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Ladies' Home Journal Sit-In

Feminsts Take Over a "Women's" Magazine

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Many people hear the term “sit-in” and think of the Civil Rights Movement or opposition to the Vietnam War. But feminists held sit-ins, too, advocating women’s rights.  

On March 18, 1970, feminists staged the Ladies’ Home Journal sit-in. At least 100 women marched into the Ladies’ Home Journal office to protest the way the magazine’s mostly male staff depicted women’s interests.

Taking Over the Magazine

Feminists involved in the Ladies’ Home Journal sit-in were members of groups such as Media Women, New York Radical Feminists, NOW, and Redstockings. The organizers called on friends -- including reporters, film students and law students -- to help with logistics and advice for the day’s protest.

The Ladies’ Home Journal sit-in lasted all day. The protesters occupied the office for 11 hours. They presented their demands to editor-in-chief John Mack Carter and senior editor Lenore Hershey, who was one of the only female members of the editorial staff.

The feminist protesters brought a mock magazine titled the “Women’s Liberated Journal” and displayed a banner reading “Women’s Liberated Journal” from the office windows.

Why Ladies’ Home Journal?

Feminist groups in New York objected to most of the women’s magazines of the day, but they decided on a Ladies’ Home Journal sit-in because of its sizable circulation and because one of their members used to work there. The leaders of the protest were able to enter the offices with her in advance to scout out the location. 

Glossy Women’s Magazine Issues

Women’s magazines were often a target of feminist complaints. The Women’s Liberation Movement objected to stories that focused constantly on beauty and housework while perpetuating the myths of the patriarchal establishment.

Radical feminists wanted to protest the domination of the magazines by men and advertisers (who were also mostly men). For example, women’s magazines made vast amounts of money from ads for beauty products; the shampoo companies insisted on running articles such as “How to Wash Your Hair and Keep it Shiny” next to the hair care ads, thus ensuring a cycle of profitable advertising and editorial content.

The feminists at the Ladies’ Home Journal sit-in had a number of demands, including:

  • Hire a female editor-in-chief and an all-female editorial staff
  • Have women write columns and articles, to avoid inherent male bias
  • Hire non-white women according to the percentage of minorities in the U.S. population
  • Raise the women’s salaries
  • Provide free day care on the premises, since the magazine claims to care about women and children
  • Open editorial meetings to all employees, to eliminate the traditional power hierarchy
  • Stop running ads that degrade women or ads from companies that exploit women
  • Stop running articles tied in to advertising
  • End the “Can this Marriage be Saved?” column

New Article Ideas

The feminists came to the Ladies’ Home Journal sit-in with suggestions for articles to replace the mythical happy homemaker and other shallow, deceptive pieces. Susan Brownmiller, who participated in the protest, recalls some of the feminists’ suggestions in her book In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution. Their suggested article titles included:

  • How to Get a Divorce
  • How to Have an Orgasm
  • What to Tell Your Draft-Age Son
  • How Detergents Harm Our Rivers and Streams

These ideas obviously contrasted the usual messages of women’s magazines and their advertisers. Feminists complained that the magazines pretended single parents did not exist and that household consumer products somehow led to righteous happiness. Far be it from the magazines to talk about powerful issues such as women’s sexuality or the Vietnam War.

Results of the Sit-In

After the Ladies’ Home Journal sit in, editor John Mack Carter refused to resign from his job, but he agreed to let the feminists produce a portion of an issue of Ladies’ Home Journal, which appeared in August 1970.  He also promised to look into the feasibility of an on-site day care center. A few years later in 1973, Lenore Hershey became the editor-in-chief of Ladies’ Home Journal.

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