Gloria Steinem Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Gloria Steinem, founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus, is one of the leading spokespersons for the feminist movement in the United States, and her witty, cogent, and vivid writing style exemplifies the vitality of the women’s movement. When she was eleven, her parents were divorced, and Steinem had to care for her mother, who apparently had a nervous breakdown. Steinem wrote of her mother in “Ruth’s Song,” in Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, viewing her as a victim of a patriarchal society. Steinem graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Smith College and pursued a career in journalism. Despite her popularity as a “feminist,” Steinem was never actually a member of any active group fighting for women’s rights.

Beginning in the 1960’s, while writing and editing for magazines and newspapers, Steinem traveled extensively, campaigning for civil rights. She also went “under cover” as a Playboy bunny to investigate the treatment and lifestyle of Hugh Hefner’s employees; his Playboy Clubs were nightclubs in which female employees dressed in bunny ears, leotards, and fuzzy tails to entertain male customers. Likewise, Steinem’s light-hearted look at the way life would change “If Men Could Menstruate” indicates her ability to poke fun at cultural stereotypes. However, she also raises questions about patriarchal religions, traditional marriage, and negative images of women.

Although Steinem never joined an active women’s rights group, she was accepted readily as a spokesperson for women’s liberation because her relatively conservative views were palatable to the mainstream media. Her article in New York magazine entitled “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation” and her money-raising talents caused the popular press to embrace her as a “voice of reason” in the women’s rights debate. McCall’s named her “Woman of the Year” in 1971. Steinem’s activism is humane, altruistic, and focused on inclusion, as she urges radical feminists to welcome more conservative,...

(The entire section is 839 words.)


(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

Early Life

A native of Toledo, Ohio, Gloria Steinem spent much of her youth caring for her mentally ill mother. She graduated magna cum laude from Smith College in 1956, then received a Chester Bowles Asia fellowship to study in India, where she joined a radical humanist group and traveled to poverty-stricken areas in the southern part of the country.

The 1960’s

Soon after returning to the United States, Steinem moved to New York and worked as a freelance journalist, writing funny photo captions for Help and penning more serious articles such as “The Moral Disarmament of Betty Co Ed,” which explored the birth control pill and its effect on college women, for Esquire in 1962. An exposé on the exploitation and degrading job conditions of women working as Playboy bunnies ran in May and June of 1963 in Show.

By 1965, Steinem was earning thirty thousand dollars a year as a freelance writer and lecturer. In the late 1960’s, when New York magazine was founded, Steinem became a contributing editor and political columnist. In 1968, she wrote a distinctively leftist biweekly column for the magazine focusing on feminist issues, antiwar efforts, black power, poverty, welfare, and student movements. She also was popular on the lecture circuit, speaking on feminist issues. She also negotiated a successful television interview series and wrote film scripts.

Later Life

Steinem won the Penny-Missouri Award for the article “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation,”...

(The entire section is 650 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Brown, Spencer. “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions.” Sewanee Review 92 (Fall, 1984). Praises Steinem’s courage in speaking out against genital mutilation of girls in Arab and African countries yet dismisses her portrayal of women as more decent than men.

Cohen, Marcia. The Sisterhood: The True Story of the Women Who Changed the World. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988. Offers a look at the lives of Betty Friedan and other feminists, including Germaine Greer, Susan Brownmiller, and Gloria Steinem, and their positions and struggles in the women’s rights movement.

Fritz, Leah. “Rebel with a Cause.” The Woman’s Review of Books 1 (December, 1983). Argues that Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions is thought-provoking and vital.

Heilbrun, Carolyn G. The Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem. New York: Dial Press, 1995. A biography written by the feminist literary critic who was to academic women what Steinem was to American women as a whole.

Stern, Sydney Ladensohn. Gloria Steinem: Her Passion, Politics, and Mystique. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol, 1997. A biography that addresses many of the contradictions in Steinem’s character and life.


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature, Critical Edition)

Author Profile

Journalist Gloria Steinem first made her mark in 1963, with an exposé based on her one-month undercover assignment as a Playboy “bunny.” She joined Betty Friedan and others in organizing the Women’s Strike for Equality in 1970 and the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971. Although her focus has always been women’s rights, Steinem’s activism extends to work with United Farm Workers, environmental issues, various liberal political campaigns, and antiwar protests.

Repeatedly named one of the twenty-five most influential women in the United States, Steinem defines feminism as “equality for all females—a transformation of society.” In the 1970’s, Steinem was aligned...

(The entire section is 416 words.)