Sheila Michaels, the American feminist who popularised ‘Ms’, dies

Sheila Michaels featured

Sheila Michaels, the American feminist who popularised the term ‘Ms’, has sadly died.

Michaels, who was a feminist and civil-rights activist in the 60s, was credited with helping the term reach the mainstream.

Although the term had been around since the 20th century, it was not widely known or used. Michaels first saw ‘Ms’ on a letter addressed to her flatmate and assumed it was a typo.

Michaels was convinced the word could offer an alternative for women who did not want to be known as ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’. She appeared on a US radio programme in 1969 and argued for its existence.

In an interview with The Guardian in 2007, Michaels said, “I was looking for a title for a woman who did not ‘belong’ to a man.”

“There was no place for me.”

“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.”

“I had not seen very many marriages I’d want to emulate.”

“The whole idea came to me in a couple of hours. Tops.”

The term picked up speed when it caught the attention of American feminist and journalist, Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes, who named their feminist magazine, Ms. The magazine was the first to ever be created, owned and operated entirely by women.

Following her campaign, Michaels worked as an oral historian, a journalist, a taxi driver and also owned a Japanese restaurant with her husband.

Michaels died in New York of leukaemia at the age of 78.

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.
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