In the early 1880s Godey’s Ladies Book was the only reading material available for women. Louis Godey considered himself an authority on proper reading for women, on fashion and even household hints. Godey’s magazine also contained recipes and some fiction.
Cyrus Curtis published a farming magazine called Tribune and Farmer. In 1883 he decided to broaden the appeal of his publication and added a women’s supplement called The Ladies Home Journal and Practical Housekeeper.
The supplement was so popular that after a year, Curtis’s women’s magazine became an independent publication with Curtis’s wife Louisa Knapp Curtis as editor for the first six years. She dropped the last three words in the title in 1886 and the magazine became The Ladies Home Journal.
The couple wanted to attract a million subscribers. Some people just set their sites too low, you know? They went about achieving their goal by asking well known authors of the day to write articles and short stories. Writers like Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain attracted subscribers, and circulation continued to climb even when the rate was raised from fifty cents a year to a dollar in 1889.
Louisa eventually retired and their son-in-law took over as editor. Edward Bok added advice columns to the mix. Helen Keller contributed an article on neonatal blindness. Because of the connotation that neonatal blindness was almost always caused by a venereal disease, that article lost the magazine subscribers.
By 1903 The Ladies Home Journal surpassed the million subscriber goal, regardless. Good Housekeeping has been on the market since 1885 and Vogue since 1893, though none of the other publications held the same broad appeal as The Ladies Home Journal.
Today The Ladies Home Journal continues to be one of the leading magazines for American women, offering commentary on issues such as politics, religion, health and child-rearing. You can find one in every doctor and dentist’s office in the country. Amazing, huh?