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Geraldine Rhoads; guided big shift in Women’s Day

Ms. Rhoads edited Woman’s Day from 1966 to 1982. Circulation grew from about 5 million to 8 million.

Ms. Rhoads edited Woman’s Day from 1966 to 1982. Circulation grew from about 5 million to 8 million.

NEW YORK — Geraldine Rhoads, who in 16 years as editor in chief of Woman’s Day magazine guided it toward covering the women’s movement while still embracing its tradition of homespun advice, died at her home in New York last Saturday, three days before her 99th birthday.

Her longtime friend Jeannie McCloskey confirmed the death.

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Ms. Rhoads was editor of Woman’s Day from 1966 to 1982, during the heyday of the so-called Seven Sisters, a group of national women’s magazines that also counted Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s, Better Homes and Gardens, and Redbook. During her tenure, ­Woman’s Day’s circulation grew to more than 8 million, from about 5 million.

“It was a period of enormous change in women’s lives,’’ said Jane Chesnutt, who was Woman’s Day’s editor from 1991 to 2009. The magazine was then at the forefront of issues like domestic violence — ‘‘ahead of the law on that issue,’’ she said — and women’s health.

“In the mid-’70s, under Gerry’s leadership, we wrote about lumpectomy as an alternative to radical mastectomies,’’ Chesnutt said.

That was a significant shift from the days in which women’s magazines featured only recipes, needle­work, and proper etiquette.

Woman’s Day was first published in 1931 as a menu sheet handed out to shoppers at grocery stores owned by the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. By 1937, it was a magazine priced at 2 cents a copy and sold only at A&P stores. Today, five owners later, Woman’s Day is published by Hearst Magazines and has a circulation of about 3.25 million.

Ellen Levine, who is editorial director of Hearst Magazines and was Ms. Rhoads’s immediate successor at Woman’s Day, called Ms. Rhoads’s editorship ‘‘a balancing act.’’

‘‘She had an eye and ear for what was going to matter for women,’’ Levine said, ‘‘particularly in the health area, in money management for women, stories about women’s emotional needs. And she managed to get that on pages between the stories on hobbies and recipes.’’

Still, Ms. Rhoads never disavowed traditional homemaking advice. In 1988, with Edna Paradis, she wrote ‘‘The Woman’s Day Help Book: The Complete How-to for the Busy Housekeeper.’’

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