My #MAKERShero: Gloria Steinem
(Left to right: Amy Richards, Sheryl Sandberg, Dyllan McGee and Gloria Steinem)
How on earth did Gloria Steinem get to be 80 years old? As a kid my mother subscribed to Ms. magazine and I occasionally saw Gloria's picture grace our coffee table. When I moved to NYC for college, a friend ended up working for Gloria and handed that job to me when she had to move away. I can still remember taking the 1 train downtown from my college dorm room, getting off at 72nd Street and walking across Central Park on a warm September day. She opened the door and welcomed me in. She was much shorter than I expected and so kind and welcoming. I couldn't have predicted then that 23 years later, we would be friends and colleagues....and riding elephants together as she celebrates her 80th birthday.
Gloria has been my North Star and of all of the gifts she has bestowed upon me (and humanity) two of the greatest are her generosity of spirit and her prioritizing of friendship. You can't learn those things in college or read them in books -- you learn them by having that behavior role modeled for you by people you love and admire.
As much as Gloria is known to many, from my vantage there is still so much to her that isn't always what others celebrate. Most people know that "Gloria Steinem" is a major feminist, a co-founder of Ms. magazine and columnist at New York Magazine, once went undercover as a Playboy Bunny, and can usually be found with her long hair parted in the middle with aviator glasses. What isn't as known: the only thing she can really cook are eggs and already-made soup, she doesn't want to look like a "lady" so will still wear bluejeans and sheer tops, she loves animals, she treats kids just as small people, she stays up until the wee hours working, she rarely forgets a friend's birthday, she loves to connect people -- whether it is a great writer with a talented agent; an important issue with a journalist to cover it; a struggling activist with seed funding. In other words: Gloria makes things happen. Not because of her connections or celebrity, but because she cares to. She's a great listener, she sees right through presumed hierarchies, she loves life.
As Sheryl Sandberg recently said at a MAKERS conference -- Gloria doesn't always agree with us, but she always has our back.
Happy 80th Gloria!
Amy Richards is best known for creating the Third Wave Foundation as well as for her writings on contemporary feminism.