On September 2, 1897, the small-format magazine formerly known as The Queen was renamed and rebranded as McCall’s Magazine – The Queen of Fashion (eventually just McCall’s for short). It would become one of the most popular large-format glossy magazines for women.
Created by Scottish immigrant James McCall in 1870, the publication was originally a vehicle for him to print his own line of sewing patterns. After McCall died in 1884, his widow became the president of the McCall Company. She hired a female editor and they published homemaking tips alongside the patterns. By 1897, the magazine expanded its content to articles on children’s issues, health, beauty, and foreign travel. In the early 1900’s, the magazine started publishing well-known fiction writers of the day, including Kathleen Norris, Zane Grey and Booth Tarkington. After learning that fiction was a major draw for female magazine readers, McCall’s became the first women’s magazine to print an entire novel in an issue. They also expanded into three sections: News and Fiction, Homemaking and Style and Beauty.
In 1942, McCall’s was the first magazine to take a patriotic position at the start of World War II. In response to the December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attack that began America’s involvement in the war, McCall’s asked women to sign a pledge agreeing to commit to rationing and conservation as a consumer. It stated: “I will buy carefully. I will take good care of the things I have. I will waste nothing.” 150,000 women in three weeks signed and returned the pledge to the magazine’s headquarters. In post-war America, McCall’s was famous for publishing Eleanor Roosevelt’s “If You Ask Me” column from 1949 until her death in 1962. Another major feature were the Betsy McCall paper dolls printed in most issues from 1951 to 1995.
Wanting to start a magazine eschewing stereotypical beauty standards, Rosie O’Donnell became the editorial director of McCall’s in 2000 and renamed it Rosie. By 2002, she ended her involvement with the magazine and it subsequently folded. However, the legacy of McCall’s lives on in the popularity and diversity in women’s magazines on newsstands today.