President Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom to Gloria Steinem yesterday. The following article from The New York Times was published last year but captures some aspects of Ms. Steinem's great contributions:
IN 1970, when the Senate was first debating passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, a featured speaker was Gloria Steinem, a 36-year-old magazine writer with a growing reputation as a forceful advocate of women’s issues. “During years of working for a living, I have experienced much of the legal and social discrimination reserved for women in this country,” Ms. Steinem told the almost exclusively male gathering. “I have been refused service in public restaurants, ordered out of public gathering places and turned away from apartment rentals. All for the clearly stated, sole reason that I am a woman.” Over the last 40 years, Gloria Steinem has almost always been at the other end of the phone when some member of the news media has sought comment about a pressing issue involving women’s rights, whether it was Roe v. Wade (“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament,” said Florynce Kennedy, a lawyer for Ms. Steinem in the 1970s), the tax problems that all but doomed the chances of the first woman to run for vice president on a major ticket (“What has the women’s movement learned from Geraldine Ferraro’s candidacy for vice president? Never get married.”) and even the presidency of George W. Bush (“There has never been an administration that is more hostile to women’s equality, to reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right”).
…The past year has been a time of reflection about Ms. Steinem’s legacy: she was the subject of a widely viewed HBO documentary, “In Her Own Words,” and the recipient of Glamour magazine’s lifetime achievement award. In the magazine, describing the influence of Ms. Steinem, Christine Stansell, a University of Chicago history professor, said she “was to the women’s movement what Martin Luther King Jr. was to civil rights: the galvanizer.”