The 1968 Exhibit: "Buttons Cover," Ladies Home Journal, January 1968

Ladies Home Journal was not, to put it mildly, a political magazine.  Not in the 1960s, not now.


But for the first issue of 1968, that most "political" of years, the chief editors at Ladies Home Journal--every single one of them men, by the way--decided to take a different tack.  As the editor-in-chief, John Mack Carter, wrote in his "Dear Reader" column, this was because "there are more and more problems in our world and fewer and fewer answers-- not only national and international problems, but increasing friction about community, family and personal matters."  LHJ announced that each issue would "be consciously planned not only to entertain and inform you better than ever before, but to be used--to solve your problems, to help improve your life."  Readers would be offered "the opportunity to participate in the making of each issue . . . to put you in touch with the triumphs and defeats of 13 million other Journal women."  New features were added:  a "Journal Board of Experts," who would answer readers' questions.  The Board included personal finances advisor Sylvia Porter, TV journalist David Brinkley, psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, and etiquette maven Amy Vanderbilt.   A new monthly readers' poll, "The Voice of Women,"  was begun, surveying thousands of readers by mail.

Reaching for relevance

The Journal was, in short, reaching for the most 1960s of goals:  Relevance.  Henceforth, the magazine would serve their readers in new, meaningful ways, to help them make sense of a world that--suddenly-- seemed a lot more complicated.   Naturally, the covers would need to reflect this more engaged identity.  Ladies Home Journal "cover girls" in 1967 had been the usual lineup:  Mia Farrow, Jacqueline Kennedy (pre-Onassis), Twiggy and other fashion models, cute kids and Moms.  This one doesn't feature a celebrity at all, but rather an unidentified woman in a sweater festooned with an array of slogan or campaign-type buttons.  The words announce the issue's contents: an excerpt from Bobby Kennedy's new book, To Seek a Newer World, which came out just before he entered the presidential race; a true story, "My Son is On LSD. Is Yours?"; an article by an obstetrician, writing under a pseudonym, confessing that he prescribes birth control pills for unmarried "girls"; and an article on how "We Can Close the Generation Gap."  The new poll feature concludes that "We're Scared of Our Kids," revealing that "many parents are so tyrannized by their children that they are not altogether sure that adults are still running the world."

A story in need of revision

My personal favorite story in this issue is an excerpt from a forthcoming (1968) biography of Charles A. Lindbergh, The Last Hero, by Walter S. Ross (one of many unauthorized biographies that had appeared since 1927, all of them despised by Lindbergh).   The introduction to the excerpt here says that Lindbergh--who turned 66 in 1968--was "scarred by tragedy [i.e., the kidnapping of his son in 1932], and retreated into a shell of secrecy.  Inside it, however, Lindbergh raised five children to be responsible, self-reliant young men and women.  To him, the Generation Gap was just another Atlantic--and he spanned it with an unusual mixture of fatherly love and iron discipline."   The cover "button" that calls Lindbergh "America's Most Remarkable Father" is richly ironic, of course, since we now know that the 1960s were exactly the years that Lindbergh was carrying on three separate extramarital affairs in Europe, and fathering no fewer than seven additional illegitimate children.   Remarkable.