Mary Thom dies at 68; executive editor at Ms. magazine

Mary Thom, an early staffer at Ms. magazine who later became its executive editor then left to write a history of the feminist periodical, died Friday in a motorcycle crash.
(Women’s Media Center)

Mary Thom, an early staffer at Ms. magazine who rose to executive editor and later wrote an insider’s history of the groundbreaking, mass-market chronicle of the women’s movement, died Friday in a motorcycle crash in Yonkers, N.Y. She was 68.

Her death was announced by the Women’s Media Center, a nonprofit New York-based organization founded in 2005 by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Ms. co-founder Gloria Steinem. Thom was editor-in-chief for the center, which publishes features on women’s issues in addition to offering media training and advocacy.

Thom joined the Ms. staff as a researcher in 1972, the year it was launched. Trained as a historian and journalist, she was executive editor when she left to write “Inside Ms.: 25 Years of the Magazine and the Feminist Movement,” published in 1997.

Described by the New York Times as “a rousing, if inevitably one-sided, account of the enthusiastic early days” of the movement, the book offered insights into the personalities that shaped the magazine, its internal culture and politics, and its struggles with advertisers.


Among the anecdotes she included was one about actor Robert Redford, who had an office at the magazine for a time and anonymously lent his back for a cover photograph on an issue about men.

She co-edited a 2006 oral history of one of the women’s movement’s most outspoken figures, “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.”

She also edited a book of letters sent to Ms. during the publication’s formative years of 1972 to 1987.

Ms. Publisher Eleanor Smeal said Thomas was a constant presence at the heart of the movement over decades.

“She was always there as a guiding hand to make sure that the spirit of feminism came through in everything we wrote at the Women’s Media Center and at Ms. magazine,” Smeal said Sunday. “She will truly be missed.”

Thom as born in Cleveland on June 3, 1944, and grew up in Akron, Ohio. After graduating from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania in 1966, she moved to New York City, where she lived for almost 50 years.

An avid motorcyclist who never owned a car, Thom had been riding motorcycles for four decades, her nephew Thom Loubet told the Journal News newspaper in White Plains, N.Y. Police said she died after hitting a car on the Saw Mill Parkway in Yonkers.

Besides her nephew, she is survived by a sister, Susan Thom Loubet, and a grand-niece.