Magazine article The Spectator

'My Life on the Road', by Gloria Steinem - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'My Life on the Road', by Gloria Steinem - Review

Article excerpt

My Life on the Road Gloria Steinem

One World, pp.304, £14.99, ISBN: 9781780749181

This is a book written by a most admirable woman, which is nevertheless -- with some rare and excellent exceptions -- most tiresome to read. Gloria Steinem has done heroic work as a founding force of American feminism and as an organiser, in America, for a myriad of causes. She is an icon of 1960s feminism, when persons such as she explained to women -- mostly western women, but you have to start somewhere --that some sort of equality could be fought for and, if won, could change the world for all men and women. She spent some early years after university in India and a Gandhian philosophy permeates her good works.

Now turned 80, she looks back at more than 40 years on the road, travelling from pillar to post, encouraging, teaching, fighting for the good, celebrating her America -- to her a land of hope, if not glory.

The good things first. She opens the book with an account of her parents, most particularly her father, and what a lucky Gloria she was. There was no money in her family, or, in the British sense, class, but her father was a wanderer and chancer, who ran a dance pavilion when he was not trekking around the USA in a trailer. He gave his daughter his ebullience and wanderlust, and more, a sort of charming generosity that has reached out to the lesser mortals of this world whom she has served so well.

The percentage of founding feminists whose mothers were shattered by depression, who in Steinem's words 'never had a journey of their own', must be very high. Steinem's mother was just such a one. There are some other nuggets, such as a hilarious account of a beastly weekend spent with a much-fancied rich boyfriend and his millionaire cohorts. Unfortunately for us, we know all too much about what she battles against: segregation and the savage white racism still so prevalent in the US, a savagery echoed in its strange 'Christian' fundamentalist groups and isms, ferocious people who would murder Jesus Christ on the spot if he rose again to confront them.

But we hear little on European shores about the lives of American Indians today, so her account of her friendship with Wilma Mankiller, who came to be principal Chief of the Cherokee nation, is both interesting and moving. She also provides many bits and pieces of obscure information, such as that 'nushu' is Chinese women's secret writing language of 1,000 years ago, or that due to infanticide, honour killings and sex trafficking, there are now fewer females than males in the world for the first time in history. …

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