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100 Years Of Women’s History In 27 Magazine Covers

by Jenavieve HatchHerstory is always in the making…


Many of the most historic moments in women’s history have been memorialized on the cover of influential magazines ― and those covers have, in turn, become historic symbols in their own right.

Iconic moments in politics ― like Shirley Chisholm’s historic 1968 election as the first black woman to become a member of Congress and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s runs for president in 2008 and 2016 ― have been given their due with on the cover of magazines, and important moments in pop culture have as well.

Caitlyn Jenner’s transition might not have been nearly as significant without her powerful Vanity Fair cover ― and the topic of trans rights might not have been as highly elevated without it. The Women’s March on Washington was commemorated by both Time and the New Yorker with powerful images of what is now a major symbol of the resistance: the pink pussy hat. And, as the demand for representation of American minorities becomes louder and louder, more and more minority communities are finding that representation on those glossy covers of magazines.

So in honor of Women’s History Month, here are 27 influential magazine covers to remind us that herstory is constantly in the making.

  • Suffragettes, The Suffragist, 1919
    The 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920 — but before its official ratification, women’s right to vote was celebrated by The Suffragist newspaper in June of 1919, after the amendment passed through the Senate, with a powerful cover: two women embracing, the words “At Last” the only caption.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt, Time, 1934
    By the time of her November 1934 Time magazine cover, Eleanor Roosevelt had already spent a year in her position as First Lady — only she was treating the role like no other woman had. Throughout her 12 years as FLOTUS, she was heavily involved in social and political issues and human rights.
  • Woman Air Force Pilot, Life, 1943
    In July 1943, Life magazine ran a feature about the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), for “Fly Girls” of WWII, who, regardless of their work during the war, weren’t granted military status until 1970.
  • Marilyn Monroe, Playboy, 1953
    The first issue of Playboy famously featured a full nude spread of the world’s most famous pin-up, Marilyn Monroe, at the height of her career in December of 1953. It was the same year as the release of “Gentleman Prefer Blondes” and “How to Marry a Millionaire.”
  • Naomi Sims, Life, 1969
    The striking October 1969 cover of Life featured model Naomi Sims, who was the first black woman to have been on Life’s cover. The beginning of her career was mired by racial prejudice, but she soon found great success and went on to model until 1973, before becoming a businesswoman and prominent voice in the black women’s beauty industry.
  • Shirley Chisholm, Ebony, 1969
    Shirley Chisholm made history in 1968 when she became the first black woman to be elected to Congress. Ebony featured her on their February 1969 cover, commemorating her as “the first black woman on Capitol Hill.” Chisholm later ran for president in 1972, making history as the first Black American and Woman to do so — decades before President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would do the same.
  • Barbara Cheeseboroguh, Essence, 1970
    When black women-centered magazine Essence splashed onto the scene in May of 1970, it received acclaim for featuring the “Afrocentric” model Barbara Cheeseborough. In a 2013 reflection, NPR wrote that Cheeseborough was “the first to show an Afrocentric beauty standard when millions of young women were casting about for a kind of beauty they could identify with and replicate.”
  • Women In Revolt, Newsweek, 1970
    Newsweek’s “Women in Revolt” cover isn’t just powerful because of its striking image — the day that the issue came to print, 46 women of Newsweek announced plans to sue the organization for gender discrimination.
  • Germaine Greer, Life, 1971
    Feminism hasn’t always been as celebrated as it is now — just look at Germaine Greer’s May 1971 Life cover. The outspoken Australian feminist was deemed as a “Saucy Feminist That Even Men Like.” How far we’ve come.
  • Wonder Woman, Ms. Magazine, 1972
    After its successful preview issue launched in the spring of 1972, the first official edition of Ms. Magazine sold out that summer, and featured perhaps the magazine’s most iconic cover: an image of Wonder Woman beneath an empowering banner that reads, “Wonder Woman For President.”
  • Sally Ride, Newsweek, 1983
    • In 1983, Sally Ride made history as the first American woman to go to space, and her historic trip was commemorated with a Newsweek cover that same year. After she died, her obituary revealed that she’d been in a 27-years-long romantic relationship with science writer Tam O’Shaughnessy  — thus cementing Ride as the only known LGTBQ person to have gone to space.
    • Geraldine Ferraro, Time Magazine, 1984
      Time Magazine commemorated Geraldine Ferraro’s historic moment as the first woman vice presidential candidate for a major political party. She was chosen to be Walter Mondale’s running mate in the 1984 presidential election, but Mondale lost the election to Ronald Reagan.
    • Demi Moore, Vanity Fair, 1991
      Even though Demi Moore’s nude, pregnant photoshoot happened more than 20 years ago, it still feels significant. Moore was seven-months pregnant with her second daughter, Scout, when she posed completely nude for Annie Leibovitz’s cover shoot.
    • Anita Hill, People, 1991
      After accusing Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, Anita Hill testified against him at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991, and forever changed the way we talk about workplace harassment in the U.S. People magazine covered the trial, and spoke to other women who, because of Hill, felt empowered to share their own experiences.
    • Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, Texas Monthly, 1995
      In March of 1995, Tejano superstar Selena Quintanilla-Pérez was shot and killed in Corpus Christi, Tx. A month later, Texas Monthly released their May 1995 issue with a striking image of Quintanilla-Pérez on the cover, tying her death to the issue of gun violence in Texas.
    • Ellen DeGeneres, Time Magazine, 1997
      Ellen Degeneres publicly came out on the cover of Time Magazine in 1997, and since then, her career as a comedian and talk show host has been nothing short of iconic. Before leaving office, President Barack Obama awarded Degeneres with the Medal of Freedom. “What an incredible burden it was to bear, to risk your career like that,” he said. “People don’t do that very often.” (We’re not crying, you are.)
    • The cast of “Sex and the City,” Time, 2000
      In 1998, the first episode of “Sex and the City” aired on HBO — and by telling the stories of four thirty- and forty-something single women in New York City, made it an iconic moment in TV history. Women around the country — and Time magazine in 2000 — found themselves asking, “Who needs a husband?”
    • Sonia Sotomayor, Time Magazine, 2009
      In 2009, Sonia Sotomayor made history as the first person of Hispanic heritage and first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court. She was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed on August 9, 2006. “I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences,” Sotomayor said when she was nominated.
    • Laverne Cox, Time Magazine, 2014
      Actress and trans activist Laverne Cox graced Time Magazine’s July 2014 cover, representing the fight for trans rights as “America’s next civil rights frontier.” Cox was the first trans person to be on the influential magazine’s cover.
    • Caitlyn Jenner, Vanity Fair, 2015
      When Caitlyn Jenner transitioned in 2015, she announced it with a flourish: a striking July 2015 Vanity Fair cover in which she announced her new name, Caitlyn. In the years since, she’s been something of a contentious figure for the LGTBQ community, particularly after voicing her support for President Donald Trump during the 2016 election.
    • Hillary Clinton, New York Magazine, 2016
      Two months before Hillary Clinton made history as the first woman to snag a presidential nomination from a major party, journalist Rebecca Traister sat down with Clinton for a pre-election conversation. “There’s nothing simple about this candidacy,” Traister wrote. “Or candidate.”
    • The cast of “Ghostbusters,” Entertainment Weekly, 2016
      When the “Ghostbusters” reboot released its trailer in March of 2016, internet trolls lost it — the sheer misogyny was an unpleasant reminder of how uncomfortable men were to see women standing in place of their idolized (male) superheroes. In the July 2016 cover story with Entertainment Weekly, co-star Melissa McCarthy laughed it all off. “Really?” she said about the sexist backlash. “Are we still here?”
    • Bill Cosby’s Accusers, New York Magazine, 2016
      More than 30 women have accused American comedy icon Bill Cosby of sexual assault, and New York Magazine’s powerful cover photo gave a haunting reminder that there are likely more. On a July, 2016 cover, 35 of his accusers stare back at the reader — with one empty chair remaining unfilled.
    • Rahaf Khatib, Women’s Running, 2016
      At the height of Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim presidential campaign, Women’s Running chose Muslim Syrian-American refugee Rahaf Khatib as its cover star. She’s the first hijabi woman to grace the cover of any American health or fitness magazine, and this year, she’s running the Boston marathon to raise funds for the Syrian American Rescue Network.
    • Michelle Obama, The New York Times Style Magazine, 2016
      Former FLOTUS Michelle Obama has several stunning magazine covers, but when the Times Style Magazine was released in October 2016, just four months before the end of the Obama presidency, Americans were reminded of how lucky they were to call Michelle Obama FLOTUS — and how much they would miss her when she was gone. The outrageously stunning photos were paired equally stunning essays about what FLOTUS meant to four influential figures: Rashida Jones, Gloria Steinem, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Jon Meacham.
    • Avery Jackson, National Geographic, 2017
      After much contentious legislation in 2016 surrounding transgender rights, National Geographic’s special January 2017 “Gender Revolution” edition was sure to turn heads. The powerful cover featured nine-year-old transgender girl Avery Jackson in an entirely pink outfit — hair included. “The best thing about being a girl is,” Jackson said, “now I don’t have to pretend to be a boy.”
    • Liu Wen, Ashley Graham, Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Imaan Hammam, Adwoa Aboah, and Vittoria Ceretti, Vogue Magazine, 2017
      Before the March 2017 issue of Vogue, the US edition of the influential publication had never featured an Asian woman or a plus-size woman on its cover. Liu Wen’s and Ashley Graham’s presence on the overall diverse cover was exciting — until readers opened the magazine to see supermodel Karlie Kloss in yellowface. Maybe next time, Vogue.

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