When Feminists Confronted the Men In Charge of Ladies' Home Journal

Image Credit: CoverArt.com

John Mack Carter’s corner office on the fifth floor of the Curtis Publishing building had become something of a fire hazard. Meant to accommodate his desk and a few employees, it now held between 100 and 200 women. Many stood with signs, read from prepared statements, and heckled Carter; those that couldn't squeeze in trickled into the hallway. A few jumped on furniture and smoked cigars to mock his attempts to remain cool in what was quickly becoming the most eventful morning in the history of Ladies’ Home Journal.

And this was before he was nearly pushed out a window.

The women had congregated on March 18, 1970 at the Journal’s editorial offices in New York City to protest the fact that Carter, the magazine's editor-in-chief since 1965, was leading a mostly-male editorial staff. It was, in the eyes of activists, a gender-distorted control room producing content that encouraged readers to embrace a subservient domestic life and an underpaid role in the workforce.   

The Journal protest was conceived at the Greenwich Village apartment of Susan Brownmiller, member of a feminist group called Media Women. A successful journalist, Brownmiller knew that a “sit-in” would attract newspapers and television crews. It would be, in her words, a “woman bites magazine” story. When one of her fellow organizers mentioned she used to work at the Journal and could help draw up a floor plan, plans were quickly made. Flush with members from the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Redstockings liberation group and other women’s rights activists, the protestors would demand higher salaries and more substantial assignments for female staff—and that Carter vacate his position.

Wearing business attire in order to blend in, the women entered the Journal offices around 9 a.m. in small groups so their growing numbers wouldn’t be immediately noticed. Some went directly to Carter’s office; others headed for the secretarial area, where female employees were spoken to about their low pay and the dangers of a passive attitude in the workplace. A few of the protestors lingered in the lobby, wondering if the police might show up. One of the women carried a large sign featuring a mock-up of their Women’s Liberated Journal: a pregnant woman posed near a cover line that read, “Unpaid Labor.”

John Mack Carter under siege. Courtesy Feminist.org

Carter may have been tipped off by media contacts, but there was little he could do to prepare for the occupied state of his office. As he sat behind his desk, wondering how to proceed with news cameras pointed at him, managing editor Lenore Hershey—the only female senior editor on staff—tried to address the women.

“Behave like ladies,” she admonished.

The women ignored Hershey, and instead took aim at Carter. In a Village Voice account of the scene written by demonstrator Minda Bikman, the Journal tried to present a united, and traditionally ladylike, front:

At this point, they brought in Geraldine Carro, a woman in her mid-20s. Hershey introduced her with a grand wave of her arm, remarking that Carro wrote half the magazine. "Then why isn't she an editor?" was the spontaneous response.

The women began offering story ideas for future issues. Instead of cooking tips, they argued, women would be better served by insightful pieces on abortion, the draft, and divorce. The magazine should offer day care services for employees and hire more women of color. Sexist advertisements should be eliminated.

When Hershey pressed them on the latter, the women produced a recent issue featuring a Jell-O ad that implied a housewife wouldn’t know what an “assistant vice president” is.

Carter tried negotiating, insisting he would only speak to 12 of the women in a separate meeting space. They refused: protestor Karla Jay joked that they should just write “conference room” on his office door. Carter also offered to placate them by writing an article on the women’s rights movement. That, too, was insufficient. Throughout the day, he insisted he would not be giving up his position as editor.  

As the afternoon wore on, the parties began to get impatient. News crews wanted footage for the 6 p.m. broadcasts; some of the women began discussing overturning filing cabinets or setting fires. Rumors began to swirl that the police would intervene if the matter wasn't resolved soon.

The situation became so tense that one of the women, Shulamith Firestone, lunged at Carter, who had been standing near a large window. Jay stopped her before she could make contact and potentially propel both of them through the glass. But the attempt seemed to motivate the editor, who at that point appeared to be listening to what the protestors had to say.

After roughly 11 hours, Brownmiller, Jay, and the rest of their group emerged with a promise of editorial control over an eight-page section in an upcoming issue. They were paid $10,000 to create content, which Brownmiller distributed to women's groups in the city. But not all of the women were happy: their demands for salary increases and changes to advertising policies weren’t met. And Carter was still behind his desk—though not for much longer.

In 1973, Carter left his post. Hershey, who later said the protest made her rethink her own views about feminism, petitioned to take his spot and soon became the Journal’s editor-in-chief. Women have continued to occupy Carter's former office ever since.

