The Magazines And I: Women’s Service Journalism Magazines. Chapter Four, Part Two.

September 4, 2020

Chapter fFour, Part Two

Women’s Service Journalism Magazines … is the fourth chapter from the book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter four, part two.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, and three in previous blogs.  Enjoy.


Ladies’ Home Journal was first published on February 16, 1883 as The Ladies’ Home Journal. The magazine’s publisher, Cyrus H.K. Curtis, developed the magazine from a popular supplement that was originally started in the magazine Tribune and Farmer. The supplement was at that time called Women at Home and Curtis’s wife, Louisa Knapp Curtis wrote it. Once it became an independent magazine itself, Louisa became editor for the first six years of its existence. The title was The Ladies Home Journal and Practical Housekeeper, but the last three words were eliminated in 1886. It reached a circulation of more than one million copies by 1903, and became the first magazine to do so.

Curtis publishing sold the magazine to Downe Communications in 1968 and eventually Meredith Corporation bought it from its “then” owner Family Media, as it was sold two more times after the Curtis family sold it. When it began to lose circulation in the late 20th century, Meredith announced it would no longer be a monthly, so it became a quarterly “special interest” title available only on newsstands. Its last issue was published in 2016.

The March 1953 title, with the tagline “The Magazine Women Believe In,” was an oversized morsel of entertaining fiction stories and special features that consisted of: “Before One God; The Old Bible and the New; Youth Accepts Responsibility; along with many more. The cover was of a beautiful baby that wore pastels in contrast to the striped blanket in leaned against.


McCall’s Magazine was first created as a small format title that was originally called The Queen in 1873. By 1897, the magazine was retitled McCall’s Magazine – The Queen of Fashion, and then eventually shortened to McCall’s. As one of the Seven Sisters, McCall’s grew into a large format glossy title that boasted a column by Eleanor Roosevelt from June 1949 until her death in November 1962, among many other notable authors.

For years, the Betsy McCall paper doll was printed in most issues of the magazine and became so popular that the regular feature was eventually made into a vinyl, 14” doll that children could hold and play with. Magazines are good at creating iconic figures.

The March 1953 cover featured a beautiful model wearing the latest in Easter hats, with an entire article about Easter frocks and their accessories. McCall’s brought women a view of what the women of the day were wearing when it came to holiday attire. The meat of the content inside the magazine was filled with short stories and serious articles, along with whimsical, fun things like “How Much Does Your Husband Annoy you?”  McCall’s was a member of the Seven Sisters proudly, also serving women with household tips and recipes.


In May 1903, The Red Book Illustrated was first published by a firm of Chicago retail merchants. The name was quickly changed to The Red Book Magazine. The McCall Corporation bought the title in the summer of 1929 and it became known as simply Redbook. In 1937, circulation hit one million and the magazine had amazing success until the late 1940s when television began to rise and the magazine began to lose touch with its demographic.

Longtime editor, Edwin Balmer, was replaced during that time and Wade Hampton Nichols, who had edited various movie magazines, took over and decided to focus on young adults between the ages of 18 and 34. By 1950, circulation reached two million and the cover price was upped to 35 cents.

Despite the early success of Redbook, as the years went by the audience changed and so did the magazine’s editors. By the 1980s,  the covers became more celebrity-oriented and the content based on more fitness, exercise and nutrition. Its last owner, Hearst Corporation, ceased publication of Redbook in 2018.

The March 1953 cover was also celebrity-oriented, however, with the inimitable Marilyn Monroe on its cover. The issue celebrated Redbook’s 14th Annual Movie Award and displayed Monroe on March’s cover as the best young box-office personality.

Other content included a book-length novel called “Triangle of Chance” by Joseph Laurence Marx, short stories and many articles and features, such as “How To Bring Up Parents,” “Are Mother’s Necessary,” and many others. The departments in Redbook were fan favorites; from “Picture of the Month” to “Fashions” and “Television,” Redbook served its audience from every angle.


Woman’s Day is one of the Seven Sisters that’s still being published today. The magazine was started in 1931 by The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (better known as A&P – the grocery chain); the current publisher is Hearst Corporation. The U.S. edition was originally a free in-store menu/recipe planner which gave customers incentive to buy more by giving them meal ideas within its pages. A&P expanded Woman’s Day in 1937, featuring articles on childcare, crafts, food preparation and cooking, home decoration, needlework and health.

Sold exclusively in A&P stores, Woman’s Day had a circulation of 3,000,000 by 1944. The magazine had reached 4,000,000 by the time A&P sold the magazine to Fawcett Publications in 1958. By 1965, Woman’s Day had climbed to a circulation of 6,500,000. In 1988, Woman’s Day was acquired by Hachette Filipacchi Media. Hearst Magazines bought the Hachette magazines in the US in 2011.

The March 1953 cover had a very photogenic child, complete with Easter bonnet on its cover, smiling naturally into the photographer’s lens.  And for a magazine that is strictly sold on the newsstands, it is good to note that the cover of  Woman’s Day had no cover lines (a must these days for newsstand titles) what so ever. Stories inside included fiction and articles on needlework, home workshop projects, fashion, food and regular monthly features, such as “News and Gossip,” and “The How To Section.”

While the Woman’s Day of today and yesterday have a few things in common, such as a Bible verse, great recipes and home projects, the 21st century is very present with stories on virtual games you can play and TikTok dances used to spread joy. But as it did in yesteryears, Woman’s Day is still serving its readers with relevant information and inspiring stories.

To be continued…


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