Growing up in a New York City suburb, Julia Kagan’s love of magazines began with Life.
Throughout the past four decades, Julia has dedicated her own life to influencing millions of readers through the pages of some of the nation’s most popular magazines. The 1996 JAWS president began as a fact checker for Look in 1970 and worked her way up to editor positions at McCall’s, Working Woman, Psychology Today, Fitness, Consumer Reports, Ladies’, and Home Journal.
Julia, who read The Feminine Mystique and Sexual Politics as a young woman, said there was no question that she was a feminist as she began her career.
“I mean, what was so exciting about being in that field in the ’70s was that we were not by ourselves. You know, we had each other,” she said. “And also you were imbued with this feeling that everything you did wasn’t just you, but you were doing it for all women… You were proving that women could do things.”
Her passion for women and journalism made her an ideal member for JAWS, which she joined in 1991 at the urging of Peggy Simpson. Julia has since served on the board and as treasurer in addition to her year as president. She said JAWS has introduced her to interesting reporters and ideas from around the country.
“It means to me to be part of a long, continuing tradition of women in journalism and women helping other women get along,” she said of her membership.
During her year as president, Julia said the organization focused on expanding membership and technological training, which she still sees as priorities today.
“My hopes for JAWS is that they will continue to grow. We will continue to grow. We will continue to survive and thrive,” she said. “That we will continue to help the next generations of women in journalism move forward [and] have the tools to, not just to be successful, but to change the world.”
After a few failed attempts navigating New York City’s subway system, we met up with Julia at her apartment on the Upper West Side to conduct this oral history in December 2013.
( This interview was conducted by Teri Finneman )