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Gloria Steinem discusses the 10th anniversary of "Ms." magazine

BROADCAST: Jun. 17, 1982 | DURATION: 00:56:25


According to Gloria Steinem, "Ms." magazine is not only a national feminist magazine, but it's also a portable friend. A regular feature of the magazine is to celebrate found women, women who are not celebrities but who should be celebrated for what they do. This interview also includes an excerpt of Aunt Molly Jackson.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel "Ms." is 10 years old. It's not simply a magazine that is 10 years old, but a certain kind of magazine representing, I guess, a tremendous change in the psyche of our country and attitudes - men toward women, women toward men. Certainly the magazine of the feminist movement. And one of the editors, one of the key figures, a spark plug of it, is Gloria Steinem. And she's guest today - talking about, I guess the meaning of "Ms.", and its tenth anniversary and where we were. I say we because [laughter] we're all one way or another--

Gloria Steinem You should, we're in this together.

Studs Terkel And where we're heading, as the women who write for "Ms.", and occasional men, who write for "Ms." see it. So it's the tenth anniversary. First of all, congratulations.

Gloria Steinem Thank you.

Studs Terkel And a program in a moment, with music, after this message. [pause in recording] [content removed, see catalog record] And as we hear the trumpets, I was thinking of that song, "Shoulder to Shoulder." How far women have come, or have not come, since the turn of the century, latter part of the nine- "Shoulder to Shoulder" [sic "The March of the Women"] written by the British composer, a woman Ethel Smyth. Now Gloria Steinem, thoughts on hearing that?

Studs Terkel For a minute there it made me want to cry a little bit, because the bravery of women who stand up for their rights and often meet with ridicule, opposition almost seems like a step forward. You know, because that means you're being taken seriously. But that kind of ridicule that women of all races seem to uniquely get when they, you know, stand up for themselves and the courage of those women, it's it's it really is moving. And I think anybody who saw the BBC series on the suffragist movement in England would be moved.

Studs Terkel Yeah I I'm thinking of something closer to home, here in Illinois. Then, there was, you know, about almost about 90 years ago, there they were: they're ridiculed by authorities, with few exceptions here and there. And then a number of them to make their cause known went on a fast and were force fed. And here in Illinois, seven women for ERA are fasting. And so we still have a way to go.

Gloria Steinem I I think yes. I mean there's a very - it's still going on. That song is just as relevant today. It helps maybe to put it in perspective to say that that those courageous women are foremothers; one, for women a legal identity as human beings--

Studs Terkel Foremothers?

Gloria Steinem For- Foremothers, right. One, a legal identity. Women had been considered chattel, possessions until then. We were the literal possessions, first of our fathers and then of our husbands. We couldn't earn money and retain it. We couldn't sign a legal contract, we couldn't - I mean there were myriad evidences of this of which the vote was only one, even though that's the one that history focuses on. It took about 150 years of struggle all over the world in, or in many places of the world to gain this legal identity as a human being. Now we are struggling to get legal equality. And we shouldn't be surprised that since we're only about 10 yo- 10 or 15 years into this new this second wave that, we really have a long distance to go.

Studs Terkel I suppose that it involves several things as it does with Black people, too, of course. Not to ignore the gains that have been made through battle. [Although? All the way?]. At the same time, ways to go. So it's both there.

Gloria Steinem Yeah, I I think that one of the ways we're kept from having the courage to keep going is that we're deprived of our history, so that, you know, if if you don't know about the Black slave revolts, if you don't know - if you just happened to get as I did in my history books, one sentence that said women were given the vote. Nothing. Nothing about 150 years--

Studs Terkel Yeah, yeah yeah.

Gloria Steinem Of marching, struggle, starving, bringing to the country to the halt to a halt. It makes it seem as if, not only was there no struggle, but also you should be grateful to the ruling class because they gave it to you.

Studs Terkel Well you know this is all it's a part of all history. I think this is - books generally are about male, big shots - unless it's Catherine the Great or Elizabeth I - and it's about barons and kings and noblemen, hardly about the others who've been there. This is the Brecht poem, you know, who built the pyramids? You know, where did the masons go for lunch when the Chinese Wall was built and the [great one?]. And you can take off from there. This is about history, but - In 1588, you know what happened in 1588. The Spanish Armada, Francis Drake. We know that in school. But the line that Brecht has is, when the Armada sank we read that King Philip wept. Were there no other tears? [laughter] Well that's what it's about, isn't it? So the women's--

Gloria Steinem Yeah. History is really, yeah, it really is extremely political, because the wiping out of of people except in their relationship to the ruling class is very sinister. And now, women are in history but only as they were the the mothers or the wives or the lovers of powerful men, and the same is true of, in a different way, of various racial groups. And I must say the same is true in our own families sometimes. We sat once in an editorial meeting at at "Ms." magazine--

Studs Terkel Your own family, you mean the "Ms." family.

Gloria Steinem No, I mean our individual families--

Studs Terkel Oh, okay.

