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Mar 2008 - Gloria Steinem



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Moxy or (Moxie) Women refers to women who demonstrate courage and/or bravery to go for their dreams!

March 25, 2009 is a special day!
Happy Birthday Gloria!
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Journalist, Feminist Activist, Organizer, Writer and Lecturer

"Writing is the one thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else"~ Gloria Steinem

 

Learning to Unlearn

By:  Jean Harper

"You can't be a feminist without being anti-racist, in favor of gay and lesbian rights as well as all human rights, Ms. Steinem commented, as each group has the same adversaries."

Introduction:
Gloria Steinem represents an archetypal example of the collective consciousness of the 21st Century woman.  Her mother and father divorced when she was 8 years old leaving her and her mother in poverty.  She became a caretaker of her mother, had an abortion, exposed the exploitation of women by posing as a Playboy bunny, became an activist for women's rights, survived breast cancer, married and after only 3 years became a widow.  She has fought for the rights of all- blacks, women, children and even married an animal rights activist.  She is more than a feminist; she is a "womanist" and a "humanist".

On March 25, 2008 Gloria Steinem turns 74.  Happy Birthday Gloria from all of us- your tidal wave of women living better lives because of your contributions to the world.  There is no better way to celebrate Women's History Month than by saying happy birthday to the legendary icon of the women's movement.

Men and women, young and old, gathered Wednesday, March 5, 2008, at the Eckerd College gymnasium in St. Petersburg, Florida, to celebrate Women's History Month, the College's 50th Gloria_in_black.jpgAnniversary, and to get a glimpse and hear the words of famous women's rights activist, Gloria Steinem.  Joining Gloria for the panel discussion was children's rights activist, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, and feminist activists, Amy Richards, and Jennifer Baumgardner.

Women's History Month is a time for everyone to celebrate the contributions made by the many women who have come before us, paving the way so that women may enjoy the civil rights that we are free to enjoy today.  I was just contemplating which Moxy Woman I wanted to honor this month on the website when the phone rang, and my friend Jane informed me that Gloria Steinem was speaking at Eckerd College, the next day, in St. Petersburg.  I nearly fell off my chair!

 "Do you want to go?" she asked, 

"Are you kidding me?"  I exclaimed - "I'm there!"

The next day I called Eckerd College and spoke with the organizer of the event.  She told me that there would be a Press Conference at 5 p.m.  After I hung up and looked at the clock, I realized that it was already 4:30!  I jumped in the shower and made it to the college at 5:30, and after a parking mishap and a little wandering, I arrived at the right location just as the Press Conference was scheduled to be over..............ouch!   I knew that I had to meet Gloria before the conference began or I would never get the chance to be enveloped in the true aura of this incredible woman.

The Security Guard pointed me in the right direction, and one of the English Professors at the College agreed to escort me to her next appearance, which was to be a private event.  When I arrived, I explained that I have a women's website and that I just had to meet Gloria -- I showed my Press Pass, and they let me in! 

I had not seen Gloria Steinem's picture in years and I wondered whether I would recognize her when she entered the room.  I could not have been more wrong!  I felt her presence as soon as she arrived -- and as I looked around, there she was.  At 73 she is still sexy, stylish and beautiful!  Dressed this night in black hip huggers, adorned in silver bracelets, a sliver belt, and wearing black boots, she was as hot as ever.  I was completely mesmerized by her, and suddenly all of the images from the past came flowing into my mind; images of her with her big glasses, her long straight hair and her commanding voice and presence.  When she was no more than 5 feet across the table from me I looked straight into her eyes and she into mine and I raised my camera and took her picture. (picture below)  She did not move, allowing me to Gloria Steinem at party.jpgphotograph her.

I circled around the room until I was right beside her, and stuck out my hand. Gloria shook it warmly as I introduced myself.  She was far more graceful and beautiful in person than I remembered.  As I held her hand for a moment I felt the soft power of this woman and was filled with  deep respect and admiration for all that she has experienced. By this time all the young women in the room had gravitated to Gloria, and encircled her as though she were a rock star.

