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My Life on the Road

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Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and one of the most inspiring leaders in the world—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality. This is the story at the heart of My Life on the Road.

276 pages, Hardcover

First published October 27, 2015

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About the author

Gloria Steinem

106 books3,067 followers
Gloria Marie Steinem (born March 25, 1934) is an American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader of, and media spokeswoman for, the women's liberation movement in the late 1960s and 1970s. A prominent writer and key counterculture era political figure, Steinem has founded many organizations and projects and has been the recipient of many awards and honors. She was a columnist for New York magazine and co-founded Ms. magazine. In 1969, she published an article, " After Black Power, Women's Liberation", which, along with her early support of abortion rights, catapulted her to national fame as a feminist leader.

In 2005, Steinem worked alongside Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan to co-found the Women's Media Center, an organization that works to amplify the voices of women in the media through advocacy, media and leadership training, and the creation of original content. Steinem currently serves on the board of the organization. She continues to involve herself in politics and media affairs as a commentator, writer, lecturer, and organizer, campaigning for candidates and reforms and publishing books and articles.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,709 reviews
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,337 followers
October 22, 2015
4 very high stars. I loved reading this book. It's a bit disorganized and chaotic, but it's full of great anecdotes, thoughtful ideas on activism and engagement, and quotable bits and pieces. I came to this book thinking of Steinem as an icon of American feminism, but someone I didn't actually know much about. The experience of reading My Life on the Road made me sit up and pay attention. And not because Steinem delivers a specific political message or because she builds herself up as a heroic figure, but because in fact she does the very opposite. She has written a down to earth book about places she's been, people she's met, and what's mattered to her over the years. She starts with a chapter describing her father, and his inability to stay put in one place. As a kid, at times she traveled with him and at other times she stayed behind with her mother. But she speaks of her father with love, understanding and respect, and a deep gratitude for his kindness. And this seems to inform her approach to activism and people throughout her life. The book consists of a few chapters loosely organized around Steinem's travels -- mostly in the US -- and the many, many people she has met and spoken to, and their stories. She describes conversations with taxi drivers, flight attendants, college students at elite colleges and college students at low income state schools,truck drivers, waitresses and many others. There's also a chapter dealing with her time on the road campaigning for different political candidates -- including a great segment of the Clinton/Obama face off. And through these stories and anecdotes, she conveys her observations about injustices she has seen, surprising connections with people, and sources of strength and change. There's an underlying joy and wonder and respect for people. There's a fearlessness about being in difficult situations, and engaging with people that I found really moving. And mostly there are many really good stories about the people she has met in her travels -- how they have touched and inspired her. In a way, this book is the opposite of what one might expect from an icon -- it's not about Steinem and her achievements, but rather about other people and how they have inspired her. Which I found very inspiring. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Debbie "DJ".
352 reviews397 followers
December 18, 2015
Wow, this was quite the read! Steinem starts by talking about her early upbringing, which I found not only surprising, but fascinating. From there, she is all over the map (quite literally). It's like sitting down with an old friend as she recounts important life events. Often, the events had no particular order, yet they all held my full attention. Steinem included so much in this book, it's hard to review without giving anything away. While she talks of feminism, it is current, and seen through a new lens. One quote I found interesting was this " We might have known sooner that the most reliable predictor of whether a country is violent within itself or will use military violence against another country-is not poverty, natural resources, religion, or even degree of democracy; it's violence against females. It normalizes all other violence."

Steinem speaks of everyone from JFK to Martin Luther King to several important figures I had never heard of. And, who knew Clarence Thomas had such an impact on women's rights? Her alliance with Black and Native American cultures also taught her a lot, and she believes whole-heartedly "talking circles." Detailing their history and how vital they are to all of us.

Steinem has definitely lifted a big life, one I thoroughly enjoyed reading about!
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,653 followers
December 26, 2015
There are so many good stories in this book! This memoir focuses on Steinem's travels around the world, and her political and activist experiences in the United States.

When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel. For more than four decades, I've spent at least half my time on the road.

I've never tried to write about this way of life, not even when I was reporting on people and events along the way. It just seemed to have no category. I wasn't on a Kerouac road trip, or rebelling before settling down, or even traveling for one cause. At first I was a journalist following stories, then a sometime worker in political campaigns and movements, and most consistently an itinerant feminist organizer. I became a person whose friends and hopes were as spread out as my life. It just felt natural that the one common element in that life was the road.

