Gloria Steinem was one of the predominant figures of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s and 1970s and continues to be one of the most widely recognized leaders in the feminist movement today. A Toledo native, Steinem is one of many Ohio women who fought for equal rights. Her roots in the movement date back several generations; in 1908, Steinem’s paternal grandmother spent four years as president of the Ohio Women’s Suffrage Association.
Steinem was born in Toledo, Ohio on March 25, 1934. Her father was a travelling antiques dealer; her mother, a former journalist, suffered a nervous breakdown when Steinem was just three. Her mother spent the rest of her life in and out of mental hospitals; Steinem’s parents divorced when she was 10 as a result of this. Steinem attended Waite High School in Toledo until transferring her senior year to Western High School in Washington D.C.
Steinem attended Smith College, studying Government, and graduated in 1956.Steinem pursued a career as a writer, free lancing in New York City. Inspired by the growing movement for equal rights for women, Steinem wrote pieces advocating for equality. Her most famous piece was written in 1963 for Show Magazine; for the article, Steinem had gone uncover as a “Bunny” waitress for the Playboy Club in New York City. She exposed the club for overworking and underpaying the girls in addition to the blatant harassment the waitresses put up with.
Steinem became a leader in the feminist movement, co-founding the magazine Ms. Magazine. The magazine addressed many women’s issues other magazines would not address, like domestic violence. In 1972, she joined fellow leaders Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan to form the National Women’s Political Caucus. They advocated for equal pay and reproductive freedom travelling around the country spreading the message. Steinem became a leader in bringing equality to underrepresented women around the world.
In addition to her many articles and editorials, Steinem has also written several books, including Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983) and Revolution from Within (1992). Steinem continues to write and advocate for women today. She helped define what it means to be a feminist, “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”
The Ohio History Connection has several objects in the collection donated by Steinem including catalog number H 73976, a graduation cap worn by Steinem during the commencement ceremonies of her honorary 1987 Tufts University degree.
How do you think Gloria Steinem has influence American society today?
Emily Lang, History Curator
Marcello, Patricia Cronin. Gloria Steinem: A Biography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004.
Said-Moorhouse, Lauren. “5 Reasons Why We Love Gloria Steinem.” CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/25/living/5-reasons-why-we-love-gloria-steinem/ (accessed March 27, 2014).
Steinem, Gloria. Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-esteem. Boston: Little, Brown and, 1992.