Bette Is Woman, Hear Her Roar!

Hear Them Roar
Good Housekeeping celebrates 125 years of womankind.

Despite what the name suggests, 125-year-old Good Housekeeping magazine does not keep its readers under house arrest, armed only with bucket and mop. A testament to that: last night’s gathering of dynamic women celebrating the magazine and the female role models who’ve shaped our world. From emcee Brooke Shields and The Price of Beauty host Jessica Simpson, Dr. Ruth and nonagenarian former Cosmo editrix Helen Gurley Brown and the three M’s – Martha Stewart, Miss Piggy and That Girl, Marlo Thomas – women from all spheres of influence came together for a star-studded evening. Also in attendance at the “Shine On” performance at New York’s City Center theater were Bette Midler, Candice Bergen, Hilary Duff, and Kristen Bell. Ticket sales benefited the National Women’s History Museum: the first permanent exhibit highlighting the women who changed the world, breaking ground in the next five years near the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

What’s on the magazine’s pages has certainly changed over the years to suit the way women live now. In other words, today’s Good Housekeeping woman is not spending her days polishing the silver. “Today, our reader is basically a woman who has too much to do,” said Good Housekeeping Editor-in-Chief Rosemary Ellis. “She loves her home but she’s not a slave to it. In fact, now the magazine opens with a section called Good (Enough) Housekeeping. It’s not about, ‘Is your bathroom spotless? Is your furniture dusted?’ Who cares? The point is, you want to have a home that’s a sanctuary and we help you figure out the quick and easy ways to do that so you can enjoy the rest of your life.”

And let’s not forget that the magazine served as a sounding board for female writers ranging from Betty Friedan (whose Feminine Mystique began as a 1955 article published in the mag) to attendee Nora Ephron, who acknowledged first-wave feminist Susan B. Anthony. “She changed the world,” said Ephron. “Because of her, we can vote, we have custody rights to our children, which we did not have, we can own property, and – my personal favorite – we can get a divorce.”

Also in praise of Anthony was Meryl Streep, who read a classic speech from the suffragette, but not before acknowledging the pains her subject went through to fight for civil liberty, back in the days when women were to be seen and not heard. “It’s hard to speak in public. It really is,” said the gorgeously emotive Streep, sheepishly. “And it was excruciating for Susan B. Anthony. She was a person who had one eye that went like this [crosses eyes], and she was tall and rawboned and what they called, charitably, a ‘handsome’ woman. She was not a woman who was going to get a husband real quick, and she didn’t.” But the end-result of her labors brought us all to the theater we were sitting at Monday night – to a place where the groundwork is laid to foster change in every arena from politics to art to celebrity.

The night ended with a little number by Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin (“Respect”, naturally). “In ten years of doing Murphy Brown, there’s one moment that stands out way above all others,” recalled Candice Bergen. “It was by far the most electrifying and that would be when I shared a piano bench with Aretha Franklin and screeched along with her to ‘Natural Woman.’ Nothing else came close in either thrill nor terror.”

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