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Gloria Steinem papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00237

Scope and Contents

The Gloria Steinem Papers offer an extraordinarily complete picture of an important feminist leader's public life, and to some extent her private life as well, but there is much more here than the raw material for Steinem's biography. The correspondence, writings, speeches, subject files, memorabilia, photographs, and other papers collected here document the Women's Movement from the standpoint of not only the movers and shakers, but also the individual women at the grass roots level whose letters to Steinem indicate the ways in which they responded to her as a symbol of the changes they were experiencing in their own lives. The papers also reflect the diversity of the modern women's movement. Steinem's ability to form productive alliances with women of different races and classes reflect her commitment to their concerns. Within the papers is evidence of her friendships and political work with pioneering African-American feminists such as Florynce Kennedy and Dorothy Pitman Hughes; lesbian authors and activists Andrea Dworkin, Rita Mae Brown, and Kate Millett; and labor organizers such as the United Farmworkers' Dolores Huerta and Karen Nussbaum of SEIU, District 925. Her importance as a founder, editor, and key fund-raiser for Ms. magazine make this collection central to the study of late 20th century journalism. Steinem's papers will be essential to any serious scholarly work on the women's liberation movement and twentieth century feminism.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1908 - 2016


Conditions Governing Access

This collection will be processed starting on May 12, 2023. All contents of the finding aid are subject to change and researcher access will be limited. Material in boxes 1-241 will not be affected by this project. Contact Special Collections for details.

This collection is open for research use with following restrictions on access, per the donor agreement:

Financial and legal records are closed until Gloria Steinem’s death.

Correspondence with the following individuals is closed until Gloria Steinem’s death: Amy Goldstein Adams, Robert Benton, Candace Bergen, Rita Mae Brown, Blair Chotzinoff, Andrea Dworkin, Peter Frederick, Walter Fridenberg, Stan Pottinger, Margaret Sloan, Ted Sorensen, Edie Van Horn, and Alice Walker.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that she owns copyright, Gloria Steinem has retained copyright in her works donated to Smith College. Copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, or which may regard materials in the collection not created by Gloria Steinem, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Gloria Steinem was born on March 25, 1934 in Toledo, Ohio to Leo Steinem and Ruth Nuneviller Steinem, the second of their two children (Suzanne Steinem was born in 1925). She grew up in Toledo and Clark Lake, Michigan, where the family ran a summer resort. Leo and Ruth divorced in 1945, and, with Suzanne away at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, eleven-year-old Gloria assumed responsibility for the care of her mother, who was increasingly vulnerable to mental illness. For a short time Gloria lived with Suzanne, by that time employed in Washington, D.C., completing her senior year at Western High School in Georgetown.

In 1952, Steinem followed Suzanne to Smith College. After her 1956 graduation, Steinem received a Chester Bowles post-graduate fellowship to spend two years studying and writing in India, where she absorbed grass roots organizing skills from followers of Gandhi. In 1960 she moved to New York City where she worked for Help! magazine and wrote freelance for Life, Esquire, Glamour, and many other newspapers and magazines. Steinem co-founded New York magazine in 1968 and served as its political columnist until 1972. She was active in various civil rights and peace campaigns in the 1960s and 70s, including United Farmworkers, Vietnam War Tax Protest, and Committee for the Legal Defense of Angela Davis. She also participated in the political campaigns of Adlai Stevenson, Robert Kennedy, Shirley Chisholm, and many others.

Steinem came to the Women's Movement in 1969, after she attended a meeting of the Redstockings during which women shared their experiences with abortion. Her consciousness raised, she began speaking to audiences across the country, often paired with African-American activist Dorothy Pitman Hughes, and later Florynce Kennedy and Margaret Sloan. In 1971, Steinem, with others, founded Ms. magazine, and since that time, Steinem has devoted her career to writing, editing, fund-raising, and publicity on behalf of Ms, its allied organizations (e.g. the Ms. Foundation for Women, the Free to Be Foundation) and the women's movement more generally. A collection of her Ms. articles and other work was published in a best selling book, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983). She published Marilyn in 1986, Revolution from Within in 1992, and Moving Beyond Words in 1994. In 1986, Steinem became a contributing correspondent for the Today Show, doing interviews and features. Other organizing activities include the founding of the Ms. Foundation for Women, The National Women's Political Caucus, Voters for Choice, The Women's Action Alliance, and the Coalition of Labor Union Women. She has lectured extensively and received numerous writing awards, including the Front Page, Clarion, and Penney- Missouri journalism awards. Bloomfield College, Simmons College, Smith College, the University of Toledo, and Hobart and William Smith College have awarded Steinem honorary degrees.

