Ladies’ Home Journal was developed from a popular double-page supplement in the American magazine Tribune and Farmer titled Women at Home. Women at Home was written by Louisa Knapp Curtis, wife of the magazine’s publisher Cyrus H. K. Curtis.[when?] After a year it became an independent publication, with Knapp as editor for the first six years. Its original name was The Ladies Home Journal and Practical Housekeeper, but Knapp dropped the last three words in 1886. It rapidly became the leading American magazine of its type, reaching a subscribed circulation of more than one million copies by 1903, the first American magazine to do so.
Edward W. Bok took over the editorship in late 1889, serving until 1919. Among features he introduced was the popular “Ruth Ashmore advice column” written by Isabel Mallon. At the turn of the 20th century, the magazine published the work of muckrakers and social reformers such as Jane Addams. In 1901 it published two articles highlighting the early architectural designs of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Bok introduced business practices at the Ladies’ Home Journal that contributed to its success: low subscription rates, inclusion of advertising to off-set costs, and reliance on popular content. This operating structure was adopted by men’s magazines like McClure’s and Munsey’s roughly a decade after it had become the standard practice of American women’s magazines. Scholars argue that women’s magazines, like the Ladies’ Home Journal, pioneered these strategies “magazine revolution”.
The profits came from heavy advertising pitch to families with above-average incomes of $1000 to $3000 dollars in 1900. In the 1910s it carried about a third of the advertising in all women’s magazines. By 1929 it had nearly twice as much advertising as any other publication except for the Saturday Evening Post, which was also published by the Curtis family. The Ladies Home Journal was sold to 2 million subscribers in the mid-1920s, grew a little during the depression years, and surged again during post-World War II prosperity. By the 1955, each issue sold 4.6 million copies and there were probably 11 million readers.
In March 1970, feminists held an 11-hour sit-in at the Ladies’ Home Journal’s office. As a result, they were allowed to produce a section of the magazine that August. They wanted the magazine to recognize a wider variety of choices for women’s lives.
The Journal, along with its major rivals, Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, McCall’s, Redbook and Woman’s Day, were long known as the “seven sisters”, after the prestigious women’s colleges in the Northeast. For decades, the Journal had the greatest circulation of this group. By 1968, its circulation was 6.8 million.