Sisterhood Blog

Gloria Steinem's Medal for the Movement

By Naomi Zeveloff

  • Print
  • Share Share

Calling her award a “medal for the movement,” Gloria Steinem accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday, the highest civilian honor in America.

Steinem’s feminists achievements — from co-founding Ms. Magazine to her activism for reproductive rights to her recent push for fair immigration reform — will no doubt be recounted by the news media in the coming days.

Call it 1960s feminist nostalgia, but I found myself curious, instead, about Steinem before she was Steinem, at that pivotal moment when she started seeing the world through a gender lens.

Steinem’s feminist “aha” moment happened in April 1969, when she was reporting about the women’s movement for her column, “The City Politic,” in New York Magazine. The New York State legislature was debating the liberalization of abortion laws, but didn’t include women in its hearings. So a group of women gathered in a church in Greenwich Village to discuss their experiences. Steinem wrote in the Jewish Women’s Archive:

Class, race, everything was serious because it also affected men, but if it only affected women, it couldn’t be serious. Then I saw these women standing up and telling their stories – dramatic, horrifying, funny. They spoke about the dangerous illegal underground they had to enter, about bargaining with illegal abortionists, dealing with men who demanded sex before performing an abortion – incredible stories. For me it was like a big light coming on.

Steinem went on to write the column, “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation,” that would forever change her life. Reading the column today, some 44 years later, I am struck, as feminist scholars of history often are, by how far women have come and how far we have yet to go.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: women, Gloria Steinem, Jewish

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.