Toledo, Ohio, USA
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Steinem was born in Toledo, Ohio. Her mother, Ruth Nuneviller, was of part German descent. Her Jewish-American father, Leo Steinem, was a traveling antiques dealer (with trailer and family in tow) and the son of immigrants from Germany and Poland. The family split in 1944, when he went to California to find work while Gloria lived with her mother in Toledo. As a child in Toledo, she cared for her ill mother and helped support the family along with her sister Susanne.
Years later, Steinem described her relationship to her mother as pivotal to understanding of social injustices. At 34, Ruth Steinem had a "nervous breakdown" that left her an invalid, trapped in delusional fantasies that occasionally turned violent. She changed "from an energetic, fun-loving, book-loving" woman into "someone who was afraid to be alone, who could not hang on to reality long enough to hold a job, and who could rarely concentrate long enough to read a book." Ruth spent months in-and-out of sanatoriums for the mentally disabled. Before her illness, Ruth had graduated with honors from Oberlin College, worked her way up to newspaper editor, and even taught a year of calculus at the college level. Steinem`s father, however, demanded that her mother relinquish her career, and divorced her after she became sick. The subsequent apathy of doctors, along with the social punishments for career-driven women, convinced Steinem women badly need social and political equality.
Gloria Steinem attended Waite High School in Toledo, then graduated from Western High School in Washington, D.C. She attended Smith College, where she remains active.
Political awakening and activism
Gloria Steinem at news conference, Women`s Action Alliance, January 12, 1972In 1963 she was employed as a Playboy Bunny at the New York Playboy Club to research an article that exposed how women were treated at the clubs. The article was a sensation, making Steinem an in-demand writer in the process.
After conducting a series of celebrity interviews, Steinem eventually got a political assignment covering George McGovern`s presidential campaign, which led to a position in a New York magazine. Her 1962 article in Esquire magazine about the way in which women are forced to choose between a career and marriage preceded Betty Friedan`s book The Feminine Mystique by one year. She became politically active in the feminist movement, and the media seemed to appoint Steinem as a feminist leader of sorts. Steinem brought other notable feminists to the fore and toured the country with lawyer Florynce Rae "Flo" Kennedy, and in 1971, cofounded the National Women`s Political Caucus as well as the Women`s Action Alliance.
In 1972, she co-founded the feminist-themed Ms. magazine . When the first regular issue hit the newsstands in July 1972, its 300,000 "one-shot" test copies sold out nationwide in eight days. It generated an astonishing 26,000 subscription orders and over 20,000 reader letters within weeks. Steinem would continue to write for the magazine until it was sold in 1987. The magazine changed hands again in 2001, to the Feminist Majority Foundation; Steinem remains on the masthead as one of six founding editors, and serves on the advisory board.
In May 1975, Redstockings, a radical feminist group, raised the question of whether Steinem had continuing ties with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Though she admitted work for a CIA-financed foundation in the late 1950`s and early 1960`s, Steinem denied any further involvement.
Steinem cofounded the Coalition of Labor Union Women in 1974, and participated in the National Conference of Women in Houston, Texas in 1977. She became Ms. magazine`s consulting editor when it was revived in 1991, and she was inducted into the National Women`s Hall of Fame in 1993. In 1991, Steinem founded Choice USA.
Contrary to popular belief, Steinem did not coin the feminist slogan "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." The phrase is actually attributable to Irina Dunn.
Waite High School, OH, Western High School, D.C.
Full Name at Birth
Gloria Marie Steinem
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Gloria Marie Steinem (born March 25, 1934) is an American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader of, and media spokeswoman for, the women's liberation movement in the late 1960s and 1970s. A prominent writer and key counterculture era political figure, Steinem has founded many organizations and projects and has been the recipient of many awards and honors. She was a columnist for New York magazine and co-founded Ms. magazine. In 1969, she published an article, " After Black Power, Women's Liberation", which, along with her early support of abortion rights, catapulted her to national fame as a feminist leader.
Activist, Feminist, Writer
Ruth (née Nuneviller)
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