A Lady of Letters : The DAR Magazine Redirection

Keyes’ career shifted from that of magazine contributor to magazine editor in September 1937 when she accepted a position as the editor of the Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine, which she soon renamed the Magazine of American History.[1] Keyes was a longtime member of the DAR, as was her mother, Louise Johnson Wheeler. This editorial position was the first time Keyes held what she described as a “time-clock” job and she took it because it presented her with a unique opportunity to craft a magazine in her own image.[2] She intended that the magazine be a bastion of culture and history akin to what the National Geographic was to geography.[3] She envisioned quality fiction to be displayed within the magazine, as well as illustrations and photos. “I wanted to do this through the media of fiction and verse as well as fact and fiction,” she wrote in her inaugural issue, “and there is so much romance and glamour waiting to be dug out of dead archives and made into song and story that is fairly takes my breath away.”[4] In the January 1938 issue, one of the first editions fully reflecting her directional change, the magazine contained a variety of additions, including the first color cover, color plates of the signers of the constitution, an “Editor’s Office” column written by Keyes, fiction, poetry, historical articles and movie reviews.[5] It is clear that Keyes was developing a historically relevant and simultaneously cosmopolitan magazine that focused on informing, educating and empowering its women readers. The costs for the color covers, numerous color plates, writings by high-profile contributors, and other features ended up being expensive for what was before a small journal that mainly highlighted the activities of DAR members. Soon there were rumors that the costs were too high and Keyes would step down as editor.[6]

[1] “Mrs. Keyes Takes Post on Magazine,” Washington Post, 15 September 1937.

[2]  “Mrs. Keyes Takes Post on Magazine,” Washington Post, 15 September 1937.

[3] “Mrs. Reyes Tells D.A.R. Paper Plans,” Washington Post, 13 October 1937.

[4] “D.A.R. Introduces Mrs. Keyes, Editor,” New York Times, 24 October 1937.

[5] "Madame Chairman," Washington Post, 24 December 1937

[6] “National Historical Magazine Shows the Skill of Mrs. Keyes,” Washington Post, 27 November 1937; “D. A. R. National Historical Magazine Changes are Rumored after Officials Meet,” Washington Post, 27 October 1937.