Two book-length biographies of Steinem have appeared to date: Carolyn Heilbrun, The Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem (1995); and Sydney Stern, Gloria Steinem: Her Passions, Politics and Mystique (1997).


222.067 linear feet (355 containers)

66.929 Gigabytes

Language of Materials



Journalist; feminist; political activist; co-founder, Ms magazine; co-founder, Women's Action Alliance; co-founder, Ms Foundation for Women; and co-founder, National Women's Political Caucus. In addition to providing a complete picture of the life of an important feminist leader, the Gloria Steinem Papers document women at the grassroots level of the feminist movement, whose letters to Steinem demonstrate her role as a symbol of the changes they were experiencing in their own lives. The papers also document Steinem's friendships and work with African-American feminists Shirley Chisholm, Florynce Kennedy and Dorothy Pitman Hughes; lesbian activists Andrea Dworkin and Kate Millett; and labor organizers such as Dolores Huerta and Karen Nussbaum. Material in the collection includes correspondence, writings, speeches, subject files, memorabilia, and photographs.


This collection is organized into ten series. The first seven series arranged materials by topic or genre -- biographical, correspondence, speeches and appearances, writings, organizations, political campaigns, and subjects. The next two series feature materials other than paper records, specifically photographs, audio and motion picture recordings, and computer files. Finally, there is a series of papers that were received distinctly from the rest of the collection in a transfer from the records of Ms. Magazine.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Gloria Steinem, 1984-2016.

Additional materials donated by Ms. Magazine (1997?), Carolyn G. Heilbrun (1998 and 2003), and Jill Cowan (2012).

Accessions prior to 1997 are recorded in the collection control file.

Additions to the Collection

Periodic additions to collection are expected.

Additional Formats

Selections from the Gloria Steinem Papers can be viewed in the Web exhibit Agents of Social Change: New Resources on 20th-century Women's Activism .

Related Material

Related material can be found in the Ms. Records (unprocessed) and the Women's Action Alliance Records, Sophia Smith Collection.

Oral history interviews of Steinem conducted as part of the Voices of Feminism Oral History Project can be found in the Voices of Feminism Oral History Project oral histories (SSC-MS-00535).

See also Revealing Women's Life Stories: Papers from the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Sophia Smith Collection for article on Gloria Steinem by Carolyn Heilbrun.

Separated Materials

All materials related to Free to Be... You and Me were returned at the donor's request (with the intention to sell them elsewhere) and formally deaccessioned in November 2020.

Processing Information

Processed by Marla Miller, Amy Hague and Amanda Izzo, 1999. In 2021, the finding aid of this collection was reviewed and as part of a policy to avoid language that stigmatizes mental illness, two phrases were changed. "Letters from the mentally ill" was replaced with "people Steinem deemed 'crazy,'" and correspondents described as "mentally or emotionally disturbed" was changed to the more specific, "individuals suffering from delusions."

In 2022, the description for all of the materials received since the collection was processed in 1999 was integrated with the description for the rest of the collection, with the exception of the series of materials received from Ms. Magazine, which were kept in their own series. Materials in boxes starting with number 242 have been lightly described and arranged in the finding aid, but have generally not been rearranged physically, so they may be more challenging to use than the rest of the collection.

The description for the materials previously described as "SERIES X: OVERSIZE" was also integrated with the description for the rest of the collection in 2022, for ease of reference.

The contents of computer media in this collection have been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; the original directory and file structure was retained and file lists were created.

Finding Aid to the Gloria Steinem papers
Marla Miller
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: mnsss66 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:23-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2018-11-06: Former Appendix added as container list. No other significant edits made
  • 2019-04-16: Made paper FA pencil edit changes.
  • 2020-05-04: Description added for born-digital content.
  • 2021-06: Legacy inventories to 16 different accessions added
  • 2022-04-15: Intellectually integrated accessions and Oversize series into rest of collection description; updated dates and extents; updated notes as needed
  • 2022-04-28: Updated conditions governing access notes based on new deed of gift

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063