The Woman Who Popularized the Term "Ms." Has Passed Away

Frederick Owens
July 9, 2017

Sheila Michaels, a feminist who spread the modern usage of the title "Ms" as a way to denote a woman's independence, has died in NY at age 78, prompting an outpouring of tributes on social media.

Speaking to the New York Times in an interview a year ago for her own obituary, she said the honorific resonated with her, both as a feminist and as the child of unmarried parents.

The American feminist is revered for her campaign to popularise the "Ms" title throughout the 60s.

" I was looking for a title for a woman who did not "belong" to a man".

"Ms. didn't really take off until the politically-motivated language reforms of second-wave feminism and the cultural impact of Ms. Magazine in the 1970s", says the Ms Magazine website. The first time she saw the word on a newspaper mailed to her friend, she assumed it was a typo. She explained why in an interview with The Guardian in 2007.

Unlike "Miss" and "Mrs", Ms does not advertise a woman's marital status.

More news: The Accenture PLC (NYSE:ACN) Given Consensus Recommendation of "Buy" by Brokerages

Gloria Steinem's choice of Ms. as the name for her feminist magazine was inspired by a radio show on New York's WBAI where Michaels was interviewed around 1969.

'I didn't belong to my father and I didn't want to belong to a husband - someone who could tell me what to do'.

The term "Ms" can be traced back to at least 1901, but when Ms Michaels first came across it in the early 1960s she assumed it was a typo, meant to be "Mrs".

Years later, she brought it up casually, during a lull in conversation on broadcast radio - where it was heard by others, and began to attract attention.

A woman of many professions - she was a civil rights activist, technical editor, restaurateur and taxi driver, Nathanson said - her push for the adoption of "Ms" in feminist circles was at first unsuccessful.

Michaels was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1939, and spent part of her childhood summers in the Bronx with her grandparents. In an editor's note on June 20, 1986, they confirmed they would start using "Ms." to refer to women who didn't want their relationship status to define the way they were introduced.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER