In the past 10 years, Ms. Magazine has survived legal wrangles, censorship battles, financial strains and attacks from within the ranks. Last night it survived its 10th anniversary celebration.
It wasn't easy.
About 200 fans paid $10 each and attempted to crowd into a very narrow Capitol Hill town house to nibble brie and be near Gloria Steinem. The outside thermometer read 88 degrees. There was one rather small air-conditioning unit trying to putt out some air over the mussels. Hair wilted. Flashbulbs popped.
Former EEOC chairman Eleanor Holmes Norton, TV talk show host Charlie Rose and Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) couldn't even get in the door. And about 40 people struggled to get out the door while the mayor was trying to get in to proclaim July 12 Ms. Magazine Day. The guests were loudly asked to be patient.
"Could you all just wait a minute until Mayor Barry comes in?" yelled out one woman.
Steinem swept her shoulder-length frosted hair on top of her head in hopes of cooling off. And the mayor made yet another of his "day" proclamations while wiping perspiration off his face. More flashbulbs popped.
Founded by Steinem 10 years ago this month, Ms. Magazine was an outgrowth of the women's movement and is still the only women's magazine controlled solely by women. It has published stories on everything from sexual harassment to the value of wearing panties and boasts 2 million readers on a circulation of 500,000.
"We simply wanted to work for a magazine that we read," said Steinem about her brainchild. "All the other women's trade magazines were for women who stayed at home. They focused on 101 ways to make a hamburger."
Steinem said that now that Ms. has accomplished its original game plan of making the public "aware" that women were discriminated against, she would like to focus the magazine on more investigative projects.
"The magazine changed the image of women and spoke to the largest range of women in the country," said Mary Purcell, president of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). "It showed women as independent, thinking people and that we can be a political force if we so like."
"I remember when they did the issue on sexual harassment," said FTC commissioner Pat Bailey. "The art on the cover was very tasteful, but they almost lost their corporate sponsorship because of it."
"I'm afraid my reading list is very short," said Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.), when asked if he read the magazine. "I'm here because the AAUW asked me to stop by."
The Washington party, also sponsored by the Washington Women's Network, was Steinem's ninth stop on the multicity 10th anniversary promotional tour. Commemorative posters were available for $20 apiece, but there wasn't an anniversary issue of the magazine in sight. Steinem advised people, however, to rush out and buy one since the magazine's first issue now sells for $200. "We should have held on to them," she said.
It was in Washington that Steinem, as the first woman to speak before the National Press Club, announced plans to start Ms. "We used to be part of the White House summary, too, " she told the crowd. "But not any more." Knowing laughter here.
Tsongas roused the crowd by announcing that Sen. Sam Hayakawa (R-Calif.) had become a cosponsor of the new equal rights amendment, to be introduced Wednesday. "That only goes to show you that anything can happen in the Senate."
Then Steinem told the crowd, "I thank you from the bottom of my heart."
But after all this success, are there any plans for another publication?
"Oh, I would just love to start a True Confessions magazine for women!" she said. "Do you know anybody with some money?"