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Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem

The feminist and journalist Gloria Steinem (born 1934) was active in many liberal causes beginning in the mid-1950s and was the first editor of Ms. magazine. She became a leading spokeswoman of the feminist movement and helped shape the debateover women's enfranchisement.

Gloria Steinem was born on March 25, 1934, in Toledo, Ohio. Her father was an antique dealer and her mother was a newspaperwoman. She was the granddaughter of the noted suffragette, Pauline Steinem. Given her family's background, it was not surprising that she became a feminist and a journalist. But her life followed a winding path which began in her youth, when she travelled around the country with her parents in a trailer.

When she was only 8 years old her parents divorced, leaving Steinem to live the next several years with her mother in bitter poverty. Her mother suffered from depression so severe that she eventually became incapacitated, required young Steinem to care for her. At the age of 15 she went to live with her sister, ten years her senior, in Washington, D.C., and from there she entered Smith College. When she graduated from Smith in 1956 (Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude), she won a fellowship to study in India for two years.

Steinem's experience in India broadened her horizons and made her aware of the extent of human suffering in the world. She realized for the first time the high standard of living most Americans take for granted was not available to all. She commented at the time that "America is an enormous frosted cupcake in the middle of millions of starving people." She returned with a strong sense of social injustice and embarked on her career as a journalist.

In 1960 she moved to New York and began writing freelance articles for popular magazines. She also did some script writing for the popular television show That Was the Week That Was.

One of her first major assignments in investigative journalism was a two-part series for Show magazine on the working conditions of Playboy bunnies. In order to do research for the article, Steinem applied for a job as a Playboy bunny and was hired. She held the position for three weeks in order to do research. The articles that she wrote as a result of her experience exposed the poor working conditions and meager wages of the women who worked long hours in the lavish clubs where rich men spent their leisure time. Years later, in 1970, she published a lengthy interview with Hugh Hefner, founder and editor of Playboymagazine. In that dialogue Steinem debated Hefner on issues such as women's rights, the "sexual revolution," consumerism, and the "Playboy philosophy."

In 1968 Steinem joined the founding staff of New York magazine and became a contributing editor. She established a column, "The City Politic," and wrote in support of causes on the American left. During these years Steinem moved into politics more directly, working for Democratic candidates such as Norman Mailer, John Lindsay, Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy, and later George McGovern. She also worked with Cesar Chavez in his efforts on behalf of the United Farm Workers.

Steinem's feminist concerns were first sparked when she went to a meeting of the Redstockings, a New York women's liberation group. Although she went as a journalist with the intention of writing a story about the group, she found herself deeply moved by the stories the women told, particularly of the dangers of illegal abortions.

Gloria Steinem's commitment to the political causes of the New Left provided a natural path into her later career as a feminist leader. During the years she spent establishing herself as a journalist she was deeply involved in the political movements that were stirring thousands of her generation to action. The civil rights movement and the movement against the Vietnam War involved young women as well as men who dedicated themselves to building a future based on racial justice and peace. Out of these movements sprang the rebirth of feminism, which had remained dormant for several decades. Women discovered their organizing skills in the process of participating in the political left during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and by the late 1960s they began mobilizing on their own behalf. The new movement for women's liberation began at the grass roots level and swelled to mass proportions within a few short years.

By the late 1960s Steinem had gained national attention as an outspoken leader of the women's liberation movement, which continued to grow and gain strength. In 1971 she joined Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, and Betty Friedan to form the National Women's Political Caucus, encouraging women's participation in the 1972 election. Steinem herself was active in the National Democratic Party Convention in Miami that year, fighting for an abortion plank in the party platform and challenging the seating of delegations that included mostly white males. Those efforts drew attention to the issue of underrepresentation of women in politics and the centrality of political issues for women's lives.

In that same year of 1972 Steinem, as part of the Women's Action Alliance, gained funding for the first mass circulation feminist magazine, Ms. The preview issue sold out, and within five years Ms. had a circulation of 500,000. As editor of the magazine Steinem gained national attention as a feminist leader and became an influential spokeswoman for women's rights issues.

Steinem's editorship of Ms. did not prevent her from continuing her active political life. In 1975 she helped plan the women's agenda for the Democratic National Convention, and she continued to exert pressure on liberal politicians on behalf of women's concerns. In 1977 Steinem participated in the National Conference of Women in Houston, Texas. The conference was the first of its kind and served to publicize the number of feminist issues and draw attention to women's rights leaders.

Steinem continued to speak and write extensively. In 1983 she published her first book, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. The book included her recollections of the past, such as her experience as a Playboy bunny, and also highlighted the lives of other notable 20th-century women. In 1986 she published Marilyn: Norma Jean, a sympathetic biography of the unhappy life of the film star whom she knew personally. In her books Steinem argued for the causes that occupied her energies for two decades. She continued to call for an end to women's disadvantaged condition in the paid labor force, for the elimination of sexual exploitation, and for the achievement of true equality of the sexes.

