30 Over 30: Gloria Steinem

Sure, Gloria Steinem did interesting, impressive, and important work before turning 30. For example, she wrote an influential piece on contraception for Esquire, an interview with John Lennon for Cosmopolitan, and an exposé about working conditions for Playboy bunnies for Show magazine.

But it wasn’t until she covered an abortion hearing for New York Magazine that her political career ignited. She co-founded Ms. Magazine–the first ever woman-created, operated, and run magazine–three years later, at age 38.

Since then, Gloria Steinem has written four best-selling books, produced a documentary and a feature film, and helped found the Women’s Action Alliance, Women’s Media Center, and the National Women’s Political Caucus in addition to continuing her political organizing, lecturing, and freelancing internationally.

What I love most about Gloria–aside from her dedication to human equality and justice for all people who feel invisible, her sense of humor and articulateness, and the ease with which she seems to inhabit her own skin–is her philosophy toward aging. In an interview with Mother Jones in 1995, she recounted,

Old is not a thing. We’re the same people, going through a different stage. And I just want to say to you, in the realism department, that 50 was much harder than 60.

Fifty was the end of this long familiar plateau that you entered at 13–you know, the country of the female stereotype. And when I got to 50, which is the edge of this territory–indeed, the edge used to be 35, 40, we’ve pushed it to 50–then it was like falling off a cliff. There was no map. Now it’s true that I had been fighting with the map. But you’re enmeshed with it either way, whether you’re obeying it or fighting with it. It was very difficult. So I’m not saying it’s all cheerful. I’m just saying that even though you realize the only country described to women is this 13- to-50-year-old country, there is another country after 50. It’s so exciting, and so interesting.

Remember when you were 9 or 10 or 11, and maybe you were this tree-climbing, shit-free little girl who said, “It’s not fair,” and then at 12 or 13 you suddenly turned into a female impersonator who said, “How clever of you to know what time it is!” and all that stuff? Well, what happens is that when you get to be 60, and the role is over, you go back to that clear-eyed, shit-free, I-know-what-I-want, I-know-what-I-think, 9- or 10-year-old girl. Only now–you have your own apartment.

Or, as she explains in this biography, “In my era, the time after school and before marriage was the only time women were free. But in my case, that wasn’t until 50. Or, in my forties anyway. Because it was then that I figured out that not everybody had to live the same way. And I had this revelation that I was actually happy.”

Thank you, Gloria!

To read about more women making critical contributions – even after age 30 – follow @shespoised on twitter, or like She’s Poised on Facebook (and select Get Notifications from the drop down menu).

Categories: 30 Over 30

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