Courage Prize Recipient, 2006

The Ridenhour Courage Prize is given to an individual in recognition of a life-long defense of the public interest and a passion for social justice.

Gloria Steinem’s first, most notable act as a feminist was as a journalist. In April 1969, Steinem published “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation” in New York Magazine.

Her article introduced readers to colorful groups like the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell and to abhorrent stories from women who suffered illegal abortions. But most of all, Steinem articulated the courage, the spirit and the fierce opposition that would define the women’s movement for decades to come. There would be acrimony, she observed, but she felt it would be worth it “because the idea is, in the long run, that women’s liberation will be men’s liberation, too.”

Thirty-seven years later, American society has changed radically. A third of all doctors and lawyers are women; in many other professions, women are in the majority. On most college campuses, nearly sixty percent of undergraduates are female. For better or worse, women’s presence in the workforce has become an economic necessity for many. But Steinem, who has worked tirelessly with young women over the years, sees ever new challenges for feminism: “What used to be, you couldn’t get a job, now you hit a ceiling after a few years,” she told a journalist recently. “What used to be unequal marriage is now unequal after children are born. The barrier has moved, thank goodness…But the barrier is still there to be pushed.”

Steinem, now 72, is an energetic and influential writer, lecturer, editor and activist. She co-founded Ms. Magazine, was one of its editors for 15 years, and now serves as a consulting editor. Steinem helped establish a wide range of women’s groups, including the Women’s Action Alliance, the National Women’s Political Caucus, Voters for Choice, Choice USA and the Ms. Foundation for Women. Her books include the bestsellers Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, Moving Beyond Words, and Marilyn: Norma Jean, On the Life of Marilyn Monroe. She is currently at work on Road to the Heart: America as if Everyone Mattered, a book about her more than thirty years on the road as a feminist organizer.

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