STEINEM, GLORIA (1934– ), U.S. feminist, writer, speaker, co-founder and contributor to Ms. Magazine, which became the most prominent mass-circulation feminist journal published and edited by women, from its inception in 1972 until it was sold in the 1980s. Born in Toledo, Ohio, of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, Steinem was baptized in a Congregational church. Educated at home by her mother, she did not attend school regularly until she was 10, when her mostly absent father left the family permanently. Steinem came to link her mother's depression and other psychological ailments to the fact that she had given up her career for marriage, a realization that reinforced Steinem's dedication to the women's movement.
Steinem graduated with highest honors from Smith College in 1956, where she had majored in government. Her 1956 engagement to a Jewish fiancé ended in 1958 after Stein spent two years in India, following an abortion in England. Her abortion experience fueled her later "conversion" to feminism, which she attributed to an abortion rights rally in New York City in 1969. Steinem began her career as a magazine and television writer and became a founding editor of New York Magazine in 1968.
A widely sought public speaker and campaigner for women's rights in employment, politics, and social life, Steinem was often characterized as a Jewish feminist. She became a participant in the first feminist women's seders which started in 1976 and supported women's and minority rights in other walks of life. Her six books include Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983), a bestseller that was translated into 11 languages; Moving Beyond Words (1986); Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (1992); and Feminist Family Values (1996). Her numerous essays made a deep impact on the feminist movement and beyond.
Steinem helped found the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971, to encourage women to seek political office and to work for women's rights legislation; co-founded the Women's Action Alliance, to fight discrimination against women; helped found Ms. Foundation for Women in 1972, to assist underprivileged girls and women; and was a founding member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women in 1974. She planned and attended the first of its kind National Women's Conference in Houston, Texas, 1977. Steinem was honored as McCall's Magazine 's Woman of the Year, 1972, and was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York, 1993.
C. Fuchs Epstein, "Steinem, Gloria," in: World Book Online Reference Center, at: www.aolsvc.worldbook (2005); C.G. Heilbrun, The Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem (1996); P. Cronin Marcello, Gloria Steinem: A Biography (2004); S.L. Stern, Gloria Steinem: Her Passions, Politics, and Mystique (1997).
[Harriet Hartman (2nd ed.)]
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