Gloria Steinem (1934-)
Gloria Steinem, an acclaimed trailblazer for women’s rights, worked as a journalist and activist in the 1960s-70s to headline a movement that became known as “second-wave feminism.” After working for New York magazine, Steinem co-founded Ms. Magazine, a publication dedicated to women’s rights concerns. Steinem continues to work as a writer, touring lecturer and political commentator on progressive social issues.
Steinem was born on March 25, 1934 in Toledo, Ohio where she lived with her parents, Leo and Ruth Steinem. In 1944, her parents divorced, leaving a young Steinem to take care of her mentally ill mother in Toledo. After graduating high school, Steinem attended Smith College in Massachusetts where she studied government. After graduating magna cum laude, Steinem earned the Chester Bowles Fellowship, which sent her to study and research in India. Her time abroad incited an interest in grassroots organization, which would later manifest itself in her work supporting the Equal Rights Amendment.
Steinem started her professional career as a journalist by moving to New York and writing freelance pieces for various publications. She first gained national attention when Show magazine enlisted her to report undercover as a Bunny at the Playboy Club. The expose revealed that contrary to the glamorous image of the Bunny, the waitresses were actually overworked and underpaid. Steinem struggled with her career after this job and found it difficult to be assigned serious political news stories because of her sex. She worked to earn a few reputable profile pieces until 1968, when she landed a job as a founding editor at New York magazine.
At the magazine, Steinem found herself reporting on political campaigns and progressive social issues, including an abortion hearing which influenced Steinem’s own feminist philosophy. She became involved in the women’s movement by attending rallies, protests and sit-ins. In 1971, New York magazine printed the first Ms. Magazine insert, which Steinem co-founded and wrote for when it became an independent, regular circulation in 1972. That same year, she and fellow second-wave feminists such as Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan formed the National Women’s Political Caucus, which supported the changes cited in the Equal Rights Amendment including reproductive freedom and wage disparity between the sexes.
Since her time working for the women’s liberation movement in the 70s, Steinem has co-founded a number of organizations focusing on human rights issues like racial equality and pro-choice activism. In 2004, Steinem co-founded the Women’s Media Center, which aims to promote positive images of women in the media. She has authored four books, including a biography on Marilyn Monroe, and her writing has been published and reprinted in anthologies and textbooks. Currently, she’s working on a book titled Road to the Heart: America As If Everyone Mattered about her travels around the world as a touring lecturer.