Revolution From Within: A Book of Self-Esteem was published in 1992, in which Steinem attempted to provide "… a portable friend. It's self-help and inspiration, with examples of what some people have done and a glimpse of the extraordinary potential of the unexplored powers of the brain and how much our ideas of reality become reality." In 1994, Steinem published another book, Moving Beyond Words, wherein her views on publishing, society and advertising were expressed.

In 1997, Steinem spoke out against the movie The People vs. Larry Flyntin a New York Times editorial (January 7, 1997). She has also been the subject of an A&E Biography (television show) profile.

Further Reading

Numerous articles have been written and interviews published with Gloria Steinem from the mid-1960s into the 1980s. Her own book Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983) was a good starting point for information concerning her life and her beliefs. She has also been featured extensively in magazines such as Cosmopolitan (July 1990); Time (March 9, 1992); Progressive (June 1995; and Mother Jones (November 1995). She was listed in Political Profiles, Vol. 5: The Nixon/ Ford Years (1979).

See also these selections written by Gloria Steinem: A Thousand Indias (1957); Marilyn: Norma Jean (1986); Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (Little, Brown, 1992); and Moving Beyond Words (Simon & Schuster, 1994) □

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Steinem, Gloria

STEINEM, GLORIA

Gloria Steinem is one of the most important feminist writers and organizers of the late twentieth century. Since the 1960s, Steinem has been a political activist and organizer who has urged equal opportunity for women and the breaking down of gender roles. As a writer she has produced influential essays about the need for social and cultural change.

Steinem was born on March 25, 1934, in Toledo, Ohio. Her parents divorced when she was 11 years old. Steinem enrolled at Smith College in 1952 and graduated in 1956. After graduation she went to India to study at the universities of Delhi and Calcutta. It was there that she began publishing freelance articles in newspapers.

In the 1960s, Steinem continued to pursue a writing career, working first for a political satire magazine in New York. Her breakthrough came in 1963 with the publication of her article "I Was a Playboy Bunny," which retold her experiences working in the Manhattan Playboy Club. For the next few years, her articles appeared in many national women's magazines. Steinem also wrote comedy scripts for a weekly political satire television show, That Was the Week That Was.

Her attention shifted to politics in 1968 when Steinem began writing a column for New York magazine. During the late 1960s, the "women's liberation movement" began and Steinem soon became a leading supporter of the movement. In 1971 she, along with betty friedan, bella abzug, and shirley chisholm,

founded the National Women's Political Caucus. The mission of the caucus was to identify and encourage women to run for political office.

In 1972, Steinem founded and served as editor of Ms. magazine. Ms. addressed feminist issues, including reproductive rights, employment discrimination, sexuality, and gender roles. The magazine presented Steinem with a platform to air her views about the contemporary social scene. That same year Steinem was one of the cofounders of the Ms. Foundation for Women, a nonprofit organization that pioneered the concept of giving money to programs that addressed the specific concerns of women. At that time less than one percent of foundation grants were given to programs that supported women's issues such as domestic violence, female-friendly legislation, and economic disparities.

Since the 1970s, Steinem has been a spokesperson for many feminist causes. She has sought to protect abortion rights, establish rape crisis centers, and guarantee work environments free from sexual discrimination. Steinem has distinguished between "erotica" and pornography, believing that nonviolent sexual material is acceptable but pornography should be banned. More radical feminists have criticized Steinem for these and other positions, arguing that she seeks legal changes that falsely promise equal opportunity and fair treatment.

Despite these criticisms, Steinem has remained a popular public figure, traveling across the United States and worldwide, and lecturing to packed audiences. In addition, she is a prolific writer, regularly contributing articles to magazines and newspapers; she also provides political commentary on television, radio, and the internet. A collection of her articles and essays, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, was published in 1983. In 1986, she published Marilyn, a biography of film star Marilyn Monroe retold from a feminist perspective. In Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (1992), Steinem looked inward, discussing ways that women could empower themselves. And, in 1994, she wrote Moving Beyond Words, a collection of essays on the politics of gender.

In addition to her numerous awards and honorary degrees, in 1993, Steinem was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. In 2000, she astonished observers by getting married at the age of 66 to an entrepreneur she had met at a

"Economic systems are not value-free columns of numbers based on rules of reason, but ways of expressing what varying societies believe is important."
—Gloria Steinem

Voters for Choice (VFC) fundraiser in 1999. Steinem is president of VFC, which is a bipartisan political action committee that supports candidates working for reproductive freedom. In May 2002, Steinem and her supporters celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of Ms. magazine.

further readings

Davis, Flora. 1999. Moving the Mountain: The Women's Movement in America Since 1960. Champaign: Univ. of Illinois Press.