"Gloria, if you had to name a woman in history to honor during Women's History Month, who would it be?" I asked her.

"I would have to go way back in history to the time of native nations -- when women chose the next Chief of the Tribes," she replied. In reading about Ms. Steinem, I knew that when she was married for the first time at age 66 to David Bale (who is best known as an animal rights activist), their wedding was performed at the home of her friend, Wilma Mankiller, formerly the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation.

When I asked her what she would say on this night to motivate the women in the room, she replied simply, "We have to motivate each other."  As the crowd grew thicker around her, I slid away.  At this point, a black woman, who I had never seen before, entered. She appeared to be good friends with Ms. Steinem.  As we were all leaving to head over to the gymnasium where the main event would be taking place, I approached the unfamiliar woman and asked her name.  She looked me straight in the eye with her head held high and said, "My name is Dorothy Pitman Hughes." I turned red in the face as I realized that she was the black activist and child care pioneer, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, that traveled as a team with Gloria Steinem- the photo- below and right- by Photographer- Dan Wynn tells it all.

During the event, Ms. Hughes spoke of her life in Lumpkin, Ga., and how she spent every Friday nightSteinem and Hughes.gif sleeping on the floor, away from the windows, in order to avoid notice of the KKK.  Dorothy recalled Ms. Steinem's visits to the small Georgia town, and the terror she felt of being seen in public with a white woman.

The moderator for the evening was Gretchen Letterman, the Director of the St. Petersburg Times Newspaper in Education program. 

"What is the meaning of ‘the fist?'?" Gretchen asked them both.

"It means strength," Gloria replied.

"Sisterhood is powerful," Dorothy said, nodding. 

Ms. Steinem then laughed as she recalled a conversation she had with Dorothy about her formation of the fist -- Gloria formed her fist with her thumb sticking up, while Dorothy formed hers with her thumb pulled in tight.  It was a poignant moment watching these two women joking about this- it made them seem real and as Gloria formed a new fist this night she had the perfect formation that she had learned from Ms. Hughes.

Gloria Marie Steinem was born March 25, 1934, in Toledo, Ohio. As a child, she wanted to get out of Toledo. She did not want to go to work for the gas company and marry someone who worked on an assembly line in a local plant.  She thought, at the time, that the only way to escape was to go into show business. She appeared on the Ted Mack- Amateur Hour and then became a free-lance writer, making about $2500 in her first year of writing.  She spent a lot of time sleeping on her friends' living room floors, she tells us.  She comments that her father taught her to live with insecurity, as he was a "freelance of everything."  He was his own boss and didn't bow to convention.  

Gloria w Fist.jpgMs. Steinem tells how her mother was a newspaper reporter before Gloria was born, and how much she loved the work.  Her mother wrote under a man's name, because she could not otherwise be published at the time.  She became the Sunday Editor of the Toledo Blade, but decided to give up the Editorship - as well as her dreams of traveling -- to follow her husband to help build his dream of running a summer resort in southern Michigan. Yet when Gloria was only 8 years old her parents divorced, leaving Gloria and her mother to live the next several years in destitution.  Her mother suffered from depression so severely that Gloria had to care for her.  At the age of 15, Gloria went to live with her sister in Washington, DC.  From there, Gloria entered Smith College, and graduated in 1956 (Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude).  She then won a fellowship to study in India for two years.

In India, Ms. Steinem discovered that the U.S. is not the norm.  She returned from India full of ideals, and began her career as a feminist activist, organizer, writer and lecturer. Her books include bestsellers, such as Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, which includes recollections of the past, such as her experience as a Playboy bunny and also highlights the lives of notable 20th century women, Moving Beyond Words, and Marilyn: Norma Jean, on the life of Marilyn Monroe, a sympathetic biography of the film star whom she knew personally.  She is currently at work on Road to the Heart: America As if Everyone Mattered, a book about her more-than thirty year journey as a feminist organizer. In her books, Gloria discusses the feminist causes that occupied her for two decades: women's lower wages in the paid labor force, the elimination of sexual exploitation, and the achievement of equality of the sexes.

