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This undated photo provided by the Women’s Media Center shows Mary Thom.

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Obituary: Mary Thom, feminist and magazine editor

  • Article by: JAVIER C. HERNANDEZ
  • New York Times
  • April 28, 2013 - 9:04 PM

 

Mary Thom, a chronicler of the feminist movement and former executive editor of Ms. Magazine, died Friday in a motorcycle accident in Yonkers, N.Y. She was 68 and lived in New York.

Thom joined Ms. Magazine in 1972 as an editor, ­rising to become executive editor in 1990. She was known as a journalistic virtuoso who shaped the writing of many of the feminist movement’s luminaries, including Gloria Steinem.

While she largely operated behind the scenes, colleagues described her as a zealous advocate who fought for equal pay in the United States and helped spread the ideals of the women’s rights movement abroad.

“She was a lodestone for the women’s movement nationally, and a center of trust, common sense and creativity,” Steinem said.

Thom wrote several books, including a history of Ms. Magazine, and co-edited an oral history of Bella S. Abzug, the congresswoman and a leader of the feminist movement, titled “Bella Abzug: How One Tough Broad from the Bronx Fought Jim Crow and Joe McCarthy, Pissed Off Jimmy Carter, Battled for the Rights of Women and Workers, Rallied Against War and for the Planet, and Shook Up Politics Along the Way.”

While many stars of the feminist movement praised Thom’s work, critics were not always as generous. The Chicago Sun-Times called the book about Abzug “a bizarre, plodding, Friars’ Club roast.”

Thom arrived at Ms. Magazine convinced of the need for more scrutiny of lawmakers and their views on issues like abortion and birth control. She developed a system of grading politicians that quickly became one of the magazine’s most popular features.

At Ms., she often stayed late into the night reading letters to the editor. “It was incredibly moving and exciting, to just get that kind of response,” Thom recalled in a 2005 interview. “And no one had expected it.”

Her former colleagues said she brought a pragmatic, self-deprecating viewpoint to the magazine, which some saw as too serious. “It was a refreshing anodyne to a kind of glassy-eyed abstract sisterhood,” said Robin Morgan, an author and a founder of the Women’s Media Center.

Thom was born in Cleveland on June 3, 1944, and grew up in Akron, Ohio.

On Friday, she was riding when she hit a car, throwing her onto the road, police said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

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