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Mary Thom; editor shaped writing of feminists; at 68

Ms. Thom joined Ms. Magazine in 1972 and rose to executive editor in 1990.

Women’s Media Center

Ms. Thom joined Ms. Magazine in 1972 and rose to executive editor in 1990.

NEW YORK — Mary Thom, a chronicler of the feminist movement and former executive editor of Ms. Magazine, died Friday in a motorcycle accident in Yonkers, N.Y. She was 68 and lived in New York.

The Women’s Media Center, where Ms. Thom was the editor in chief, announced her death.

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Ms. Thom joined Ms. Magazine in 1972 as an editor, rising to become executive editor in 1990. She was known as a journalistic virtuoso who shaped the writing of many of the feminist movement’s luminaries, including Gloria Steinem.

While she largely operated behind the scenes, colleagues described her as a zealous advocate who fought for equal pay in the United States and helped spread the ideals of the women’s rights movement abroad.

‘‘She was a lodestone for the women’s movement nationally, and a center of trust, common sense, and creativity,’’ Steinem said Saturday.

Ms. Thom wrote several books, including a history of Ms. Magazine, and coedited an oral history of Bella S. Abzug, a congresswoman and a leader of the feminist movement, titled ‘‘Bella Abzug: How One Tough Broad from the Bronx Fought Jim Crow and Joe McCarthy, Pissed Off Jimmy Carter, Battled for the Rights of Women and Workers, Rallied Against War and for the Planet, and Shook Up Politics Along the Way.’’

While many stars of the feminist movement praised Ms. Thom’s work, critics were not always as generous. The Chicago Sun-Times called the book about Abzug ‘‘a bizarre, plodding, Friars’ Club roast.’’

Ms. Thom arrived at Ms. Magazine convinced of the need for more scrutiny of lawmakers and their views on issues like abortion and birth control. She developed a system of grading politicians that quickly became one of the magazine’s most popular features.

At Ms., she often stayed late into the night reading letters to the editor. ‘‘It was incredibly moving and exciting, to just get that kind of response,’’ Ms. Thom recalled in a 2005 interview. ‘‘And no one had expected it.’’

Her former colleagues said she brought a pragmatic, self-deprecating viewpoint to the magazine that some saw as too serious. ‘‘It was a refreshing anodyne to a kind of glassy-eyed abstract sisterhood,’’ said Robin Morgan, an author and a founder of the Women’s Media Center.

Ms. Thom was born in Cleveland on June 3, 1944, and grew up in Akron, Ohio. Her mother was a homemaker and her father worked as an engineer for a steel company. In the 2005 interview, Ms. Thom traced her early interest in activism to influences like jazz and Shakespeare.

It was at Bryn Mawr, from which Ms. Thom graduated in 1966, that she was swept into the civil rights and budding antiwar movements. At one point, she helped lead a fast to raise money for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Ms. Thom never married, and her friends said her true love was her motorcycle, a 1996 Honda Magna 750. On it, she zipped around town — to dinners in the West Village, feminist talks, and back home to her apartment on the Upper West Side.

On Friday, she was riding on the Saw Mill River Parkway shortly after 4 p.m. when she hit a car, throwing her onto the road, Westchester County police said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Ms. Thom leaves a sister, Susan Thom Loubet of Albuquerque .

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