Heilbrun, Carolyn G. 1995. The Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem. New York: Dial Press.

Marcello, Patricia Cronin. 2004. Gloria Steinem: A Biography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press

Stern, Sydney Ladensohn. 1997. Gloria Steinem: Her Passions, Politics, and Mystique. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Pub. Group.

cross-references

Dworkin, Andrea; Feminist Jurisprudence; Ireland, Patricia; MacKinnon, Catharine Alice; Millett, Katherine Murray; Sex Discrimination; Women's Rights.

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Steinem, Gloria

Steinem, Gloria 1934

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Gloria Steinem, a leader in the twentieth-century struggle for womens rights, was born on March 25, 1934, in Toledo, Ohio. Because of her fathers penchant for traveling to warmer climates each winter, Steinem and her sister, Suzanne, had little time for formal schooling. Her mother, who had been educated as a teacher, provided some homeschooling for the girls, long before home-schooling was widely accepted. When Steinem was eleven years old, her parents divorced, and with her older sister away at college, Steinem was left alone to care for her mother, who suffered bouts of deep depression, accompanied by dementia. At seventeen, Steinem went to live with Suzanne in Washington, D.C., where she finished high school and completed her education at Smith College, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1956.

After spending a year in India, Steinem returned to the United States and worked as a public relations officer for a group later associated with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), although she claims to have had no knowledge of the association at that time. She later wrote for Esquire, Glamour, and Show magazines, where her exposé of life as a Playboy bunny earned her not only accolades but also fame. At New York magazine she worked with many of the budding writers of the New Journalism movement, including Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, and Gay Talese.

When the National Organization for Women was founded in 1966, Steinem, like many other women, saw the movement as a vehicle for white, middle-class housewives wanting to achieve independent goals outside traditionally male-controlled marriage. She saw no merit in the movement for herself, a single sophisticate, working in New York. But in 1969, Steinem attended a rally on abortion held by the feminist organization the Red Stockings, and after hearing other women detail the pain and humiliation they had endured, she had an epiphany. She had had an abortion herself and was harshly judged by the medical personnel who attended her procedure. Stories told by the women at the rally were even more horrific and included tales of emotional and physical pain and even death. Through the rally, Steinem came to see that not only married middle-class white women, but all women, including women of color, deserved to be treated as individuals, with rights equal to those enjoyed by men.

From that time forward, Steinem would devote much of her time and energy to furthering the cause of reproductive freedom and spoke at rallies around the country, recruiting women for the cause. She was a major catalyst in the movements long-term success and provided a strong voice in the ongoing struggle through Ms. magazine, which she and her partners founded in 1971.

By that time, Steinem had also become respected as a political writer and activist, and in 1972 she helped found the Womens Action Alliance. She backed presidential candidates Shirley Chisholm and George McGovern, for whom she wrote several speeches. She also wrote five books, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983), Marilyn: Norma Jeane (1986), Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (1992), Moving Beyond Words (1994), and Doing Sixty and Seventy (2006).

Though she was credited with saying that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, Steinem was not the originator of this phrase. She told Time magazine in 2000, In fact, Irina Dunn, a distinguished Australian educator, journalist and politician, coined the phrase back in 1970 when she was a student at the University of Sydney. Yet, the quip did define Steinems outlook on marriage until 2000, when she married David Bale, a British entrepreneur and avid animal rights activist. The marriage, however, was to be short-lived. Bale died of brain cancer at the end of 2003, leaving Steinem to her lifelong quest of helping women find personal power and inner peace.

SEE ALSO Feminism; Journalism

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cohen, Marcia. 1988. The Sisterhood: The True Story of the Women Who Changed the World. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Heilbrun, Carolyn G. 1995. The Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem. New York: Dial Press.

Steinem, Gloria. 1983. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. 2nd ed., New York: Henry Holt, 1995.

Patricia Cronin Marcello

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"Steinem, Gloria." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Steinem, Gloria

Gloria Steinem (stīn´əm), 1934–, American journalist and feminist, b. Toledo, Ohio, grad. Smith College (B.A., 1956). Steinem gained prominence as a spokeswoman for women's rights in articles, lectures, and television appearances. She helped found the National Women's Political Caucus (1971), the Women's Action Alliance (1971), and the Coalition of Labor Union Women (1974). She was also the founding editor (1972) of Ms., a feminist magazine, remaining actively involved until its closing (1987) and becoming a consulting editor upon its revival (1990). Her books include Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983), a biography of Marilyn Monroe (1986), Revolution from Within (1992), and the essay collection Moving beyond Words (1993).

See biographies by S. Henry and E. Taitz (1987), C. G. Heilbrun (1995), and S. L. Stern (1997).

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"Steinem, Gloria." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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