Social activist Gloria Steinem has been an outspoken champion of women's rights for decades. Steinem started her professional career as a journalist in New York, writing freelance pieces for various publications. In the early 1970s, she became an activist for women's rights. Subsequently, her prolific writing and speaking activities made her the most visible feminist of this era. In 1972, Steinem co-founded Ms. magazine; her articles and editorial work have helped make the magazine an enduring voice of mainstream feminism.

Over the several decades, Steinem's activism profoundly affected millions of people. Her writing has been published and reprinted in numerous anthologies and textbooks. In addition, she has been active in many organizations, including the National Women's Political Caucus, Women's Action Alliance, and Voters for Choice. For her contributions, she has received numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor. The award was presented to her in 2013 by President Barack Obama.

Become a Subscriber

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading this article.

Subscribe Now

In 1952 Steinem enrolled at Smith College in Massachusetts, an institution with which she remains engaged. Right from the start she showed signs of being a bit different from many of her female classmates; at Smith she studied government, which was an uncommon choice for a woman at the time. During her junior year, Steinem left for Europe, where she traveled around and eventually spent a full academic year at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. It was at this time that Steinem's interest in writing started to develop. When she returned to the U.S., she began to publish book reviews in the Smith student newspaper, The Sophian, which led her to pursue a career in the publishing industry.

She was a top student, elected as class historian during her senior year. In 1956 Steinem received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. Adding to her honors, she was awarded the Chester Bowles Fellowship, which enabled her to spend two years studying and researching in India.

Since graduating, Steinem has remained a prominent and active figure in the Smith community; her legacy is felt all over the campus. Most notably, her alma mater is responsible for the Gloria Steinem Papers, a historically invaluable collection of materials which document not only the personal life and career of one of the most influential feminists of the twentieth century, but also the course of the women's movement from the early 1970s to the present. The collection includes such raw materials as Steinem's correspondence, writings, speeches, subject files, memorabilia, photographs, and other papers from 1940 through 2011. On top of that, Steinem is a regular visitor to Smith as a keynote speaker, panelist, and as part of the Presidential Colloquia, and she hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. Steinem remains a fixture on the Smith campus, eager to enrich the discussion of social change with her rich background and unique expertise.