The Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem

Overview

In her classic Writing a Woman's Life, feminist scholar Carolyn G. Heilbrun eloquently revealed that for centuries biographers of women had suppressed the truth of the female experience in order to make the "written life" conform to society's expectations of what that life should be. Now, in The Education of a Woman, Heilbrun takes up her own challenge, illuminating the life of one of the most controversial women of our time: Gloria Steinem.

Determined to discover the woman ...

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Overview

In her classic Writing a Woman's Life, feminist scholar Carolyn G. Heilbrun eloquently revealed that for centuries biographers of women had suppressed the truth of the female experience in order to make the "written life" conform to society's expectations of what that life should be. Now, in The Education of a Woman, Heilbrun takes up her own challenge, illuminating the life of one of the most controversial women of our time: Gloria Steinem.

Determined to discover the woman behind the headlines, Heilbrun explores the many facets of Steinem's complex life, including her difficult childhood in Toledo, Ohio, caring for an incapacitated mother; the college that provided a safe haven from the anxieties of home; the formative trip to India and the influence of Gandhi's teachings; the awakening that changed her from a political columnist for New York magazine to the most famous feminist in the world; the triumphant creation of Ms. magazine and the long, hard struggle to keep it going; and, ultimately, the profound introspection she undertook in the '90s.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Biography of the pivotal and occasionally controversial feminist and co-founder of Ms. magazine. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Heilbrun, the accomplished literary scholar (Writing a Woman's Life, LJ 10/15/88) and mystery author under the nom de plume Amanda Cross, offers her interpretation of a complex and admirable subject, feminist avatar Gloria Steinem. Unhappily, the result is disappointing, in part because it seems premature with Steinem only 60 and still active in the women's movement. But the book suffers from more serious imperfections as well. Though Heilbrun discusses at length Steinem's relationship with her mother, she neglects connections with Steinem's father and her sister. A large share of the book treats Steinem's numerous celebrity liaisons; while legitimate in a posthumous examination, such discussion is inescapably tawdry when the subject is still living. Finally and most puzzling, the writing lacks polish. Long quotations are awkwardly integrated, and some sentences require rereading. The definitive work is still to be written, but this one will nevertheless attract a large audience. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/95.]-Cynthia Harrison, Federal Judicial Ctr., Washington, D.C.
Mary Carroll
ere's a marriage made in heaven: Columbia professor emerita Heilbrun, groundbreaking theorist on the "male" structure of biographical conventions ("Writing a Woman's Life" [1988]) and author (as Amanda Cross) of the witty, feminist Kate Fansler mysteries, and Steinem, journalist, multi-issue activist, "Ms." founder, best-selling author, at once praised and pilloried as perhaps the most visible feminist of the late twentieth century. Heilbrun did dozens of interviews, traveled to Steinem's childhood homes, and plowed through her uncataloged memorabilia and papers at Smith College. The portrait that results is nuanced and thoughtful, respectful of Steinem's work but prepared to question some of her explanations. Revising Emerson's advice on consistency, Heilbrun sees Steinem's life as "testimony to the power of contradictory behavior." Probing and often reconciling dissonant elements that fuel critics' venom, Heilbrun sees in Steinem's past six decades "a steadfastness of purpose, a willingness to undertake risks and to work for chosen goals, and a firmness in maintaining" her principles" that provide an essential continuity. Heilbrun's goal is at once to understand how Steinem became the woman she is, and what her life can teach us about childhood and family, self and society. Slow at the start, but Heilbrun soon captures readers' interest and imagination.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765445964
  • Publisher: B&N Distribution
  • Publication date: 4/17/1997

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
A Note on Documentation xv
Introduction xvii
Family 1
Safety 41
India: The Transforming Interlude 67
New York 84
1968 132
Awakening 161
Ms. 189
Dissonance at Close Quarters 232
Trashing 276
Houston 310
Any Port in a Storm 325
Getting to Fifty 339
Imperatives for Change 370
Epilogue 402
Appendix 416
Bibliography 424
Picture Credits 431
Index 433
About the Author 451
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