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The Power of Women's Voices
65th Anniversary Conference of the Sophia Smith Collection
at Smith College, September 28-29, 2007

Gloria Steinem: Featured speaker

Watch video of Steinem's talk on the future of feminism,
with introduction by Susan Bourque, Provost/Dean of the Faculty.

Gloria Steinem, circa 1970's
Gloria Steinem, circa 1970's. © unknown

Gloria Steinem was born on March 25, 1934 in Toledo, Ohio, to Leo Steinem and Ruth Nuneviller Steinem, the second of their two children (Suzanne Steinem was born in 1925). She grew up in Toledo and Clark Lake, Michigan, where the family ran a summer resort. Leo and Ruth divorced in 1945, and, with Suzanne away at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, eleven-year-old Gloria assumed responsibility for the care of her mother, who was increasingly vulnerable to mental illness. For a short time Gloria lived with Suzanne, by that time employed in Washington, D.C., completing her senior year at Western High School in Georgetown.

In 1952, Steinem followed Suzanne to Smith College. After her 1956 graduation, Steinem received a Chester Bowles post-graduate

fellowship to spend two years studying and writing in India, where she absorbed grass roots organizing skills from followers of Gandhi. In 1960 she moved to New York City where she worked for Help! magazine and wrote freelance for Life, Esquire, Glamour, and many other newspapers and magazines. Steinem co-founded New York magazine in 1968 and served as its political columnist until 1972. She was active in various civil rights and peace campaigns in the 1960s and 70s, including United Farmworkers, Vietnam War Tax Protest, and Committee for the Legal Defense of Angela Davis. She also participated in the political campaigns of Adlai Stevenson, Robert Kennedy, Shirley Chisholm, and many others.

Steinem came to the Women's Movement in 1969, after she attended a meeting of the Redstockings during which women shared their experiences with abortion. Her consciousness raised, she began speaking to audiences across the country, often paired with African-American activists Dorothy Pitman Hughes, and later Florynce Kennedy and Margaret Sloan. In 1971, Steinem, with others, founded Ms. magazine, and since that time, Steinem has devoted her career to writing, editing, fund-raising, and publicity on behalf of Ms., its allied organizations (e.g. the Ms. Foundation for Women, the Free to Be Foundation) and the women's movement more generally. A collection of her Ms. articles and other work was published in a best selling book, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983). She published Marilyn in 1986, Revolution from Within in 1992, and Moving Beyond Words in 1994. In 1986, Steinem became a contributing correspondent for the Today Show, doing interviews and features. Other organizing activities include the founding of the Ms. Foundation for Women, The National Women's Political Caucus, Voters for Choice, The Women's Action Alliance, and the Coalition of Labor Union Women. She has lectured extensively and received numerous writing awards, including the Front Page, Clarion, and Penney- Missouri journalism awards. Bloomfield College, Simmons College, Smith College, the University of Toledo, and Hobart and William Smith College have awarded Steinem honorary degrees.

Two book-length biographies of Steinem have appeared to date: Carolyn Heilbrun, The Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem (1995); and Sydney Stern, Gloria Steinem: Her Passions, Politics and Mystique (1997).

Gloria Steinem, Smith College commencement, 2007
Smith College President Carol Christ (far left) and Gloria Steinem (center) at Smith College commencement. © 2007 Jim Gipe

The Gloria Steinem Papers are part of the Sophia Smith Collection.

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