Gloria Steinem

class of 1952


Gloria Marie Steinem only came to Western High for her senior year. Her life before that in Toledo, as the sole caretaker of a deeply troubled mother, and earlier, accompanying her itinerant father around the country in a house trailer, had already held a lifetime of experiences.

 She came to DC to live with her much older sister, just a block from Western on Reservoir Road, and the change to a normal, school-based daily routine must have been liberating. She did well at Western, becoming Class Vice-President, and graduating 47th in her class of 141. “It was one of the happiest school experiences I ever had”, she has said. Gloria was accepted at Smith College, where she did even better academically, and loved it, as well.

 Today, Gloria Steinem is world-renowned as an early voice of the recent feminist movement but she really came to that role out of deep feminist roots. Her paternal grandmother, Pauline Steinem, was president of the Ohio Sufferage Association (1908-1911) and one of two delegates to the 1908 meeting of the International Council of Women. After graduating magna cum laude in 1956 from Smith, Gloria was off to India on Chester Bowles Asian fellowship and was able to travel around in southern India during a period of social unrest. She began her writing career with freelance articles in Indian newspapers, even publishing a guidebook for the Indian government.

 Gloria’s subsequent career is so rich it can not be quickly summarized but she wanted to be a journalist, and her inherent feminist perspective was reflected in her first article for a national publication --- “The Moral Disarmament of Betty Coed”, Esquire (1962) --- but for most of the 60’s her work was in features for Vogue, Glamour, McCall’s, and Cosmopolitan, decidedly not feminist forums. A shift to political issues began in 1968 with a column she began for New York, which was just starting up. Her approach was to combine advocacy journalism with political activism in articles of Cesar Chavez, Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy, and Norman Mailer, and others of the time. She dates her commitment as a feminist to 1968 at a meeting of Redstockings, a radical women’s group. Soon after, she wrote “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation”, and quickly became accepted as a voice of the new feminist movement.

 She was a co-founder in 1971 of the National Women’s Political Caucus and launched Ms., a magazine dedicated to the emerging feminist consciousness, entirely owned and edited by women. Her career since then has been a public one, devoted to issues like the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and working to build many other feminist and women’s issue organizations. A fundamental principle she has always pursued is expressed in her statement that “Until men raise infants and children as much as women do, we - men and women - will all grow up fearing the power of women as the overwhelming, visceral, and irrational experience associated with childhood.”

 Steinem has always been careful to protect her private life and thus it came as something of surprise that, in 2000, at the age of 66, she married, though without slowing down a bit in her dedication to the recognition of full rights for women in every sense. The work goes on.


 {Source: Current Biography Yearbook 1988. Newspaper articles.]


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Updated May 10, 2004 09:00 PM