Gloria Steinem And and we were talking about the bicentennial celebration and so on, we were talking about the women in our family. And it turned out, just going around the room, that each one of us had at least one woman in our families about whom no one spoke. That is, she was the rebel. She had not conformed. She had done something to make change happen or to lead an individual life and our own families concealed this woman from from us. And she was the feminist, you know--

Studs Terkel Right.

Gloria Steinem She was off - and so, you know, we need to go back and ask our mothers and fathers and grandparents, you know, about our own relatives.

Studs Terkel Who was she? She was the troublemaker.

Gloria Steinem For instance, I had a grandmother who was - who lived in Toledo, Ohio, and who was spoken of of to me as a wonderful woman who was an educator, who had four sons, who kept a kosher table, who was, you know, an admirable woman in every way. What they didn't tell me about her was that she was also the first woman who ran for a school board and won a school board seat in Ohio, even before women had the vote nationwide. That she won this election by defeating what we would now call sexual harassment at the polls - that is the way women were kept from voting, were gangs of boys and men who would harass them and say, you know, no nice woman would be doing this. And so she got women to go to the polls in a group, and therefore she won the vote and she also won on a coalition ticket of the feminists, the anarchists, and the socialists. Toledo then had a Socialist mayor, Golden Rule Jones. Now this is very important to me. But - and and my own family all in all goodwill--

Studs Terkel That was hidden.

Gloria Steinem And all goodwill--

Studs Terkel Because she usurped a man's job.

Gloria Steinem Well, it just - it isn't as if it was conscious, but they just didn't tell me. I guess th- I guess people tell you what they want you to do. So if they, if they sort of thought it would be better for me to marry and have four kids than do [laughter]--

Studs Terkel Yeah. Better for you not to do because she also, she also was - you're you came from a quote unquote 'respectable family.'

Gloria Steinem Mhm.

Studs Terkel And she was not respectable.

Gloria Steinem Not that part of what she did. And and, you know, that she was in "Who's Who in America", she addressed Congress, she she marched in the streets--

Studs Terkel [And then?]

Gloria Steinem For the vote, she did all of these things, and even in my family who are very nice people.

Studs Terkel Well you know what as a song that fits that. And then I want to ask you of course about "Ms.", and some of the articles in it, and how far it's come and how it's affected a certain part of our society. This is called - this was a suffragist song, turn of the century. It fits your your aunt. It was your aunt?

Gloria Steinem Grandmother.

Studs Terkel Your grandmother. "Keep Woman in Her Sphere". [content removed, see catalog record]

Studs Terkel That was, you know, that was the latter-part of the nineteenth century.

Gloria Steinem Well, but it could be the Jerry Falwell-Ronald Reagan theme song.

Studs Terkel Yeah, [unintelligible] so--

Gloria Steinem [laughter] I mean it's still pretty modern.

Studs Terkel So here we are, 1982. In 1972, came the magazine "Ms." Suppose we talk about "Ms.'s" beginnings and how it's fared.

Gloria Steinem Well we started it, really, because there were a lot of women writers and editors who wanted to work for a magazine we read. That was a very simple idea. We'd all worked for a wide variety of magazines, including women's magazines; and though it was interesting to learn how to make a hundred and one kind of hamburgers, and we do need to buy clothes and so on, we we didn't see a magazine that was really telling the truth about women's lives. We started it with great optimism, made a dummy of it, a list of contributors, went around to try to raise money, with resounding failure. Nobody was interested--

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Gloria Steinem In in a new magazine which was tough enough, and a new feminist magazine they found quite bizarre. Fortunately I'd been working for "New York" magazine, and helped to start that magazine some years before, and they happened to need something as a big feature for their year-end double issue. So they said that if we would produce the - all the text and so on for - and and work for free essentially, that they would pay for the printing and the publishing. So we were able to put out a little piece of it in New York and also to do a whole issue as a nationwide sample. That was in 1972. We called it "Spring", because we were afraid that we - it was out in January but we thought it was going to lie on the news stands--

Studs Terkel Mhm.

Gloria Steinem For many months. And we all went out to try to, you know, do interviews - as I must say I'm still doing, I mean--

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Gloria Steinem Because we still don't have enough money to pay for advertising. And I went to California and did a television show, and afterwards lots of people called up and said, "But we can't find 'Ms.', this new magazine on the newsstand." So I called back to New York in great fear and said, "Listen, it never got here." And they said "No no, it's sold out. Sold out in eight days."

Studs Terkel So it did.

Gloria Steinem And that - it was that success, I mean, it was ru- we never would have been able to star- to to continue or to start at all, if it hadn't been for the demonstration--

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Gloria Steinem Of of women and men who act- who bought it and who just proved the experts were wrong--

Studs Terkel So then you knew you touched a chord.

Gloria Steinem Yes absolutely.

Studs Terkel Now you say women and men bought it. See men bought it, too.

Gloria Steinem Yeah, men bought into it, too. It was mu- it has always been, of course, mostly women, because it is--

Studs Terkel Well it--

Gloria Steinem By, for, and about women. But our readers are about 30 percent men, as well.

