Women with a Deadline

We're Still Reading It:
Louisa Knapp Curtis and the Ladies Home Journal

One of the most successful magazines in the history of journalism, Ladies Home Journal began in 1883 under the ownership of Cyrus Curtis. His wife, Louisa Knapp Curtis had edited the women's section of his farm magazine, and when it became clear that more subscribers were motivated by her supplement than by the “main” magazine, they launched the Ladies Home Journal.

November 1901 article from the Ladies Home Journal, “The Foremost Women Photographers in America,” by Zaide Ben-Yûsuf. The author’s name alone indicates how Ladies Home Journal belied its title to run unusually progressive content.
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1898 article on “The Making and Trimming of a Hat” in the Ladies Home Journal. Countless women supported themselves as milliners in this era. They depended on East Coast magazines to demonstrate the latest styles, which they then emulated for their customers.
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It quickly evolved into a model for mass-circulation magazines, boasting a low price while gaining its profits from advertising. Within three years, the Journal had 270,000 subscribers – demonstrating how eager women were to read and learn. Curtis produced a magazine for women, written by women; she championed women's education and progress in the professions. Like the earlier Godey's, however, the magazine also helped to solidify ideas of gender difference by cultivating a distinctly feminine consumer culture. By 1898, circulation had reached one million copies monthly, and Ladies Home Journal continues to thrive as one of the leading women's periodicals in the world.

Miriam Leslie did not aim at a female audience, but she was a strong feminist – even though she went to court and legally changed her name to “Mrs. Frank Leslie” after her husband's 1880 death. He had issued a number of periodicals, the most popular of which was Leslie's Weekly. They met when she served as editor of other Leslie periodicals, the Lady's Magazine, the Chimney Corner, and the Lady's Journal. Upon inheriting the business, she reorganized operations and greatly increased profits. When she died in 1914, she bequeathed $2 million to Carrie Chapman Catt to fund the suffrage movement. Although Frank Leslie's relatives sued and had the amount reduced to $1 million, Miriam Leslie's bequest funded the salaries of approximately 200 full-time suffrage organizers.

Miriam Lesley continued to use her late husband's well-known name, while she doubled the income of Lesley publications.
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