American feminist Sheila Michaels has died of leukemia at age 78. Though she did not invent the abbreviation herself, Michaels is known for championing “Ms.” throughout the 1960s as a way to identify women as individuals beyond their martial statuses.
“Partly because of my personal situation [Michaels’s parents were unmarried], partly because of my observations at large, I had a low opinion of marriage — and certainly no desire to marry. I felt strongly about not ‘belonging’ to a man — either to my father as a Miss, or to a husband as a Mrs,” she informed The Japan Times in 2000.
Via Ms. magazine
After years of Michaels’s advocacy, Gloria Steinem adopted “Ms.” in 1971 as the title of her feminist magazine. In 1986, the New York Times announced its official use of the honorific. Since then, “Ms.” has become an editorial standard that we are all familiar with nowadays.
“It made sense to us from the start: ‘Ms.’ is how you address a woman as a whole person,” Ms. magazine reported.
The Times noted that Michaels is survived by her half-brother, Peter London.
Featured image courtesy of Boing Boing