Studs Terkel Well the obvious question, for those who haven't read "Ms.", how would it differ in articles, say, from "Cosmopolitan" or "Redbook"?

Gloria Steinem Well, it it has a basic premise, which is that women are full human beings, and it doesn't argue about that premise. Other magazines are still publishing one article that says that women are equal and another one in the name of objectivity saying no they're not. We just assume that, in the same way that a Black magazine or a Hispanic magazine assumes the full humanity of the constituency it's writing about. And we assume that women have the whole, full range of human choices. So, unlike a magazine like "Redbook", we would not assume that it is written in the sky that--

Studs Terkel Yeah, yeah.

Gloria Steinem Women have more responsibility for children or for domestic duties and cooking and so on than men do, and that it will always be that way. Nor would we assume like "Cosmopolitan", that you you have to quote catch a man unquote in order to be a full person any - at least no more than vice versa. I mean, yes we need each ot her, but--

Studs Terkel You remember that song from "Wonderful Town", you know, "10 Ways to Lose a Man, [sic "100 Easy Ways to Lose a Man"] from [unintelligible]--

Gloria Steinem Oh yes, right right right right [laughter]. Yes it does [unintelligible]--

Studs Terkel Not to- to hide your intelligence--

Gloria Steinem To be too smart, yeah. So, I suppose our closest comparison - we really don't have a comparison because there's there's no other national feminist magazine - but in some ways we're a little bit like "Esquire", I suppose, because we we - unlike other women's magazines we publish the whole range of of political theory, reporting, fiction, poetry, humor, everything. Whereas the older women's magazines are service books for women who work at home, and then the so-called newer ones are service books for women who are in the workforce, but they don't have fiction, poetry, and other things. We try to to cover the full range--

Studs Terkel [unintelligible]

Gloria Steinem And really to be a kind of portable friend. I mean, the the the dominant kind of letter we get, still, is some version of, you know, now I know I'm not alone, thank you I, you know, it's a ki- the magazine is meant to be a kind of portable friend.

Studs Terkel Has it as a just as a weather vane, has it held its own circulation, [unintelligible]?

Gloria Steinem Mhm. Yeah we've done, we've done very well. We're the the we are a mostly text readers' magazine. That means we're comparable with "Esquire", "The New Yorker", "Harper's", "Mother Jones", you know, "Rolling Stone", all those kinds of magazines. We're at the high end of that, with 500,000. They're all somewhere between 100,000 and 600,000. So we've we've - we're about--

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Gloria Steinem I think where we ought to be. I'd love to do a whole other kind of feminist magazine. I'd love to do a feminist true confessions in addition to this--

Studs Terkel Mhm. What do you mean, feminist true confessions?

Gloria Steinem Well, because there there are there are lots of us who who don't have the cultural habit of reading text. And so we look at television and we we read picture magazines. And that's fine. You know, so the the same information ought to be available in that form. Maybe we'll do that in the next ten years.

Studs Terkel But how - I don't quite get that - like a 'feminist true confessions.'

Gloria Steinem Well, the true confessions, if you look at them, they they're they're little parables and and these little melodramatic stories, which are instructive, but what they are instructing is that you should go out and look for the knight on the white horse to save you from your your unwed pregnancy or your dreadful life--

Studs Terkel Oh, parables avoiding the stereotype.

Gloria Steinem So these would just be ins- I mean, a knight on a white horse is pretty statistically unlikely. So we would simply take the same format, of very personal intimate stories, and show the way women have really been strong enough and solved their own problems.

Studs Terkel An example of an article in the tenth anniversary issue, which is "The Nouveau Poor". This is quite an astonishing one.

Gloria Steinem Mhm.

Studs Terkel Barbara Ehrenreich, who reviews many books and writes for various other magazines, and Karen Stallard. Now, "The Nouveau Poor:" "By the year 2000 all of the nation's poor will be women and their children."

Studs Terkel The - I I hope we can stop - keep that from happening, but this is a very important, really in-depth journalistic exposé of what is happening in the economy, accelerated greatly by Reagan and his cuts, and how much more impact the cuts in social services have on women than on men. I mean, for instance, women, because of our childbearing, go to physicians and doctors 30 percent more. Where because we have an unfair amount of responsibility for kids, then any cuts in child care means that many more of us are going to be forced back out of work, or e- or even on welfare. And and she is talking in this piece, about a whole population of women, who by birth or by marriage or both, are essentially middle class - they're educated and have skills - but in, but are unable to find work that supports them and their children. It's a kind of illustration of, as as one woman said to me, every - most women in the country are one man away from welfare--

Studs Terkel Mhm, yeah.

Gloria Steinem Because the the the economic structure is so unfair, with women still getting 59 cents on the dollar, and and plus having responsibility for kids, that the - and plus not having the protection of unions as much as men do, and being at the bottom at in the pink-collar ghetto among - in heavily in those jobs that are poorly paid, it means that the two out of every three poor people in the country are female. And that the penalty that we're paying for this, in paying for more social services - I mean nothing could be more short sighted than Reagan's cutting off of of various aid programs and forcing more people on welfare because they can't go to work - But nonetheless he goes forward with it because, in the opinion of his experts, the cheapest way to raise children is to to to give a woman subsistence pay. It's too expensive, in their view, to to give good child care so the woman can work and become a taxpayer. It's very shortsighted, because those kids are not going to grow up to be the kind of able--

Studs Terkel Yeah, yeah.

