Gloria Steinem was one of the most prominent faces of the feminist movement in the 1960s and 70s. Steinem used her skills as a journalist to inform and influence public opinion about the need for “women’s liberation,” a movement that advocated equality among men and women.
Steinem’s difficult upbringing helped her build the tools that made her an effective activist. Steinem was born in Ohio in 1934. Her parents and older sister Susanne lived in a mobile home and her father made a living by driving it around the country selling antiques. Her mother suffered from severe mental illness and the girls helped to care for her. When Steinem was 10 years old, her parents divorced and her father moved away. Gloria spent her adolescence shuttling between her mother’s house in Toledo and her sister’s in Washington, D.C., where she finished high school. While Steinem’s young life was full of struggle, fortitude and feminism were certainly in her blood. Her grandmother Pauline Steinem was a Jewish immigrant from Poland and a well-known suffragist who rescued many family members from the Holocaust.
Like her sister, Gloria attended Smith, the world-renowned women’s college, majoring in government and graduating with honors in 1956. A two-year fellowship took her to India, where she became interested in Gandhi and grassroots activism. Back in the U.S., she graduated with a doctorate in Human Justice at Boston’s Simmons College before moving to New York City to work as a freelance journalist.
Steinem gained notoriety in the early 1960s by writing about “the contraceptive revolution” for Esquire magazine and going undercover as a Playboy Bunny to write an exposé about their poor working conditions and sexual exploitation.
After building a career as a journalist, Steinem went on to start her own publications. In 1968, she cofounded New York Magazine and three years later cofounded the activist women’s magazine Ms. In 1973, she founded the Ms. Foundation for Women.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Gloria Steinem’s activism and influence kept her at the forefront of the women’s movement. She added “organizer” to her many roles when she cofounded the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971, and later several other organizations in the U.S. and abroad. Meanwhile, Steinem led protest marches and published several best-selling books, including “Revolution from Within.” Her seventh book, “ The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off,” was published in 2019. Now in her mid-80s, Gloria continues to dedicate her life to women’s rights.