Friday was Gloria’s 77th birthday, so happy belated birthday Ms. Steinem!
Gloria Steinem—Feminist, Activist, Writer
Gloria Steinem is an activist, writer and journalist. She became one of the most prominent feminists in the 1970s when she cofounded Ms. Magazine and the National Women’s Political Caucus and delivered “An Address to the Women of America.”
Steinem graduated from Smith College in 1956 and went to India on a scholarship where she wrote newspaper articles and a guide book. In 1958, she moved to New York and began her career as a freelance journalist and feminist activist(1).
In 1971, she joined with Representatives Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm, along with other activists, to create the National Women’s Political Caucus. The founders wanted to increase the number of women involved in public and political life. When they began in 1971, women made up only 4 percent of state legislators(2) and there were only 11 women in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives combined. Today, women make up 24 percent of state legislatures(3) and there are 17 women in the Senate and more than 70 in the House(4). [Editor’s note: these stats were current when this was originally written. Women are now 16 percent of the voting members of Congress and 23 percent of state legislators.]
Also in 1971, Steinem cofounded Ms. Magazine, the first national publication created by women and geared toward women readers5. At a time when women’s magazines were limited to cosmetics and childrearing, Ms. was revolutionary. It was the first American magazine to explain and advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment, rate presidential candidates on women’s issues, run a cover story in a women’s magazine on domestic violence and sexual harassment and commission and feature a national study on date rape(6).
At 77, Steinem is still active and engaged in various movements, though as she told Oprah Winfrey, what she most wants to do now is stay home and write(7). Her most recent book, Doing Sixty and Seventy, is about age discrimination and stereotypes.
1. “Gloria Steinem Biography.” Biography.com.
2. Lunardini, Christine. “1971: The National Women’s Political Caucus is Founded” in What Every American Should Know about Women’s History. Pp. 326-327. Avon, Massachusetts: Adams Media Corporation, 1997.
3. “Women in State Legislatures: 2009 Legislative Session.” National Conference of State Legislatures.
4: “Historical Data.” Women in Congress.
5: Lunardini, Christine. “1971: Ms. Magazine is Founded” in What Every American Should Know about Women’s History. Pp. 324-326. Avon, Massachusetts: Adams Media Corporation, 1997.
6: “HerStory: 1971 — Present.” Ms. Magazine.
7: Fry, Elizabeth. “Maria Shriver, Gloria Steinem and Billy Jean King – Show Recap.” About.com.
Photo from Boise State
To learn more:
Steinem, Gloria. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. New York: New American Library, 1983.
Heilbrun, Carolyn. The Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem. New York: Ballantine Books, 1996.
Also check out Shelby Knox’s piece On her 77th Birthday, 7 Things I’ve Learned from Gloria Steinem