On Her 90th Birthday, Revisiting Gloria Steinem in New York

New York Magazine Party
Steinem with New York Magazine co-founder Milton Glaser and Tom Wolfe at our offices in 1967. Photo: The Estate of David Gahr/Getty Images

Gloria Steinem turns 90 today. To most of the world, of course, she is a defining public face of feminism, but we at New York also think of her as one of our own. Starting in the early 1960s, when she was a few years out of Smith College, she began writing steadily for Clay Felker, then an editor at Esquire. He published her first big story, about women and contraception. Another story she published during that era (in Show magazine) about going undercover as a Bunny at the Playboy Club found her a great deal of attention, and when Felker eventually went out to start New York in 1968, Steinem and Tom Wolfe often joined him for lunches with potential investors, lending him their high profiles and ability to charm. (Steinem has referred to these meetings as “tap-dancing for rich people.”)

Starting in our very first issue, she became a contributing editor and columnist, steadily covering city and national politics from a generally leftist perspective. She wrote about Bella Abzug and John Lindsay, about Teddy Kennedy and Ralph Nader, about Vietnam and abortion rights. You can, reading her columns, almost chart her gradual progression from columnist to activist. In the fall of 1971, she left us to co-found Ms., which launched with a 32-page insert in the center of New York’s year-end double issue.

To mark her 90th, we’re republishing 15 of her old stories from our archives, most of them resurfaced for the first time. Some are revelatory; others are just interesting snapshots of their time, including a wild look at “new love styles” that we ran for Valentine’s Day 1970. Another column from that year contains a passage about a brand-new abbreviation, neither “Miss” nor “Mrs.,” that was beginning to gain traction in the language. Writes Steinem: “I’m all in favor of the new form, and will put it on all letters and documents. But an airline clerk asked me ‘Miss or Mrs.?’ on the phone, and I was stumped. How the hell do you pronounce Ms.?”

Thanks to her later work, we all know now. Happy birthday, Ms. Steinem.

From the Archives:

“Ho Chi Minh in New York” (April 8, 1968)
In our first issue, Steinem digs into rumors of the Vietnamese leader’s time in Manhattan.

“The City on the Eve of Destruction” (April 22, 1968)
Gloria Steinem and Lloyd Weaver report from New York City on the night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder.

“In Your Heart, You Know He’s Nixon” (October 28, 1968)
“As we learned who Kennedy was only after he died, we may learn who Nixon is only after he is President.”

“Women and Power” (December 23, 1968)
“As Jacqueline Kennedy was quoted, ‘There are two kinds of women: those who want power in the world and those who want power in bed.”

“After Black Power, Women’s Liberation” (April 4, 1969)
Can the women’s liberation movement can feel solidarity with poor women of all colors?

“The Souls of (Lower-Middle-Class) White Folk” (September 15, 1969)
Steinem on the emerging coalition of affluent Republicans and blue-collar whites.

“Vietnam in Queens” (November 10, 1969)
From 1969, reporting on the antiwar views of returning wounded soldiers.

“That Woman in City Hall” (January 5, 1970)
A profile of Ronnie Eldridge, special assistant to Mayor John Lindsay.

“Hi There, I’m Ed Koch” (January 26, 1970)
Steinem profiles the charming, ambitious congressman who, less than a decade later, was elected mayor.

“Laboratory for Love Styles” (February 16, 1970)
A dispatch on the rapidly evolving relationship dynamics of the early 1970s.

“The Politics of Sex and Fashion” (March 16, 1970)
Repressed fashion, Steinem writes, often pairs with societal oppression.

“The War Against Nixon” (May 18, 1970)
On the backlash against the president in the days after the Kent State shootings.

“More Hot-Weather Specials” (August 24, 1970)
Steinem introduces a new abbreviation, neither Mrs. nor Miss, in this 1970 column. “How do you pronounce ‘Ms.’?”

“Getting Rich Off Welfare” (January 18, 1971)
On the grim state of welfare services in New York City.

“Sisterhood” (December 20, 1971)
From the launch issue of Ms., a report on the state of intersectional feminism.


Happy 90th Birthday, Gloria Steinem!