Gloria Steinem Talented people that this country so badly needs, but that's the way they're thinking here.

Studs Terkel But yo- you phrase 'pink collared ghetto'. That's a phrase that came into being during the life of "Ms.", hasn't it?

Gloria Steinem Mhm, no, that's true. It's true. You know, we use all these words - I was thinking the other day that we - that it's a major accomplishment of the last ten years that we even have these words. We now say things like, sexual harassment or battered women. We understand the phenomenon that that describes. Ten years ago it was just called life. I mean, you know, there was - you just accepted it.

Studs Terkel Yeah, that's life, yeah.

Gloria Steinem There was no word for it.

Studs Terkel Yeah, That's life, yeah.

Gloria Steinem Right.

Studs Terkel So, the battered woman was quiet and and very often she felt guilty--

Gloria Steinem That it was somehow her fault, yeah.

Studs Terkel And so by all these subjects that now come up: the nature of rape as a violent act, not a sexual act, battered women - not only of poor battered women, and most surprising of suburbs--

Gloria Steinem Mhm.

Studs Terkel And places, and that's now--

Gloria Steinem Yeah--

Studs Terkel [That sit?] in the - during the life of "Ms."

Gloria Steinem Mhm.

Studs Terkel And you- you've had articles, of course, dealing with these--

Gloria Steinem Yeah-- We've

Studs Terkel

Gloria Steinem Phenomena. We've we've been able to to highlight them and explore them and report on them first, mainly because of our readership. Our readers write us thousands upon thousands of intimate, smart, wonderful, unputdownable letters. And it's from those letters as well as from our own travels that we see what the problems really are. And sometimes also from a kind of chain reaction. For instance, we we did a piece on incest, and the response to it was so enormous that we printed the letters. I - it was the beginning of our understanding, and I think the country's understanding, of how how prevalent the problem really is.

Studs Terkel This is the woman, all these years keeping a certain experience, who may have altered her life one way [in attitude?] involving someone quite close. Uncle [boarder? brother?], step-father, closer--

Gloria Steinem Yeah. Someone--

Studs Terkel Kept quiet, and all that time festering, and finally out. And it was the letters at the very beginning, there are pages of letters for the tenth anniversary issue--

Gloria Steinem Mhm.

Studs Terkel And a lot of them deal with the the theme of liberation.

Gloria Steinem Yes, it's--

Studs Terkel Liberating of mind.

Gloria Steinem Yeah. When we, when we talk about these words, they - it shouldn't be seen as as down or unhappy, you know, because it it's it is actually an up to realize that you are not alone, you are not crazy, that this is a whole social problem, and to get to - to have support from other people. And it's also a great source of humor, as you'll from the letters. I mean, the idea that the women's movement has no sense of humor is quite crazy. It's it's--

Studs Terkel We've got to talk for a second, let's stick with that for a second. Gloria Steinem who is my guest, editor, who - in by the way, the masthead doesn't have or list the editor-in-chief, just alphabetical order - but editor of, and one of the founders of "Ms." And one of the accusations through years has been that, to point out - I think when any movement begins, it begins with tremendous earnestness, indeed. This could be the Black revolution too, or the old people's movement now. I know they have a great deal of humor, Maggie Kuhn, others to [unintelligible]. But, there wa- there was this accusation that to some extent was true, but it wasn't the fault of the feminist movement. It was the beginning of something.

Gloria Steinem Well I'm not sure it was ever true of us or of the Black movement. What happens is that you stop ref- you stop laughing at anti-Black or anti-female or anti-semitic jokes. That's what ge- gives you the reputation for having no sense of humor. Sud- suddenly somebody is telling a joke about a dumb blonde or a, you know, a terrible mother-in-law and you say, wait a minute, you know, what's going on here. But in fact, it's always been full of - in fact one of the very first issues we did had a cover of of a man saying to a woman like a cartoon, you know, in balloons, he's saying, "Did you know the women's movement has no sense of humor?" and she's saying, "No, but hum a few bars and I'll fake it."

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Gloria Steinem Because [laughter]--

Studs Terkel You know, on that, you - since you mentioned men, this has affected, of course, a good portion of the male population, hasn't it?

Gloria Steinem Well that's, I mean, the whole idea, of course, is with with sex as with race, is that we are all equal human beings, and if you say that then you're you end up changing the other the other folks, too--

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Gloria Steinem Because you increase their humanity, though you decrease their privilege.

Studs Terkel Have you heard from male readers, I'm curious. You know, we we do know that the macho guy has felt a threat. Obviously, you know, the - his his his image, his life has always been the clinging vine, the little woman, the one he supports the girl, who's coy and cute, little girl. And there he is all of a sudden challenged by someone who says she is his equal. That's pretty much of a threat, isn't it?

