“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. – Gloria Steinem
Best known as one of America’s leading feminists and founder of Ms. Magazine. Let’s take a quick look behind the scenes to see how she got to where she is
The Foundation is Laid
Born in Toledo, Ohio in 1934 Gloria Steinem could probably be considered as a child of poverty. Her father made his living as a traveling antique dealer her mother found employment at a local newspaper. At the age of 8, her parents made the decision to divorce. This event would have a lasting impact on her and was one of the early events that shaped her life. Soon after they divorced, her mother began suffering from bouts of depression. As the condition worsened, Gloria was forced to withdraw from school and tend to her mother on a full time basis. When she turned 15, the depression had afflicted her mother to such a degree that she was incapacitated and required hospitalization. With nowhere to turn Gloria headed for Washington D.C. where she took up residence with her sister. Always intelligent and avid reader, she enrolled at Smith College and was accepted. Another event that would later her shape her life soon occurred, While at Smith College, she became pregnant and had to go overseas to get an abortion since the procedure was illegal in the United States. She returned to Smith College and graduated 1956 (Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude). Her efforts were rewarded when she was granted a fellowship in India for two years.
The Seeds are Sewn
While she was working in India, she began to notice the disparity in the different standards of living
among the population. She also took notice on the amount of suffering that the poor in general, and women in particular, had to endure. She began to question her own value system
and openly wondered how Americans could take this situation for granted. In fact, she had this to say, "America is an enormous frosted cupcake
in the middle of millions of starving people."
A Feminist is Born
Upon her return to the States in 1959, she began looking for work as a journalist. She thought it was strange that no quality positions were available for women. What really got her juices flowing and can be considered the trigger for her activism can best be summed up by the following event.
The topic of abortion, a topic she was familiar with, was being debated in the State of New York Legislature. As governments so often do, the powers in charge appointed a commission to study the subject. In this case, the commission was comprised of fourteen middle aged men and (believe it or not) a nun. What their credentials were or why they were selected, I’ll never know. Gloria was now officially pissed and soon began to make her way on the speaking circuit. It was during these speaking engagements that she brought to light the feminist’s cause. Not wanting to confine the issue to the white middle class, she often brought along minorities to alter that perception.
While We’re At It
It was probably a natural progression but as she continued to work on behalf of feminist causes, Gloria noticed some other things the country needed changing. She became an active participant in the civil rights movement and appeared a various peace demonstrations in protest of the Vietnam War. She was also on the Committee for the Legal Defense of Angela Davis and became active in support of Cesar Chavez and the plight of the United Farm Workers. She also began to dabble in the world of politics and worked on the campaigns of Adlai Stevenson, Robert Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy, Shirley Chisholm and George McGovern.
The World of Publishing
In 1972, with the support of an organization called the Women's Action Alliance, she founded her eventual claim to fame. Ms. Magazine made its debut.. It was the first magazine entirely dedicated to the cause of feminism.. The initial issue sold out and within five years circulation topped over a half a million. In her role as acting editor, she gained national attention as a spokesperson for both women's rights and liberal causes. Eventually she was forced to sell the magazine because of the demands of advertisers over content. It was resurrected in 1990 sans advertising and Steinem was named as consulting editor.
During her heyday, Gloria Steinem was one of the most recognized public figures in America. Despite being neither a politician, television or movie star, sports figure or rock star, she nonetheless made a huge impact on America. She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993. In 1998 she was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame, ironically, the same year that Hugh Hefner was also inducted.
For more information and insights into Gloria Steinem one might want to read her 1983 book "Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions.