A Guide to the Grace Mirabella Cahan Papers, 1948-2000
Born in 1929, in New Jersey, Grace Mirabella worked in publishing as an editor-in-chief for both Vogue and Mirabella Magazines. From 1946 to 1950, she attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, receiving a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics with honors. Mirabella began her rise into the world of fashion working for Macy’s Department Store in New York City from 1950 to 1951. In 1951 she moved to Saks 5th Avenue Department Store as the Assistant to the Sales Promotion Director. Mirabella joined Vogue Magazine in 1952, serving in various positions during her decades-long relationship with the magazine. From 1952 until 1964, she worked in the Merchandising, Shopping, Fashion, and Marketing departments, taking a brief leave of absence in 1954 to assist the Italian company, Simonetta and Fabiani Couture, with public relations. She became an associate editor for Vogue in 1964 and an editor in 1971. In 1972, Mirabella was appointed editor-in-chief of Vogue, a position she held for sixteen years. While editor-in-chief, she focused on wearable fashions for women in the workplace and championed the anti-smoking movement.
S. I. Newhouse, owner of Condé Nast Publications, fired Mirabella in 1988, replacing her with Anna Wintour. In response, Mirabella partnered with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, a rival of Condé Nast, to launch the eponymous magazine, Mirabella, in 1989. Though critics praised Mirabella for its style and focus on health, the magazine had trouble making money. In 1995, Murdoch sold Mirabella to Hachette Filipacci Magazines. While Mirabella perceived many of Mirabella’s problems, she did not agree with the harsh opinions of Hachette Filipacci’s president, David Pecker, and left the magazine before it folded in 2000.
In November 1974, Mirabella married William G. Cahan, an attending surgeon at the Sloan Kettering Memorial Center and Professor of Surgery at Cornell University Medical College. He and his wife shared an interest in health issues, especially the effects of passive smoking. Mirabella’s work in the magazine industry, particularly in Mirabella, reflected this interest, taking a hard line on tobacco companies and passive smoking.
Honors bestowed upon Mirabella include Who’s Who, The Best Dressed List Hall of Fame, Orders of both Cavalier and Officer from the Republic of Italy, and membership on the Advisory Board of Leeds Castle in London, England. Furthermore, she spoke at the World Economic Development Congress in 1993 and received the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion in 1995.
Correspondence, creative works, printed material, financial and legal records, press releases, videocassettes, audiocassettes, photographs, and newspaper clippings comprise the Grace Mirabella Cahan Papers, 1948-2000, and document Grace Mirabella’s publishing career, personal life, and interest in the effects of passive smoking. The bulk of the collection consists of material related to her magazine, Mirabella, specifically the magazine’s launch and focus on women’s health. The material documents managerial and design decisions at Mirabella as well as logistics associated with the launch. Additionally, the collection contains the premiere issues of Mirabella and Mirabella UK.
The papers also detail Mirabella’s career at Vogue, primarily her tenure as editor-in-chief, including her correspondence, TV appearances, printed material, and awards. Notable people featured in her publishing records include S.I. Newhouse, Jr., Anna Wintour, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Liz Smith, Karl Lagerfeld, Emanuel Ungaro, Yves Saint Laurent, and Ann Landers. Furthermore, the material concerns her anti-smoking interests, a trip to China in 1979, and her dismissal from Vogue in 1988. The collection also contains her personal papers, which document her personal life; relationship with her husband, Dr. William Cahan; and her numerous awards, accolades, and accomplishments.
This collection is open for research use.
Grace Mirabella Cahan Papers, 1948-2000, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s “History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light project,” 2009-2011.
This collection is unprocessed.
Detailed Description of the Papers