Additional Sources: Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation; Mass Media and the Shaping of American Feminism, 1963-1975.

Rebecca O'Connell (Getty Images) (iStock)
How Frozen Peas Made Orson Welles Lose It
Rebecca O'Connell (Getty Images) (iStock)
Rebecca O'Connell (Getty Images) (iStock)

Orson Welles would have turned 103 years old today. While the talented actor/director/writer leaves behind a staggering body of work—including Citizen Kane, long regarded as the best film of all time—the YouTube generation may know him best for what happened when a couple of voiceover directors decided to challenge him while recording an ad for Findus frozen foods in 1970.

The tempestuous Welles is having none of it. You’d do yourself a favor to listen to the whole thing, but here are some choice excerpts.

After he was asked for one more take from the audio engineer:

"Look, I’m not used to having more than one person in there. One more word out of you and you go! Is that clear? I take directions from one person, under protest … Who the hell are you, anyway?"

After it was explained to him that the second take was requested because of a “slight gonk”:

"What is a 'gonk'? Do you mind telling me what that is?"

After the director asks him to emphasize the “in” while saying “In July”:

"Why? That doesn't make any sense. Sorry. There's no known way of saying an English sentence in which you begin a sentence with 'in' and emphasize it. … That's just stupid. 'In July?' I'd love to know how you emphasize 'in' in 'in July.' Impossible! Meaningless!"

When the session moved from frozen peas to ads for fish fingers and beef burgers, the now-sheepish directors attempt to stammer out some instructions. Welles's reply:

"You are such pests! ... In your depths of your ignorance, what is it you want?"

Why would the legendary director agree to shill for a frozen food company in the first place? According to author Josh Karp, whose book Orson Welles’s Last Movie chronicles the director’s odyssey to make a “comeback” film in the 1970s, Welles acknowledged the ad spots were mercenary in nature: He could demand upwards of $15,000 a day for sessions, which he could use, in part, to fund his feature projects.

“Why he dressed down the man, I can't say for sure,” Karp says. “But I know that he was a perfectionist and didn't suffer fools, in some cases to the extreme. He used to take a great interest in the ads he made, even when they weren't of his creation.”

The Findus session was leaked decades ago, popping up on radio and in private collections before hitting YouTube. Voiceover actor Maurice LaMarche, who voiced the erudite Brain in Pinky and the Brain, based the character on Welles and would recite his rant whenever he got the chance.

Welles died in 1985 at the age of 70 from a heart attack, his last film unfinished. While some saw the pea endorsement as beneath his formidable talents, he was actually ahead of the curve: By the 1980s, many A-list stars were supplementing their income with advertising or voiceover work.

“He was a brilliant, funny guy,” Karp says. “There's a good chance he'd think the pea commercial was hilarious.” If not, he’d obviously have no problem saying as much.

How Google Chrome’s New Built-In Ad Blocker Will Change Your Browsing Experience

If you can’t stand web ads that auto-play sound and pop up in front of what you’re trying to read, you have two options: Install an ad blocker on your browser or avoid the internet all together. Starting Thursday, February 15, Google Chrome is offering another tool to help you avoid the most annoying ads on the web, Tech Crunch reports. Here’s what Google Chrome users should expect from the new feature.

Chrome’s ad filtering has been in development for about a year, but the details of how it will work were only recently made public. “While most advertising on the web is respectful of user experience, over the years we've increasingly heard from our users that some advertising can be particularly intrusive,” Google wrote in a blog post. “As we announced last June, Chrome will tackle this issue by removing ads from sites that do not follow the Better Ads Standards.

That means the new feature won’t block all ads from publishers or even block most of them. Instead, it will specifically target ads that violate the Better Ad Standards that the Coalition for Better Ads recommends based on consumer data. On desktop, this includes auto-play videos with sound, sticky banners that follow you as you scroll, pop-ups, and prestitial ads that make you wait for a countdown to access the site. Mobile Chrome users will be spared these same types of ads as well as flashing animations, ads that take up more than 30 percent of the screen, and ads the fill the whole screen as you scroll past them.

These criteria still leave room for plenty of ads to show up online—the total amount of media blocked by the feature won’t even amount to 1 percent of all ads. So if web browsers are looking for an even more ad-free experience, they should use Chrome’s ad filter as a supplement to one of the many third-party ad blockers out there.

And if accessing content without navigating a digital obstacle course first doesn’t sound appealing to you, don’t worry: On sites where ads are blocked, Google Chrome will show a notification that lets you disable the feature.

[h/t Tech Crunch]


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