International Women’s Day 2024 – Gloria Steinem

This year, International Women’s Day (IWD) is being celebrated on 8 March 2024. The campaign theme this year is #InspireInclusion and IWD asks us to imagine a gender equal world, free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination, a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.

World-renowned feminist, journalist and activist, Gloria Steinem, once explained:

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

But who is Gloria Steinem?

Gloria Steinem was born in 1934 in Ohio USA, and she grew up to become an acclaimed journalist, revolutionary feminist and one of the most visible, passionate leaders and spokeswomen of the women’s rights movement in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

In 1960 Gloria started her career as a journalist in New York and, in this era, men ran the newsrooms and women were placed into secretarial work or behind the scenes research roles. Gloria’s early work tended to be that of articles for ‘the women’s pages’, and when Gloria suggested political stories to her editor, she was told something like “I don’t think of you that way”.

However, Gloria pushed on and sought more social and political reporting assignments, and she gained national attention in 1963 for her report on the working conditions at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club where she revealed the sexist, not so glamourous and underpaid life of the girls who worked there. Unfortunately, Gloria struggled to be taken seriously as a journalist after this, but she worked hard to make a name for herself, and in 1968 she helped found New York Magazine and here she became an editor and a political writer.

In 1969 Gloria first spoke publicly at an event to legalise abortion in the state of New York, where she shared her story of the abortion she had overseas when she was 22 years old. This proved life changing for Gloria as it sparked her feminism and her engagement with the women’s movement. Gloria attended and spoke at numerous protests and demonstrations, and she became an in-demand media guest and movement spokesperson.

Gloria has dedicated her life to the cause of women’s rights, and during the 1970’s she was one of the main voices campaigning for women’s reproductive rights. In 1973 she celebrated the US Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Roe v Wade, which granted women the constitutional right to abortion. Sadly, nearly half a century later she witnessed the reversal of this historic ruling, when in June of 2022 the Supreme Court ended the nationwide right to abortion. For Gloria, and many others it was a clear reminder of the need to keep campaigning to achieve changes she says she hopes to see in her lifetime.

Gloria also closely monitors the pressure on women’s rights across the world, including the limitation of women’s freedoms in countries like Iran and Afghanistan. She regards the protests by Iranian women who took to the streets, burning their hijabs and cutting of their hair, as both a battle for self-determination and a form of feminist revolution.

Gloria also worked closely with black political activist, Angela Davis, and a photo of the two of them, standing shoulder to shoulder became an iconic image for the fight by women and African Americans for equality and social justice.

Gloria has cofounded many feminist organisations throughout her lifetime, and notably she cofounded the Women’s Action Alliance in 1971 and in1972 she went on to form the National Women’s Political Caucus with Betty Friedan and Congresswomen, Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisolm. The organisation continues to support gender equality and to ensure the election of more pro-equality women into public office in the United States.

Gloria has also written several books, including a biography on Marilyn Monroe, and the best-selling book, “My Life on the Road”. Her work has also been published and reprinted in numerous anthologies and textbooks.

In 2013, President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian honour in the US. Further, in 2017, Rutgers University created The Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies.

Steinem is now in her late 80s and she continues to work for social justice. As she recently said, “The idea of retiring is as foreign to me as the idea of hunting.”


Leah Pilling

March 2024



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