Shortly before her 35th birthday, GLORIA STEINEM (born 1934) was every bit the successful “writer about town” the New York Times had tagged her a few years earlier — but she wasn’t a feminist, yet. She had famously gone undercover as a Playboy bunny on assignment for Show magazine, and regularly turned out smart articles about fashion and pop culture for Glamour and other glossy agents of the feminine mystique. She was also the author of an entertaining bit of fluff called The Beach Book (1963; its dustjacket featured a foil covered inner flap to facilitate better tanning). More serious was her regular “City Politic” column for New York magazine, and it was there she chronicled the opening salvo of what became a life changing event. On February 13, 1969, women’s liberationists disrupted a New York legislative meeting on abortion law reform, angered that of the fifteen “experts” scheduled to testify, only one was a woman — a nun. When the feminists attempted to speak, the hearing was quickly adjourned. The following month, Steinem attended the “abortion speakout” organized by Redstockings, the radical women’s liberation group born at the legislative event. Twelve women recounted their abortions in the personal style known as consciousness raising. Steinem, who had undergone a legal abortion at the age of 22, later wrote that it was as if a “great blinding lightbulb” had gone off. It was the beginning of her conversion to feminism. “But once the light began to dawn,” she remembered, “I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t figured out any of this before.”
MORE ACTIVISTS: Mother Jones | Alexander Berkman | Eugene V. Debs | Big Bill Haywood | Lucy Stone | Antônio Conselheiro | Emmeline Pankhurst | Félix Fénéon | Zo d’Axa | Mikhail Bakunin | Voltairine de Cleyre | Emma Goldman | Will Allen | Rosa Luxemburg | Émile Henry | Pancho Villa | Joe Hill | Margaret Sanger | Aldo Leopold | Screaming Lord Sutch | Nestor Makhno | Dorothy Day | Garry Kasparov | Adriano Olivetti | Mildred Harnack | George Orwell | Bayard Rustin | Abbie Hoffman | Ti-Grace Atkinson | Gloria Steinem | Rudolf Rocker | Stokely Carmichael | Angela Davis
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Rudolf Rocker, Melora Creager, Cecil Taylor, Flannery O’Conner, David Lean, Frances Glessner Lee.
READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Postmodernist (1924-33) and Anti-Anti-Utopian (1934-43) Generations.