Click Here to View her Interview in 1987 regarding her book on Marilyn Monroe.

 

Gloria Steinem published her first article in Esquire Magazine. She co-founded New York Magazine and the successful Ms. Magazine, where she continues to serve as a consulting editor. The first issue of Ms. Magazine sold out in only 8 days. She helped to found the Women's Action Alliance, the National Women's Political Caucus, and Choice USA.  She was the founding president of the Ms. Foundation for Women and helped create Take Our Daughters to Work Day.  She co-founded the Women's Gloria with young women.jpgMedia Center and GreenStone Media.  She was a member of the Beyond Racism Initiative, a comparative study of racial patterns in the U.S., South Africa, and Brazil.  She has also co-produced a documentary on child abuse for HBO.

Ms. Steinem has been featured extensively in magazines such as Cosmopolitan (July 1990); Time (March 9, 1992); Progressive and Mother Jones.

 Photo Above- Gloria Steinem surrounded by the young women of Eckerd College including ECOS and Student Body President- Grace Greir (left front)- Left and rear- The- Ms. Dorothy Pitman Hughes.

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 the University of Missouri School of Journalism Award for Distinguished Service in Journalism.

Gloria Steinem bw.jpg  Dorothy Pitman Huges.jpg 
 Gloria bw comp.jpg  Dorothy crop comp.jpg
 Photo above shows these powerful women- Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes- as they were and as they are now- almost the same expression but wiser after having made their mark in history for generations to come. Top Photographs of Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes by Dan Wynn.

Other recognitions include 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 Lifetime and ABC biographical television documentaries, and The Education of a Woman, a biography by Carolyn Heilbrun.

Toward the end of the evening Gretchen Letterman asked Ms. Steinem and Ms. Hughes the big question;Gretchen_at_Steinem.jpg who would each of them be voting for in this historical election in which a woman and a black man are running for President of the United States?

Ms. Steinem did not answer right away and instead began to take us through her process in making her decision.  She likes both of the Democratic candidates- Obama and Clinton- however, for her, when she reviewed the records and experience of each candidate she decided to endorse Hilary Clinton based on her experience in the political process including her years in the White House and as a Senator.  She did conclude if Obama does get the nomination that she would stand behind him although she prefers Clinton.

Ms. Hughes also explained her decision process including the issues for blacks as well as women in this historic race.  She is supporting Obama and after explaining her own personal life's path she felt that this was the right decision for her.  I was moved by her explaination of her process in deciding who to support and it was clearly understandable why she chose her candidate.

As Gloria speaks, I reflect back to 1969, when I was a junior in high school. At that time, Gloria Steinem attended a protest in New York City, just beginning her role as a feminist.  She commented on how 14 men and one woman -- a Nun -- were invited to discuss abortion with the current leaders and how she thought -- "It's not fair."  This is a slogan she thinks we need to continue to hold on to as "it's still not fair" and unless women continue to make an effort to fight inequality, it will never be fair.

You can learn more about Ms. Steinem on the Smith College Website: Agents of Social Change

Resources:

This is What a Feminist Looks Like- Conversations at Eckerd College- March 5, 2008

Feminist.com

Encyclopedia of World Biography- Gale, 1998

Wikipedia

All Photos in this article are by Jean Harper except for the photo by Dan Wynn of Ms. Steinem and Ms. Huges as younger women activist.

More Photos Below:

Gloria_Steinem_bracelets.jpg  gloria_b_w.jpg   
Gloria_up_close_at_signing.jpg   Gloria_speaks_w_hands.jpg  


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