Gloria Steinem It is a threat, and and there are still a lot of men who, through no fault of theirs, really - society did it to them - but has convinced them that that no matter how bad things may get, they can count on being superior to women of every race, and to certain racial groups of men, too. So it's pretty threatening for them to hear that they're going to have to compete on an equal basis. On the other hand, this idea of masculinity has really penalized those macho guys terribly, because it has made them feel that there--

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Gloria Steinem To be a real man they have to be violent, they have to be victorious, they have to earn a lot of money - gives them ulcers, heart attacks, causes them to die earlier. I mean, I always say to men if they're really, you know, if they're really hostile, I always say well look, you know here's a movement that can offer you four more years of life to live. I mean what other movement can make you [laughter] - for that's not bad.

Studs Terkel As for longevity, it's as good as cutting out cigarettes.

Gloria Steinem Right.

Studs Terkel Well, but, there's also something else. Now I remember - and that's you still have a lot of women to reach. By the way, you're reaching older women, too?

Gloria Steinem Yeah, we are more reaching older women. You see, it's interesting - the women's movement, it took me a while to figure this out, but the women's movement is maybe the one social movement in which people get more radical with age.

Studs Terkel Mm.

Gloria Steinem Because of the female cultural pattern is the opposite of men. Men's is to be, I don't mean all men, but in a general sense, men's is to be rebellious, and so on when they're young, and then acquire power and get more and mo- or go home to their father's business or whatever, get less and less active. Now women's is the other way around, because when we are young, we are the most conservative. Society is really on us, then, to play the female role, to giggle and laugh and say how clever of you to know what time it is to, you know, to--

Studs Terkel Yeah. Once they get older--

Gloria Steinem Play this - Once we get older, we have even less power. We're not valuable to society anymore, because we're not child bearers and we're not considered pretty, and all of that. We don't have economic power that has accrued to men all these years. And so we get very active. So the the most active part of the women's movement has always come from slightly older women.

Studs Terkel Well, so we have, of course, women, there are men in it, in the Gray Panthers, of course--

Gloria Steinem Yes, right.

Studs Terkel We have Maggie Kuhn and her colleagues, and I've given them a theme song, by the way.

Gloria Steinem Oh, what?

Studs Terkel It's one line out of Kris Kristofferson's song that Janis Joplin sang, "Me and Bobby McGee". The great line is "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." [laughter] Well that's a great line.

Gloria Steinem Yeah.

Studs Terkel And that should be - isn't that a great pass- for you, but applies to men and women, both--

Gloria Steinem Mhm.

Studs Terkel "Freedom just another word for nothing" - But you found the older - the reason I ask that is because, about ten years ago - when was the first women's liberation day in our time?

Gloria Steinem August twenty-sixth. It was '71, I think.

Gloria Steinem Seventy-one, the year before "Ms." was founded. I don't know if you were in town. Someone speaking there on, there at the plaza here. I had a tape recorder going, and this middle-aged woman, you know, worn saying, you know "Those tramps up there, why don't they go back and get married?" I said, "Well maybe they're speaking for your rights." "I got my rights. Me and my husband, we work all the time. At night I come home, I set the table [unintelligible], we're-" I said, "You're equal?" "We're equal except he's the boss." [laughter] And even though it's a funny joke, you were a guest on a subsequent program and you understood that woman, that her life's gone by. And now, if these young women up on that stand are speaking of a certain kind of freedom that she's missing, it's a natural feeling for her to feel she's lost out on something. But you found many of her contemporaries.

Gloria Steinem Well that's that's true. But the fact is that, it is - the movement has as much to do to support her as, you know, so I feel--

Studs Terkel No, I wasn't--

Gloria Steinem Yeah--

Studs Terkel I wasn't rebutting it, of course. I'm merely saying this woman, in her own mind, nothing - felt something--

Gloria Steinem You know, I - yeah--

Studs Terkel That their life's a waste.

Gloria Steinem And I I know what she means. In fact one of the most moving conversations I ever had was with a woman who was a member of the moral majority. And we were at a woman's conference where she and Mormon women had been brought in buses, with a man at the head of each bus, to vote against what were essentially their own rights. And she said to me, she was unlike many folks, she wa- such folks, she was sincere. She really meant it. And she said, you know, "All my life I have been told that if I do what I am told to do, if I have the children that God sends to me, and I play this role, you know, if I make dinner and I do what I'm supposed to do, I will be a good person. So that my whole life has been based on having no choice. Now you tell me I have choice." So that's very frightening. Now that--

Studs Terkel Of course.

Gloria Steinem That your heart goes out to that woman and not only that, but there's a piece of that woman in every woman, because it is it is frightening to be a grown up and and and have choice, and not be dependent anymore. But it is also exhilarating. And the truth is that, you know, $50 you make yourself is worth $500 somebody gives you, and expects gratitude in return. And so on.

