My Life on the Road
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | ONE OF O: THE OPRAH MAGAZINE’S TEN FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR | NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Harper’s Bazaar • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Publishers Weekly
Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and inspiring leader—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of her life as a traveler, a listener, and a catalyst for change. Includes “Secrets,” a new chapter!
When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel. Taking to the road—by which I mean letting the road take you—changed who I thought I was. The road is messy in the way that real life is messy. It leads us out of denial and into reality, out of theory and into practice, out of caution and into action, out of statistics and into stories—in short, out of our heads and into our hearts.
Gloria Steinem had an itinerant childhood. When she was a young girl, her father would pack the family in the car every fall and drive across country searching for adventure and trying to make a living. The seeds were planted: Gloria realized that growing up didn’t have to mean settling down. And so began a lifetime of travel, of activism and leadership, of listening to people whose voices and ideas would inspire change and revolution.
My Life on the Road is the moving, funny, and profound story of Gloria’s growth and also the growth of a revolutionary movement for equality—and the story of how surprising encounters on the road shaped both. From her first experience of social activism among women in India to her work as a journalist in the 1960s; from the whirlwind of political campaigns to the founding of Ms. magazine; from the historic 1977 National Women’s Conference to her travels through Indian Country—a lifetime spent on the road allowed Gloria to listen and connect deeply with people, to understand that context is everything, and to become part of a movement that would change the world.
In prose that is revealing and rich, Gloria reminds us that living in an open, observant, and “on the road” state of mind can make a difference in how we learn, what we do, and how we understand each other.
Praise for My Life on the Road
“Like Steinem herself, [My Life on the Road] is thoughtful and astonishingly humble. It is also filled with a sense of the momentous while offering deeply personal insights into what shaped her.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“A lyrical meditation on restlessness and the quest for equity . . . Part of the appeal of My Life is how Steinem, with evocative, melodic prose, conveys the air of discovery and wonder she felt during so many of her journeys. . . . The lessons imparted in Life on the Road offer more than a reminiscence. They are a beacon of hope for the future.”—USA Today
“A warmly companionable look back at nearly five decades as itinerant feminist organizer and standard-bearer. If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to sit down with Ms. Steinem for a casual dinner, this disarmingly intimate book gives a pretty good idea, mixing hard-won pragmatic lessons with more inspirational insights.”—The New York Times
“Steinem rocks. My Life on the Road abounds with fresh insights and is as populist as can be.”—The Boston Globe
“In person and in her writing, Steinem exudes a rare combination of calm, humility and honesty about her weaknesses that explains all she has accomplished.”—Jezebel
case, as when my literary agent had sent me to an editor at a major national magazine, who dismissed me by saying, “We don’t want a pretty girl—we want a writer.” The idea that whatever I had accomplished was all about looks would remain a biased and hurtful accusation even into my old age. Fortunately, traveling and speaking took me to audiencess full of down-home common sense. When a reporter raised the question of my looks as more important than anything I could possibly have to say, for
was invited in the first place. His belated essay explains that his then wife, Jana Sax, had felt “profound alienation from the principles and methods reflected in her spouse’s legal education.” She suggested me as a speaker, and the president of the Harvard Law Review said yes. We each played a role: a wife, women law students, Brenda, me, even the angry professor. In this way, Harvard Law School gives me a big gift: I worry less about hostile responses. Ultimately, they educate an audience. As
laughter, and then cheers. Never in my four decades of traveling and fund-raising will anything like this happen again. If people pledge money, it’s usually after an appeal and in requested sums. Also they tend to give according to what others are giving. To me and to everyone in that room, this young man has shown how to give without being asked and according to ability—more than ability, since he is sharing a rare windfall. He has given us all the gift of spontaneity—and hope. We stay in
regarded her as an equal—who had always said this country got “two presidents for the price of one”—it only dramatized their own lack of power and respect. After one long night and a lot of wine, one woman told me that Hillary’s marriage made her aware of just how unequal hers was. In San Francisco and Seattle, I listened to self-identified Hillary Haters condemn her for staying with her husband, despite his well-publicized affairs. It turned out that many of them had suffered a faithless
game and were outraged to find all the players on the same team. It dawned on me that in the abolitionist and suffragist past, a universal suffragist movement of black men and white and black women also had been consciously divided by giving the vote to black men only—and then limiting even that with violence, impossible literacy tests, and poll taxes. Now, this echo of divide-and-conquer in the past was polarizing the constituencies of two barrier-breaking “firsts,” never mind that the