Gloria Steinem is arguably one of the most interesting and famous feminists ever to live, and certainly one of the most important feminists of the movement in the 1960s and 1970s. She was not only a feminist, but also a political activist and journalist. She founded many organizations for the advancement of women's rights, and still fights for women's rights in many unexpected places. Her life and her entrance into feminism is fascinating, and she was recently the subject of an HBO documentary titled Gloria Steinem: In Her Own Words.
Gloria Steinem was born on March 25, 1934 in Toledo, Ohio. When she was ten years old, her parents divorced because her mother, Ruth, had what they called a "nervous breakdown." She spent periods of time in sanatoriums, and Steinem says she couldn't be left alone for very long. As she was growing up, Steinem says that she saw her mother's inability to hold a job and doctors' lack of caring for her condition as a general hostility towards women that the society held at the time. Steinem eventually grew up to attend Smith College, a private women's liberal arts college, and she started her career as a journalist in 1960 with Help! magazine.
Feminism and Journalism
Though she wrote an article for Esquire magazine in 1962 about contraception, in which she argued women were essentially forced to choose between a career or marriage, her real entrance into feminism was an undercover look at the Playboy Club in 1963, in which Steinem got a job as a Playboy Bunny and wrote about how the women were treated in the Club. The article ran in Huntington Hartford's Show magazine, and for a time afterward, she was unable to get journalism jobs elsewhere due to the controversial nature of the topic. However, in 1972, she founded Ms. magazine, which is still in publication today. Ms. is a feminist magazine, and was eventually sold in 1987, and came to be owned by the Feminist Majority Foundation in 2001, though Steinem still serves on the advisory board.
Aside from starting magazines and writing articles about feminism, Steinem worked actively to support the Equal Rights Amendment, an amendment to ensure women would have equal rights in all aspects of the law. It was first written by Alice Paul in 1923, but Steinem campaigned for it again in 1972, during which it passed both houses of Congress but was never ratified. Steinem also formed many political groups that served to fight for women's rights.
Where is She Now?
Steinem is still a major part of feminist activism. Although women have made huge gains as far as freedom to choose their career and their partners, she still believes there is much work to be done. In 2005, she, along with Robin Morgan and Jane Fonda, worked to found the Women's Media Center, which is an organization dedicated to getting more women voices in the media. She also continues to take positions on many feminist issues, such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and feminist theory, among others. Steinem also actively endorsed Senator Clinton in her run for president in 2008, though she did support President Obama, as well. She created waves that same year when she said in an op-ed for the New York Times that gender rather than race is "probably the most restricting force in American life." She was attacked for this on many levels. Most recently, she starred in her own documentary on HBO, in which she talked about her life and activism.