Gloria Steinem Biography
Bennington College 2015 Commencement Speaker
Gloria Steinem is a writer, lecturer, editor, feminist activist, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She travels in this and other countries as an organizer and lecturer and is a frequent media spokeswoman on issues of equality. She is particularly interested in the shared origins of sex and race caste systems, gender roles and child abuse as roots of violence, non-violent conflict resolution, the cultures of indigenous peoples, and organizing across boundaries for peace and justice.
In 1972, she co-founded Ms. magazine, and remained one of its editors for fifteen years. She continues to serve as a consulting editor for Ms., and was instrumental in the magazine’s move to be published by the Feminist Majority Foundation. In 1968, she helped to found New York magazine, where she was a political columnist and wrote feature articles. As a freelance writer, she was published in Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Glamour, as well as publications in other countries.
Her books include the bestsellers Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, Moving Beyond Words, and Marilyn: Norma Jean, on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Her writing also appears in many anthologies and textbooks, and she was an editor of The Reader’s Companion to U.S. Women’s History.
Ms. Steinem helped to found the Women’s Action Alliance, a pioneering national information center that specialized in nonsexist, multiracial children’s education, and the National Women’s Political Caucus, a group that continues to work to advance the numbers of pro-equality women in elected and appointed office at a national and state level. She was president and co-founder of Voters for Choice, a pro-choice political action committee for twenty-five years, then with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund when it merged with VFC for the 2004 elections. She was also co-founder and serves on the board of Choice USA, a national organization that supports young pro-choice leadership and works to preserve comprehensive sex education in schools. She was the founding president of the Ms. Foundation for Women, a national multi-racial, multi-issue fund that supports grassroots projects to empower women and girls, and also a founder of its Take Our Daughters to Work Day, a first national day devoted to girls that has now become an institution here and in other countries. In 2005 she co-founded the Women’s Media Center, with Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan, as a non-profit progressive women’s media organization. She was a member of the Beyond Racism Initiative, a three-year effort on the part of activists and experts from South Africa, Brazil and the United States to compare the racial patterns of those three countries and to learn cross-nationally. Now, she is working with the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College on a project to document the grassroots origins of the U.S. women’s movement.
As a writer, Ms. Steinem has received 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, and most recently, the University of Missouri School of Journalism Award for Distinguished Service in Journalism. She is also on the Creative Advisory Council for Hedgebrook writer’s retreat.
Ms. Steinem graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Smith College in 1956, and then spent two years in India on a Chester Bowles Fellowship. She wrote for Indian publications, and was influenced by Gandhian activism. She also received 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.Parenting magazine selected her for its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995 for her work in promoting girls’ self-esteem, and Biography magazine listed her as one of the 25 most influential women in America. In 1993, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. She has been the subject of three biographical television documentaries, including HBO’s Gloria: In Her Own Words.
In 1993, her concern with child abuse led her to co-produce and narrate an Emmy Award winning TV documentary for HBO, “Multiple Personalities: The Search for Deadly Memories.” With Rosilyn Heller, she also co-produced an original 1993 TV movie for Lifetime, “Better Off Dead,” which examined the parallel forces that both oppose abortion and support the death penalty.
She lives in New York City, and is at work on a book about her more than thirty years on the road as a feminist organizer, due out in 2015.