~~March 25, 2014~~
Gloria Marie Steinem (born March 25, 1934) is an American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader of, and media spokeswoman for, the women’s liberation movement in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. A prominent writer and key counterculture era political figure, Steinem has founded many organizations and projects and has been the recipient of many awards and honors. She was a columnist for New York magazine and co-founded Ms. magazine.
In 1969, she published an article, “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation“, which, along with her early support of abortion rights, catapulted her to national fame as a feminist leader.
In 2005, Steinem worked alongside Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan to co-found the Women’s Media Center, an organization that works to amplify the voices of women in the media through advocacy, media and leadership training, and the creation of original content. Steinem currently serves on the board of the organization. She continues to involve herself in politics and media affairs as a commentator, writer, lecturer, and organizer, campaigning for candidates and reforms and publishing books and articles.
Steinem at a news conference, Women’s Action Alliance, January 12, 1972
|Born||Gloria Marie Steinem
March 25, 1934
Toledo, Ohio, USA
|Residence||New York City|
|Education||Waite High School|
|Alma mater||Smith College|
|Occupation||Writer and journalist for Ms. andNew York magazines|
Board member of
|Women’s Media Center|
(2000–2003; his death)
|Family||Christian Bale (stepson)|
Steinem was born in Toledo, Ohio, on March 25, 1934. Her mother, Ruth (née Nuneviller), was a Presbyterian of Scottish and German descent, and her father, Leo Steinem, was the son of Jewish immigrants from Germany and Poland. The Steinems lived and traveled about in the trailer from which Leo carried out his trade as a traveling antiques dealer.
When Steinem was three years old, her mother Ruth, then aged 34, had a “nervous breakdown” that left her an invalid, trapped in delusional fantasies that occasionally turned violent. She changed “from an energetic, fun-loving, book-loving” woman into “someone who was afraid to be alone, who could not hang on to reality long enough to hold a job, and who could rarely concentrate enough to read a book.” Ruth spent long periods in and out of sanatoriums for the mentally disabled. Steinem was ten years old when her parents finally separated in 1944. Her father went to California to find work, while she and her mother continued to live together in Toledo.
While her parents divorced as a result of her mother’s illness, it was not a result of chauvinism on the father’s part, and Steinem claims to have “understood and never blamed him for the breakup.” Nevertheless, the impact of these events had a formative effect on her personality: while her father, a traveling salesman, had never provided much financial stability to the family, his exit aggravated their situation.
Steinem interpreted her mother’s inability to hold on to a job as evidence of general hostility towards working women. She also interpreted the general apathy of doctors towards her mother as emerging from a similar anti-woman animus.
Years later, Steinem described her mother’s experiences as having been pivotal to her understanding of social injustices. These perspectives convinced Steinem that women lacked social and political equality.
Steinem attended Waite High School in Toledo and Western High School in Washington, D.C., from which she graduated. She then attended Smith College, an institution with which she continues to remain engaged, and from which she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. In the late 1950’s, Steinem spent two years in India as a Chester Bowles Asian Fellow. After returning to the U.S., she served as director of the Independent Research Service, an organization funded in secret by a donor which turned out to be the CIA. She worked to send non-Communist American students to the 1959 World Youth Festival. In 1960, she was hired by Warren Publishing as the first employee of Help! magazine.
~~Political awakening and activism~~
Steinem actively campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment, in addition to other laws and social reforms that promoted equality between women and men, helping to strike down many long-standing sex discriminatory laws, such as those that gave men superior rights in marriage and denied women equal economic opportunities. She testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1970. She also founded and co-founded many groups, including the Women’s Action Alliance, on which she served as chair of the board throughout the 1970s; the NWPC, the Coalition of Labor Union Women; the Ms. Foundation for Women; Choice USA; and Women’s Media Center. From 1971 to 1975, she served on the Advisory Board of the Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective—one of the first NYC public based feminist theater groups.
In 1968, she signed the “War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.
After conducting a series of celebrity interviews, Steinem eventually got a political assignment covering George McGovern‘s presidential campaign. In 1969, she published an article, “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation” which, along with her early support of abortion rights, catapulted her to national fame as a feminist leader. Steinem brought other notable feminists to the fore and toured the country with lawyer Florynce Rae “Flo” Kennedy, child-welfare pioneer Dorothy Pitman Hughes, and National Black Feminist Organization founder Margaret Sloan-Hunter.
In 1970 Gloria Steinem established herself as a leader of the Women’s Movement with her impassioned Senate testimony in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment and her essay on a utopia of equality, “What It Would Be Like If Women Win“, in Time magazine. While Steinem would clash with both the older generation of women’s rights leaders, most prominently Betty Friedan, as well as the younger, more militant Women’s Liberation activists, she would gain a large, diverse, and multi-partisan following and become, alongside Friedan, the Women’s Rights Movement’s most prominent and influential spokesperson and leader.
In 1970 she led the New York City march of the nation-wide Women’s Strike for Equality alongside Friedan and then-Congressional candidate Bella Abzug. By then an icon of the Feminist Movement, Steinem frequently appeared on news shows, television talk shows and specials, and on the covers of newspapers and magazines such as Newsweek, Time, McCall’s, People, New Woman, Ms., and Parade. In the early 1970s, with Canadian broadcaster Patrick Watson, she co-hosted a celebrity interview series, Face To Face To Face on the newly founded Global Television Network in Canada.
On July 10, 1971, Steinem, along with other feminist leaders (including Betty Friedan, Fannie Lou Hamer, Myrlie Evers, and several U.S. Representatives, including Shirley Chisholm and Bella Abzug) founded the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC). An influential co-convener of the Caucus, she delivered her memorable “Address to the Women of America“:
“This is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race because they are easy and visible differences have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labor on which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned.
We are really talking about humanism.“
“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men,” Gloria taught us. The work of feminism goes on because Gloria’s voice continues to resonate across the world. The woman whose words changed the trajectory of my life at 17 continues to speak to me and millions more. “Whatever the question,” Gloria said recently, “women are part of the answer.”