The Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem"

Carolyn Heilbrun
New York: Ballantine Books, 1995.

Heilbrun cover In 1990 Gloria Steinem and Carolyn Heilbrun discussed writing Steinem’s biography. Steinem particularly admired Heilbrun’s book Writing A Woman’s Life: “I’ve always had a deep feeling of being understood when I read what you write.” Heilbrun—a noted academic, literary critic, and mystery writer—came to respect Steinem during the course of the project, particularly her ability to identify with “common” people and her tireless “questioning of the powerful on behalf of the dispossessed.”

Gloria Steinem. Letter to Carolyn Heilbrun, July 7, 1990.

Steinem letter page 1 (small) Steinem letter page 2 (small)
click on each page to open it at full size in a new window

In her introduction, Heilbrun says that each generation finds a different truth in a subject's life: "biography is the imposition of the biographer’s perception upon the life of the subject." A feminist herself, Heilbrun's biography focuses on the gradual awakening of Steinem's skeptical self, a person who questioned patriarchal dogma and came to trust her own experiences and those of other women over social myths. This education began in the blue collar neighborhood of Toledo, Ohio, where Steinem grew up. Women were either victims or nice girls, according to Steinem: "Given a choice between being a victim and being a limited fifties nice girl, I chose not to be a victim."

Gloria Steinem Papers
Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College

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