Studs Terkel Gloria Steinem we're talking to, an editor of "Ms.", one of the editors of "Ms." magazine, celebrating its tenth anniversary. And so, it's ten years of that plus, quite obviously, increasing awareness of women and their rights. And in many cases, the awareness and the growth and development of men. And so, this is a celebratory meeting we're having here now. We'll resume in a moment. Of course there's one article among the many very excellent ones, this one dealing with the strong women, in this case Native American feminists. And you'll hear the voice of a strong woman of the '30s in a moment, after this message. [pause in recording] Resuming the conversation with Gloria Steinem, celebrating the tenth anniversary of "Ms." magazine. And, now a lot of your - through the years, you've had cases of women - older, younger - who have been - stepped out [unintelligible] and have come through. Strong women.

Gloria Steinem Oh, absolutely. I I'm I'm continually amazed at - I shouldn't say amazed, I don't know how to put it exactly - but you just just go around to any town, or open any door, or look in any office, you know, and you see you see individual women of such such guts. Because they - I I think men have to stop and and think how it would be if they were penalized for being smart. They were penalized for being assertive, and good at their jobs. That they were penalized for being the best they can be. That's what happens to a lot of women. So instead of being rewarded for being successful and smart and assertive and accomplishing something, you're punished for it. That's real hard.

Studs Terkel Yeah. But you celebrate these women. There's one - and you, something you said: "In every community." These are the anonymous thousands, scores of thous- we don't know about. You try to find them. Here's one. Her name was Aunt Molly Jackson. She lived - she died a few years ago. Aunt Molly was a midwife in Kentucky and the bitter, bitter mine strikes. Let her tell her story. This is a story of the '30s. She'd obviously be a heroine of "Ms."

Aunt Molly Jackson [There having?] something to eat in Kentucky when the miners was all blacklisted, and and no work. So, I said, "If I lost my [right/light?] that I would do anything in this world that I could in order to keep the children from suffering." So they was a young family that had one child that lived just below me, and I heard that little child crying for two days. And I went down and I asked the mother, I said, "Daisy, what is the matter with that baby?" She said, "Aunt Molly she's crying for something to eat. I don't have a crust of bread for that child." So I said, "Is it possible that I will do more for your children, you people, than you will do yourselves?" I said, "In the name of common sense have you got a 50-pound feed sack, here, sugar sack, or something to give me?" "Yes," she said. I took that sugar sack. And I went back to the house. Me being a midwife, I had a permit to carry a gun. I had a good .38 special that I'd use for my protection through them hills for 15 years then, and I put it under my arm and put my coat on the over it, and I started to the commissary. But when I got down to the foot of the hill, that was another family of children of seven crying. All small children. And I said, "Well what is the matter with your children?" And it was Bob Springer's wife - a good, hard-working man and kept his family plenty when he was allowed to work. So she says, "They're hungry and I don't have a thing." And she was crying. I said, "Come on, Henry," to my little son, Henry Jackson. I said "Come on and go with me." I went into the commissary and I went in [laughing?]. And I said to the to the commissary clerk, I said, "Well, it don't make any difference how hard times gets, Mr. Martin." I said, "I can always have a little money or a little script, or something to get by on. Give me a 24-pound sack of flour." He handed me over the the 24-pound sack of flour, and I whispered to my little son, I said, "Henry take this 24-pound of sack of flour and walk out and wait for me at the tipple. That is where they load- they weighed the coal, and dumped it in the cars. The boy took that sack of flour and he walked out. Then I began to call for the things that was needed the worst for thems little starving children. And I fill my sugar sack full, and I said, "Now, now Martin," I said, "if you - I'll see you in 90 days as quick as I can get around and collect enough money to pay you." But at first I says, "How much is this?" "Five dollars and ninety cents." I said, "I'll see you in 90 days." I said, "I have to feed some children, they are starving. They can't wait for me to go around and try to collect my nickels and dimes enough to give them something to eat. They have to eat now and I'll pay you. Don't worry." He says, "Aunt Molly Jackson, don't you offer to walk out with that them groceries." I reached under my arm and I pulled my pistol and I walked out backwards and I said, "Martin, if you try to take this grub away from me," I said, "God knows if they electrocute me for it tomorrow," I said, "I'll shoot you six times in the [unintelligible]." I walked out, I got home, and these seven little children was so hungry that they - when the mother was making up the dough to cook the bread they was grabbing the raw dough off of the mother's hands, and cramming it into their mouth and swallowing it. I I left part of that, part of the food with that big family of children. I went on up to Bill Allen's house, and gave Daisy and his wife the rest for her little child. And by that time, my house was the next house, and by the time I got in to the door, the deputy sheriff was there to arrest me. And he said to me, he says, "Well Aunt Molly, what in the world," he says, "did you," he says, "have you turned out," says, "to be a robber?" I said, "Oh no, Frank." I said, "I'm no robber, but," I said, "it was the last chance. I have heard these little hungry children cry for something to eat 'til I'm desperate. I'm almost out of my mind." And I said, "I will get out as I said and collect that money just as quick as I can and pay him." I says, "You know I'm as honest as the days is long." And tears come in his eyes, and he said, "Well Aunt Molly," he says, "they sent me up here to arrest you, the coal operator - well [Gooden?] sent me here to arrest you." He was the coal operator. For that. But he says, "If you've got the heart to do that much," he says, "for other people's children, that's not one - got one drop of your blood in their bodies," he says, "I will pay that bill myself," he says. And he says, if they fire me for not arresting you," he said, "I will be damned glad of it." He walked out, and didn't arrest me.

