Gloria Steinem

On this date in 1934, feminist leader and journalist Gloria Steinem was born in Toledo, Ohio, to Leo and Ruth (Nuneviller) Steinem.. At the age of 10, her father abandoned the family, leaving Gloria alone to care for her mother, who was dysfunctional from depression. She went to school as possible, tap-danced in talent contests, and mothered her severely ill mother. The difficulty of her struggles was poignantly revealed in an anecdote in later memoirs, of how she waited until all the dishes were dirty, then washed them in the bathtub. Escaping into books and the movies, she was popular with classmates and managed to do well in school. In 1951, she was finally rescued when her older sister invited her to move to Washington, D.C., and complete her high school education. Steinem was accepted by Smith College, where she first started to write, and graduated magna cum laude in 1956.

The recipient of a two-year grant to India, she discovered that she was pregnant. During a stopover in England en route to India and facing a desperate crossroads, Steinem managed to arrange an abortion. She was later on the vanguard calling for legalized abortion. Steinem moved in 1960 to New York City to start a journalism career, where she was met with sexist roadblocks, such as the Life magazine editor who told her: "We don't want a pretty girl. We want a writer." The glamorous writer freelanced herself into New York celebrityhood, working for such venues as the TV news satire, "That Was the Week That Was." But it took her years to be given the political assignments she craved.

In 1969, Steinem wrote her first feminist article. Throughout the next five heady years, she stumped for feminism around the country, becoming the women's movement's best-known, most quotable exponent. She helped found Ms. Magazine in 1971, convinced that freedom would come through "individual women telling the truth." Feminism she defined as "the belief that women are full human beings." In 1972, McCall's magazine named her Woman of the Year. She was instrumental in calling the National Women's Conference in Houston, Texas, in 1977, a landmark gathering. In 1983, her first collection of essays and articles was published, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. She also wrote Marilyn: Norma Jean, a biography of Marilyn Monroe (1986), Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (1992) and Moving Beyond Words (1997). An idea generator and original thinker, Steinem remains one of feminism's most elegant, loyal and thoughtful advocates.

Gage Skidmore photo: Steinem speaking with supporters at the Women Together Summit at the Carpenters Local Union in Phoenix in 2016. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

“It's an incredible con job, when you think of it, to believe something now in exchange for life after death. Even corporations, with all their reward systems, don't try to make it posthumous.”

—Gloria Steinem, interview with Annie Laurie Gaylor, The Feminist Connection, November 1980 (Madison, Wisconsin)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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