Rhondda, introduced in the 1920s a regular evaluation of government policies on women's issues.
While there were no wholly feminist African American magazines, Ringwood's Afro-American Journal of Fashion, the first (1891) illustrated periodical by and for black women, contained a biographical section edited by feminist activist Mary Church Terrell. In the 1920s, the Negro's World's women's page under Amy Jacques Garvey followed a feminist, woman's rights agenda.
The "woman question," suffrage activities and arguments, women's education and roles in public life, and various reform movements (marriage, divorce, property and wage rights, dress, sports) also held a consistent and relatively prominent place in general, mainstream periodicals of the nineteenth century: The Atlantic Monthly, Putnam's, the Republic, the Knickerbocker, the Arena, the North American Review, Scribner's, the Nation. Most of the subscribers to general and women's, as well as feminist, magazines were women, but that did not determine the general magazines' position on suffrage or on other women's issues, as it was felt that women themselves were hardly unanimous in their views.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Forerunner (1909-1916) and Emma Goldman's Mother Earth introduced a new level of feminist analysis in the magazines. The Forerunner was largely written by Perkins Gilman herself, from editorials through three serialized novels.
The Ladder (1956-1972), the first lesbian magazine in the United States, founded by the Daughters of Bilitis and based in San Francisco, is notable for its book reviews. The Ladder was followed by Amazon Quarterly, a Lesbian Feminist Art Journal; Sinister Wisdom: A Journal for the Lesbian Imagination in the Arts and Politics; Lesbian Contradiction: A Journal of Irreverent Feminism; Focus: A Journal for Gay Women; Out; and a number of other magazines.
Starting in the late 1960s, a plethora of feminist magazines developed across the United States. The literary magazines Aphra, Primavera, and Black Maria, and others like 13th Moon, Conditions, Chrysalis, Quest, Spare Rib, Calyx, Conditions, the Woman's Review of Books and off our backs are just a few of those that succeeded, often under consensus group editorships. Ethnic feminist magazines include the Chicana Encuentro Feminil, the Native American Namequa Speaks, and the Jewish Bridges.
Not until the 1970s did feminist magazines become popular, mainstream periodicals. Ms. magazine (1972-), first edited by Gloria Steinem, was launched as an organ of the women's movement and in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. In its 25+ years of publication, Ms. has undergone several transformations, focusing on personal and family issues in the 1980s after it was sold by its feminist founders and then, in the 1990s, eschewing advertising and raising its subscription price to become a substantive quarterly, with topical special issues.
The establishment and growth of women's studies as an academic field have brought numerous feminist scholarly journals. General interdisciplinary journals?Feminist Studies, Women's Studies International, International Journal of Women's Studies, NWSA Journal, Signs?have established the field, and Signs, among others, has published its germinal scholarship, for example, Adrienne Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence." Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women has published topical special issues, for example, "The Diaspora" and "Artists and Artisans," and is a major source for scholarship on black women.
Also prominent since the 1970s are disciplinary journals with a specific focus on feminist analysis or on the scholarship on women. Almost every discipline has at least one such journal, for example, Hypatia, a Journal of Feminist Philosophy, the Journal of Women's History, Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, Women and Literature, Women and Therapy, Women and Politics, Gender and Society, Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work, Psychology of Women Quarterly. General-interest academic journals throughout the disciplines have also published special topic issues focused on women or on feminist studies in the discipline; some do so annually.
Contributed by: CAROL KLIMICK CYGANOWSKI
David Doughan and Denise Sanchez (eds.), Feminist Periodicals, 1855-1984 (New York, 1987); Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines, vols. 1-4 (Cambridge, 1930, 1938, 1957).
Citation: Contributor last name, contributor first name.
"Magazines, Feminist." In Women's Studies Encyclopedia,
ed. Helen Tierney. Greenwood Press, 2002.
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