Studs Terkel And there's a story, isn't it, of quite a woman.

Gloria Steinem Mm. Just imagine what her life was, must have been like. I mean, this is this is one dramatic story of an incident, but she talks about going every day through the hills, carrying a .38, you know, ministering to women who were having babies. You know, that's--

Studs Terkel Well we're talking about these unsung heroines [unintelligible] who are so strong and powerful, and think beyond their immediate, their immediate commission. So it - they're the ones you celebrate, too--

Gloria Steinem Oh yeah. We do we do regular kinds of features called "Found Women", where we report on on women like Aunt Molly Jackson who are alive and working today and should be recognized and aren't. And we do regular features from history, too. I should say one thing, though. This is a little hard to say after listening to Aunt Molly, but it's important to say that it's it's not just poor women who suffer. Because in a way women are always pitied and supported as long as they are victims, which is true of other groups, too. And when they get a little bit together so maybe they can make some changes in the world, then they're resented. So there are ways in which middle class and even rich women, are kept children and kept passive and kept limited. Sometimes I think, you know, that it happens - I mean rich women get better dental care and they get clothes and all that. But as a Black feminist once said to her white sisters in the South, a pedestal is as much a prison as any other small space. And they--

Studs Terkel Well there was that book about the women's movement, went through the years, [course?] something up from th- or down from the pedestal?

Gloria Steinem Or up from the pedestal.

Studs Terkel Up from the pedestal.

Gloria Steinem Yeah. Yeah. And it's been very interesting to me to to see women who are supposedly rich and powerful - they have they have powerful fathers or husbands - and what really happens to them. And it's finally dawned on me - especially after I went back to my own twenty-fifth college reunion and saw the contrast among us and, you know, what had happened to us in my own generation - that that the women in powerful families are really kept passive and childlike. There's an attempt to keep them passive and childlike because, precisely because they are in powerful families. I mean if, if General Motors is going to pass through your womb, they want to make very sure you don't grab it on the way through, right? It goes from father to son to father son, you're not going to interfere with this.

Studs Terkel You know it's funny you're mentioning this about your college reunion and this - and you're an observation. You went to Smith, and there's a Smith College story. That - and so, this is interesting - that is, always a good faculty. The faculty for the young women of upper middle class background. The teachers were very enlightened - Harry Elmer Barnes on, enlightened teachers. Because, the theory goes, the young boys, the brothers of the family will inherit the dough, will be the bosses and run things, whereas she the girl, the sister, will marry someone and go along. And she can have a pretty good humanities education, doesn't matter to mu- the other guys will be business, you see. So therefore, she should be up on all kinds of things--

Gloria Steinem That's right. But they weren't, they weren't - they were hu- enlightened about everything but women. I mean,

Studs Terkel

Gloria Steinem Yeah, yeah. I mean, now this has changed somewhat, but my days were the '50s which were pretty dark days, right? And--

Studs Terkel But "Ms." then deals with them, too.

Gloria Steinem Yes.

Studs Terkel [unintelligible]

Gloria Steinem Yes. Because because we we have I think learned a lot from from all the analysts of class who are who are absolutely right, but they haven't always explained the additional problems of caste - whether it's sex or race - that that really - I mean you can change your class maybe, maybe. It's difficult, but it's possible. But you can't change your your your sex or your race, and they have been ways that people have been marked for, you know, inexpensive labor or unpaid labor, whatever it is. And I think that we've we've had a lot of European male philosophers who understood class because they were afflicted by it. But they didn't understand the the sex-race problem--

Studs Terkel We have a story closer to home that fits "Ms.", this one told - it's not just poor people, but middle-class, upper. Virginia Durr of Montgomery, Alabama, a scrapper for many years tells this story about why she became a rebel, how she did. The southern, young, white woman of a certain class has three choices: one, to be the Southern belle and to be nice and sweet to her father-in-law, to be sweet to the servants, and she's the Southern belle. The other is to go crazy as her friend Zelda Sayre did, who married F. Scott Fitzgerald. And the third is to become the rebel, the questioner. What she did. So that's that's that's the other aspect of it.

Gloria Steinem Yeah, yeah. I th- I think the simplest way to say it, maybe, is that to look at it sort of anthropologically. I mean, women are the most basic means of production, the means of reproduction. So, if a sy- the systems that are based on race and class and so on have to restrict the freedom of women, especially the upper class women, in order to make sure that the white race remains pure, that the economic stuff that goes down from father to son, all that. And I think that that women of powerful families have often been in two kinds of problems: one, they didn't have power; and two they were resented as if they did. So that it's it's, you know, they've had an additional kind of veil to to tear away--

Studs Terkel Yeah, so you have [moral?] aspects of it. Well on this - coming back to the tenth anniversary issue of "Ms." and Gloria Steinem, editor, my guest - there's a rather fascinating one here: "An Intelligent Woman's Guide to the Military Mind."

