cover image 50 Years of ‘Ms.’: The Best of the Pathfinding Magazine That Ignited a Revolution

50 Years of ‘Ms.’: The Best of the Pathfinding Magazine That Ignited a Revolution

Edited by Katherine Spillar. Knopf, $50 (544p) ISBN 978-0-593-32156-0

Spillar, the executive editor of Ms. magazine, takes a lively and inspiring look at the pioneering feminist periodical. Debuting in 1972 after a preview issue in New York magazine, Ms. “emerged to fill a gap between a determined, vibrant movement and the continued curtailment of women’s rights in virtually every aspect of American life.” Each chapter of the book is devoted to one decade of the magazine’s existence, with short introductory essays contextualizing the periodical’s challenges and accomplishments. In its founding era (the 1970s), writers for Ms. reported on gendered double standards around grooming and body hair removal, surveillance of domestic activists by the FBI, and Shirley Chisholm’s candidacy for president, among other issues. In the ensuing decades, the magazine tackled such topics as no-fault divorce and date rape (1980s); misogyny and feminism in rap and the rise of “hate radio” hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern (1990s); intersectional feminisms and the militarization of American culture after 9/11 (2000s); same-sex marriage and the Black Lives Matter movement (2010s); and most recently, the carework emergency during Covid-19 and the judicial dismantling of Roe v. Wade. The selections feature plenty of well-known writers, including Angela Davis and Barbara Ehrenreich, and the ample inclusion of letters from readers—some supportive, some critical—help to convey how Ms. connected with ordinary people. This thorough survey makes a persuasive case for the magazine’s continued importance. (Sept.)