Ky. woman was 50, bored when she started Skirt!

Nikki Hardin says if her career was seen as a road under construction, you'd see lots of detours, exit ramps and dead ends.

In 1994, the Kentucky native was a 50-year-old freelance writer with no money and bored with life in Charleston, S.C.

Hardin dreamed of starting a liberal women's magazine, but lacked the business skills. That year, against improbable odds, she launched Skirt!, a monthly publication for women about their work, families, health and recreation. Now owned by Morris Publishing Company, Skirt! is licensed locally by the Lexington Herald-Leader and distributed in eight Central Kentucky counties. Hardin remains publisher.

She will speak Tuesday at the Wyatt Women's Network Series at the Kentucky Theatre. Reached at her office last week, Hardin talked about the magazine and her Kentucky visit.

Question: When I think of cities likely to support a liberal women's magazine, Charleston is not the first that pops into my mind. Was it a challenge?

Answer: ”Yes, in 1994, it was highly conservative. It was around the time Shannon Faulkner was trying to enter The Citadel as the first woman cadet. Tension was high. People didn't understand what Skirt! was, especially men. It was like, "Why do women need their own magazine?' I'd say, "You have your own publication; it's called the daily paper.' There was nothing in there I wanted to read.“

Q: What issues concern women right now?

A: ”There is a lot of misunderstanding between women — whether to stay at home with your children or whether you work. Most women don't even have that choice. But it worries me that there's a lot of animosity between women on this issue.“

Q: Was it a difficult decision to sell Skirt!?

A: ”It was huge. It was heart-rending ... These people approached me, and they made such an incredible offer. I really wrestled with it, but I really felt I didn't have a choice.“

Q: After your speech in Lexington, I'm told you're taking a personal detour.

A: ”I'm going to try to find my grandparents' house in Ruddles Mill (Bourbon County). I spent every summer with them. My grandfather was a sharecropper. It's been such a long time since I was there. It's going to be eerie.“