(both 1898 to 1989)
Claims to fame: Co-editors of Ladies’ Home Journal for nearly three decades.
Quote: “An editor must follow his own instinct, his own inner voice. If he begins taking opinions from others, opinions which don’t agree with his own, he’s a rudderless ship.”
Another quote: “As in most worthwhile jobs, much of editing is sheer drudgery.”
(Both quotes, apparently written by Bruce, come from their joint 1968 memoir, “American Story.”)
Lives in 500 words or less: Unlike their contemporaries DeWitt and Lila Acheson Wallace of Reader’s Digest fame, the Goulds were hired hands rather than owners and very much an editorial team. Before becoming co-editors of the Ladies’ Home Journal, they not only wrote magazine articles together, but a pair of plays and also a screenplay.
When they were named “equal” editors of the magazine in 1935 (he at a salary of $20,000, she at $5,000, of course), the Journal was in a slump, widely referred to as the Old Ladies Journal. As has since become standard operating procedure for remaking magazines, they started by sprucing up its look, then moved more deeply into content.
Reading through the inventory they had inherited from their predecessor, the Goulds decided to junk $380,000 worth of manuscripts plus another $170,000 in illustrations. (Those of us who have edited magazines in recent times are apt to find this doubly astounding, first for the money involved--and remember, we’re talking 1935 dollars--and simply that any magazine could build an inventory that big when most of us struggle to have even an article or two in the bank.)
Though the Goulds generally had the support of their powerful boss, George Horace Lorimer, their innovations faced opposition at every turn from the business side, as they later told the tale. Further complicating matters, the Journal was overshadowed by the larger and far more successful Saturday Evening Post, then the company’s flagship publication. When the Goulds bought serial rights to Eleanor Roosevelt’s memoirs, for example, they were considered traitors by their colleagues at the fervently anti-Roosevelt Post.
In 1942, the then-editor of the Post has the poor judgment to title an article “What’s Wrong With the Jews?” and Bruce was offered that job. Ultimately he turned it down, in part because Beatrice didn’t want to be either co-editor of the Post or sole editor of the Journal.
The Goulds remained at the Journal until 1962, a remarkable run of 27 years. In all, they seem to have enjoyed it. One chapter of their joint memoir, in fact, is called “Why Editing Is Fun.”
Lenore Hershey, a later editor of the Journal, recalled in her own autobiography, “Between the Covers: One Lady’s Own Journal” (Coward-McCann, 1983), that as a young girl reading the magazine she marveled at the Goulds’ lives: “They were always so sure, so joyous, so firm in their opinions about everything… Others at my age ached to be movie stars. To me, the Goulds had the ultimate mix of work and adventure.”
Beatrice Gould died at age 90, Bruce eight months later at 91.
For more: The Goulds are largely forgotten now and not much has been written about them, compared with other major-magazine editors of their day. Their memoir, “American Story” (Harper & Row, 1968), is long out of print but worth picking up if you see it. A little heavy on name-dropping (particularly of British royals the Iowa-born pair seem to have been enamored of), it's also full of contemporary magazine lore. -- Greg Daugherty, 10/08