Barbara J. Litrell, editor of women’s magazines focused not on hair and makeup but on women’s contributions to the workforce, died July 4 at her home in Cottonwood, Arizona. She was 77 years old.
Her husband, Michael Litrell, said the cause was complications from breast cancer.
Ms Litrell became editor of McCall’s, then owned by the New York Times Company, in 1991. Kate White, who was editor-in-chief during Ms Litrell’s tenure there, recalled her as being relentlessly positive.
“When we weren’t getting some advertising business,” Ms. White recalls, “she would say to the person, ‘Tell me what we need to do next time to make it happen. Litrell, she said, was “on fire with the idea of helping women and empowering them.”
Ms. Litrell became editor of Working Mother and Working Woman. She became president of the magazine’s parent company, MacDonald Communications Corporation, in 1999.
A press release announcing her appointment said that under her leadership, advertising pages in 1999 grew by more than 15 percent for Working Woman and about 25 percent for Working Mother.
Ms. Litrell flourished at the height of a print media that was not always friendly to women. Women editors and executives were often siled in areas of fashion or subjects of human interest.
Working Woman and Working Mother took a different approach, focusing on the role of women as active participants in the workplace. This corresponded to a shift in the cultural ideal of women from the domestic sphere to the public sphere, said Noliwe Rooks, a professor at Brown University who studies the history of women’s magazines.
This change raised the question, Dr Rooks said, of “How do we retain gender cues and femininity and what is being challenged?” There was, she added, “a whole series of women’s magazines that pick up on this.”
Under Ms. Litrell’s direction, Working Mother has published articles on topics such as the lives of female breadwinners (“Don’t Call Him Mr. Mom” from 1999), investment advice (“Maximize Your 401 (k) “, from 1998) and child care (” A New Twist on Tears “, from 1999).
Barbara Jean Gallichio was born on February 4, 1944 in Manhattan to Rocco and Genevieve (Plish) Gallichio. Her mother was a housewife and her father worked as a shoemaker.
She grew up in the Bronx and attended Preston High School, a Catholic school for girls there, and Good Counsel College, in White Plains, NY. After graduating in French in 1965, she worked for seven years as a Frenchwoman. teacher.
She married Mr. Litrell, an accountant at Cablevision, in 1972. With him, she is survived by a brother, James Gallichio.
Ms. Litrell joined The Times’ advertising department in 1972. She began by working on the telephone and gradually worked her way up the ranks, becoming Marketing Director of The New York Times Magazine in 1987 and Group Sales Director of The Times in 1989.
She retired in 2000 and two years later moved with her husband to Sedona, Arizona. They wanted, she wrote in an obituary she had prepared, to play golf every day.
While in Arizona, Ms. Litrell became involved in local politics and was elected to city council in 2010. She served for four years.
She also became a real estate agent and was active in many community organizations. Tommy Acosta, a friend, described her as “an NBL, a born leader”.
Ms. Litrell continued to speak out on women’s issues. In a letter to the editor published in 2017 on azcentral.com, the digital home of The Arizona Republic, she argued that women senators could make more progress than men on health care legislation.
“I bet 21 women senators can do what 13 men behind closed doors cannot,” she wrote.