Nicola Sturgeon was yesterday among a host of women who condemned a magazine cover showing her and other female politicians peering into a cot with a ballot box inside to illustrate a feature about why so many senior women in politics do not have children.

After the New Statesman cover was released, but before the article was published, Sturgeon tweeted: “Jeezo ... we appear to have woken up in 1965 this morning!” while the Scottish Conservative party leader Ruth Davidson, tweeted: “oh do sod off”.

Other women involved in politics added their voices to the fury.

Jo Swinson, the former Liberal Democrat minister and Scots MP, tweeted: “And why the media only asks women, not men, who are childless about it: excellent example from @NicolaSturgeon.”

Sarah Beattie-Smith, the Greens lead candidate on the south of Scotland listed, wrote: “Oh FFS @NewStatesman Childless men in power = non story. Childless women = oh the shame! #everydaysexism.”

Other women were angry too, pointing out that they are continually defined by whether they had children or not.

Ina Hume tweeted: “I particularly like the use of childless as opposed to childfree. A snide and sexist way of disempowering powerful women.”

In Glasgow, Southsidegrrrl tweeted: “I have a problem with the illustration (but haven’t yet read the article). Staring into an empty crib? Really? (Plus none of us know why any of these women are childless or what their histories are; none of our business.)”

But after the article was released the First Minister praised the “good analysis” within it.

However, she objected to the way she was pictured on the front of the magazine, alongside the Labour leadership contender Liz Kendall, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the Home Secretary, Theresa May, who also do not have children.

The article won praise too though for highlighting the discrepancy between the proportions of male and female MPs who are parents, examining some of the reasons why female MPs in the UK on average have 1.2 children, while their male counterparts have 1.9.

It also cited research by the academics Sarah Childs and Rosie Campbell in 2013, who found 45 per cent of female MPs were childless, compared with 28 per cent of men.

Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman, who wrote the piece, urged people to read it before criticising, while pointing out that it analysed why both motherhood and childlessness caused problems for women in politics.

She later responded to the First Minister, tweeting: “@NicolaSturgeon. Thanks Nicola – I’ll reflect on your criticism of the cover & think about whether it could have been done differently.”

The analysis was published the week after a row erupted when the Labour MP Helen Goodman wrote in a blog that she was backing Yvette Cooper for leader because she was a mother.

Some of those in Kendall’s camp believed this was an attempt to undermine a rival candidate for not being a parent.

Julia Gillard, the former prime minister of Australia, has also spoken recently about the misogynist abuse aimed at her during her time as a politician, when rivals and even some colleagues repeatedly drew attention to the fact she did not have children.

Fraser Nelson, editor of rival publication The Spectator, credited the cover for stirring up interest and predicted the issue would be a big seller.

He tweeted: “Bold, original & provocative @NewStatesman cover this week (ergo causing uproar on Twitter) Suspect it’ll sell v well”.