The following academic paper highlights the up-to-date issues and questions of Gloria Steinem Biography. This sample provides just some ideas on how this topic can be analyzed and discussed.
Gloria Steinem is one of the most well known and respected leader of the feminist movement in America. Her writings and speeches have impacted the way women’s issues are perceived and understood in the last half a century or so. Alongside Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm, Steinem has carved a unique place for herself in the pantheon of feminist leaders.
Born on 25th March, 1934 in mid-western state of Ohio, Steinem had a difficult childhood. Her father was an antique dealer and as a result traveled frequently, while her mother worked for a publisher. Her grandmother Pauline Steinem was a revered suffragette in her day. But in the early years of Gloria’s life, there was little evidence to suggest that she would uphold her grandmother’s legacy. Since her father had to relocate to new cities very frequently, the young Gloria Steinem could not be enrolled in a regular school.
All her early education was provided by her mom at home. This delicate family equilibrium came to an abrupt end, when Gloria was only 8 years old her parents broke off their marriage. Not only was young Gloria deprived of a father figure, she was also thrust into a life of grinding poverty in the next few years. Complicating an already dire situation was her mother’s propensity to suffer mental depression.
In the years following the divorce, Steinem’s mother fell into such an abysmal depression that the mother-daughter roles reversed for once and Gloria was left to take care of her ailing mother. When in her late teens, she went to live with her elder sister in Washington, D.C., where she enrolled for Smith College. Just as she was about to complete her degree, she got a break which were to prove very significant. In 1956, in the year of her graduation, she got selected for a two year scholarship program in India (Sondra, 1987).
The two years Steinem spent in India during her formative years were to prove profound for her understanding of women’s issues. The experience broadened and deepened her grasp of the status of women in the Third World and how socio-political realities impose severe restrictions for freedom of women. She realized that “the high standard of living most Americans take for granted was not available to all. She commented at the time that ‘America is an enormous frosted cupcake in the middle of millions of starving people’. She returned strongly motivated to fight social injustice and embarked on her career as a journalist”. (www.gale.cengage.com)
Emboldened by her experience in India, Steinem returned to America with the determination to empower her country’s women. In the first few years after return, she worked as a freelance writer. At this time, she also went through a personal crisis. Having gotten pregnant with her fiancees child, she resorted to abortion as her primary focus was still her career. Alongside her playboy bunny experience, her involvement with the company Independent Research Service became controversial, for the company had links with the Central Intelligence Agency. Her first challenging writing assignment came about when she was commissioned to make a two part report for the magazine Show on the lives of Playboy bunnies. In what would appear audacious for the time, Steinem applied for employment as a bunny and was hired. The next twenty days she spent in the Playboy mansion soliciting male clients, gave her an in-depth understanding of the economic and psychological aspects of the bunnies and their clientele. The articles and reports that emerged from this experience
“exposed the poor working conditions and meager wages of the women who worked long hours in the lavish clubs where rich men spent their leisure time. Years later, in 1970, she published a lengthy interview with Hugh Hefner, founder and editor of Playboy magazine. In that dialogue, Steinem debated Hefner on issues such as women’s rights, the ‘sexual revolution’, consumerism, and the ‘Playboy philosophy’.” (Sondra, 1987)
In the 1960s, the civil rights movement and the women’s rights movement marched hand in hand. Inspired by the success of racial minorities in America, women’s organizations had also started to express their grievances vocally. Given her interest in these issues as well as her compassionate personality, Steinem actively participated in the movement. As a culmination of the women’s movement, several legislative concessions were made, a part of credit for which should certainly go to Gloria Steinem.
In the 1970s, alongside Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm, she founded the National Women’s Political Caucus, which brought women’s issues at the forefront of political debates. Given her left-liberal political views, it was only natural that she participated in National Democratic Party Conventions. Among the demands she made on behalf of women delegates in the party were equitable sharing of seats and inclusion of abortion in the party agenda. This period of activism resulted in greater participation of women in national politics as well as bringing focus to women’s issues. The next phase in her illustrious career came when she founded the Ms. Magazine – a first of its kind publication solely directed at a women readership and dedicated to presenting news, views and opinions from their perspective. In contrast to the fashion and lifestyle magazines of the time, Ms. Magazine was unique in that it discussed social, economic, political, religious and cultural issues. Further,
”in the seventies, she also helped organize the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Women’s Action Alliance and the Coalition of Labor Union Women. She also established MS Foundation for Women, an organization dedicated to helping underprivileged women. In addition to her advocacy work, Steinem has also written five books, and has been a contributor to many publications. She has tirelessly helped raise funds for many different women’s organizations and causes.” (Gilbert & Gaylen, 1981)
Steinem had aged very gracefully. In the last two decades, she has spent less time in direct social activism and spent more time in compiling highly rated scholarship. Her writing first got recognition with her 1983 book ‘Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions’. The following decade, she spent countless hours painstakingly years researching and writing, the culmination of which is the book Revolution From Within: A Book of Self Esteem for a women readership. In an interview, she explained that the book is an attempt to provide “…a portable friend…it’s self-help and inspiration, with examples of what some people have done and a glimpse of the extraordinary potential of the unexplored powers of the brain and how much our ideas of reality become reality”. (Gilbert & Gaylen, 1981) Following its publication in 1992, Steinem followed up with Moving Beyond Words in 1994, which is a collection of essay on topics such as culture, society, media, advertising, etc.
Her list of achievements is a long and impressive one. Smith College, which is her alma mater, honored her by offering her a position in the board of trustees. She is a member of the Beyond Racism Initiative, which undertakes systematic and scientific studies of racial relations in the United States of America, Brazil and South Africa. Steinem also has a documentary film to her credit – a child abuse film that she co-produced for HBO. Other awards and recognitions include “the Penney-Missouri Journalism Award, the Front Page and Clarion awards, National Magazine awards, an Emmy Citation for excellence in television writing, the Women’s Sports Journalism Award, the Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Writers Award from the United Nations” (Marcello, 2004). In the last decade or so, in her seventies, she was awarded the “first Doctorate of Human Justice awarded by Simmons College, the Bill of Rights Award from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the National Gay Rights Advocates Award, the Liberty award of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Ceres Medal from the United Nations, and a number of honorary degrees” (Marcello, 2004). The above list is only a sample, as the awards and honors conferred on Gloria Steinem are innumerable. On a personal note, the time spent researching and writing this term paper has acquainted me with one of the leading torch bearers of American feminist movement in the person of Gloria Steinem. This course is enriched as a consequence of this experience.