Gloria Steinem Mhm.

Studs Terkel And so there's been sort of a general feeling now as to women's attitude, as different from men towards say, military--

Gloria Steinem Yeah--

Studs Terkel Expenditures.

Gloria Steinem It's interesting because it has always been true, ever since anybody took a public opinion poll and bothered to ask women questions at all, that women have been much more skeptical of militarism and violence than men have been--

Studs Terkel Is this bas- is this true?

Gloria Steinem Yeah, it's true from as long as anybody knows it's true. Not because women are more moral people, we aren't, but because we haven't been raised with our masculinity to prove. We haven't been raised with a m- with a masculine emphasis on aggression or violence or victory.

Studs Terkel Well someone would say there's Margaret Thatcher, and there's Shanti [sic] Gandhi, you know.

Gloria Steinem Yes. No, it's it's it's not, it's not true of everyone, although I think that even if you look for instance at female chiefs of state and women in Congress you will find that their voting patterns are much more anti-military than than their male counterparts, on the average. Again, not because we're the- we're different or more moral as human beings, but we - but there's a profound difference in the way that wom- that little boys and girls are raised, as far as, I mean, women are taught not to be aggressive, men are taught to be aggressive. Also, women are the victims of violence, overwhelmingly, statistically. So we just don't trust violence. Now, the press has finally discovered this - in the very first issue of "Ms." we had a whole exposé of women's voting patterns. They could have read it ten years ago. However, it was attached to issues, but not to political parties, because the political parties were at that point, and as frequently sort of the same, on military issues. Now that Reagan has become so much more militaristic than many alternative leaders, it has taken on a partisan cast, so the press has discovered this voting pattern--

Studs Terkel Mm.

Gloria Steinem And Reagan has kind of smoked it out. But I mean there's a huge sex differential. The people who elected Reagan were the oldest, richest, whitest, most male electorate in the history of the country, and most of them were just voting for change for the sake of change. But the sex differential is absolutely enormous in this issue. We've published this piece of "An Intelligent Woman's Guide to the Military Mind" because, though women have different attitudes and I think it's very important that we exert those attitudes for the, for the safety of the planet and so on, we don't usually have the words to argue with. We may have gotten to the place of saying, "Well, you know, better spend this money on childcare than on weaponry," but we don't get any farther than that. And we don't take the responsibility, which is a respo- a moral responsibility of saying how much defense is enough. So this is the beginning of a series that is a kind of A-B-C - it's it's actually great for men to read, too. The only difference sometimes between men and women about defense, is that women will admit they don't know, whereas men, you know, may pretend--

Studs Terkel So the--

Gloria Steinem This is really a kind of demystification of weaponry, the defense budget, and so on. It's going to continue, it's going to become a book and a series of seminars around--

Studs Terkel So these are some of the issues that are dealt with in "Ms."

Gloria Steinem Yeah.

Studs Terkel So it is not, as I say, a "Redbook", a "Cosmopolitan". Will the last decade's breakthroughs be the next decade's trends? Goes on to [polls?] again in high technology and also the strong [Native?] American women. So it deals with all of these issues and so, this is the way of congratulating you on your tenth anniversary. We can close with a song. Again a woman's song. Although the fa- the strike of 1912, up in Lawrence, Massachusetts. And it was a song, primarily sung by women, called "Bread and Roses", too.

Gloria Steinem It's so wonderful that that the strike was held not only for bread. Yes we need, but people need poetry and roses, as well as bread.

Studs Terkel Of course. What - any reflection before we say goodbye and hear Judy Collins?

Gloria Steinem Well I'd just like to say to you that one of the other features in this issue is a piece on 40 male heroes. We decided that it was important to say in this big anniversary issue that there have been many men in the past decade who have take- who have risked their jobs and and, you know, who really worked hard for equality and had a big effect on women's lives. People will have to to buy the issue to find out who the 40 are but, the only reason, Studs, that you were not there--

Studs Terkel Yes ma'am.

Gloria Steinem [laughter] Is because we called people. We surveyed women in lots of different fields. And you, I just want you to know that you were very much there as a hero--

Studs Terkel I was? [laughter]

Gloria Steinem But they felt--

Studs Terkel I'm there in spirit.

Gloria Steinem They felt that your, that that that your heroism could not be confined to the last decade--

Studs Terkel Oh, that's it.

Gloria Steinem That it had been going on much longer than that--

Studs Terkel That's it, that's it.

Gloria Steinem And this was [laughter] this was for acts performed in the last decade.

Studs Terkel You ought to replace Jeane Kirkpatrick as a diplomat.

Gloria Steinem Well I don't I don't feel like a diplomat, but I'd be happy to replace Jeane Kirkpatrick. [laughter]

Studs Terkel Gloria Steinem, my guest. "Ms." Magazine celebrates it's tenth anniversary and it's available and very enlightening indeed. Thank you, and Judy Collins and "Bread and Roses". [content removed, see catalog record]