Steinem has had a fascinating life, and I was very engaged with her writing. Her experiences around the world usually involved talking with groups of women, hearing their tales and troubles, and seeing how the situation could be improved. I loved her stories about her travels in India, her activism on college campuses, and her role in various political campaigns. I was also surprised to learn that she dreads public speaking, despite it being a regular part of her commitments.

This is a hard book to summarize, but I mean that in a good way. It's almost as if Steinem didn't want her book lumped into a category in the same way she doesn't want women stereotyped and held back because of gender.

I listened to this on audio, read by Debra Winger, which was a delight. Highly recommended.

Favorite Quotes
"What we're told about this country is way too limited by generalities, sound bites, and even the supposedly enlightened idea that there are two sides to every question. In fact, many questions have three or seven or a dozen sides. Sometimes I think the only real division into two is between people who divide everything into two, and those who don't."

"[T]he first reason for this book is to share the most important, longest-running yet least visible part of my life ... My second purpose is to encourage you to spend some time on the road, too. By that, I mean traveling — or even living for a few days where you are — in an on-the-road state of mind, not seeking out the familiar but staying open to whatever comes along. It can begin the moment you leave your door."

"It was the first time I witnessed the ancient and modern magic of groups in which anyone may speak in turn, everyone must listen, and consensus is more important than time. I had no idea that such talking circles had been a common form of governance for most of human history, from the Kwei and San in southern Africa, the ancestors of us all, to the First Nations on my own continent, where layers of such circles turned into the Iroquois Confederacy, the oldest continuous democracy in the world. Talking circles once existed in Europe, too, before floods, famines, and patriarchal rule replaced them with hierarchy, priests and kings. I didn't even know, as we sat in Ramnad, that a wave of talking circles and "testifying" was going on in black churches of my own country and igniting the civil rights movement. I certainly didn't guess that, a decade later, I would see consciousness-raising groups, women's talking circles, giving birth to the feminist movement. All I knew was that some deep part of me was being nourished and transformed right along with the villagers."
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,735 reviews14.1k followers
January 15, 2016
3.5 Grew up hearing about this amazing woman, reading MS magazine and cheering her on from afar. Yet, never knew the personal details of her life, what made her whom she is nor how she came to be such a staunch advocate for many whom had few rights. This book filled that in for me and I loved reading about her early life, somewhat surprising and how she started in her career. Her life on the road, the many people she met, her stay in India and the many well known people she has met. Little incidents and big moments. The convention in Houston that for her was life altering. What she has done and what she has accomplished is truly amazing.

Loved the candidness of her writing, the good and the bad but there was a serious lack of organization in this book and some repetitiveness. My nerdy brain had a hard time overcoming this. Still this book is very much worth reading and what bugged me may not phase you at all. We owe woman like Steinem a debt of gratitude, women who fought hard for a long time with slow or no results. But without them where would we be?
Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,415 followers
February 10, 2017
A note about the audiobook -- I started listening to this one and it wasn't quite grabbing me. The text was falling flat for some reason and my mind wandered a little too much. Debra Winger has a lovely delivery as the reader, but the audiobook just didn't work for me this time. So I abandoned it for the hardcover -- and finished it in one sitting I became that engrossed and enthralled, moved and inspired.

In June of 2015 I was lucky enough to attend the American Library Association conference held in San Francisco that year. Not only was it a thrill to be surrounded by 20,000 librarians from all corners of the library world, but the City by the Bay had been on my bucket list for years. It was a week of great food and much adventuring (including a day trip to Alcatraz), with thankfully no earthquakes. But the absolute highlight of the entire shebang was getting to see Gloria Steinem speak in person. Let me just say that at 81 years old, this woman has lost none of her charisma, style, and magnetic presence. She is as strikingly beautiful as she has ever been, and her generosity of spirit and kindness beam from her person like the warmth of a thousand suns.

Her latest book is a compilation of memories and reflection of a life lived on the road and what it means to be an "organizer" -- of social justice movements, of rallies, of connecting others. When most people think of Steinem they think "feminist" and "speaker" and "leader" but what she's spent most of her life doing is listening and that is what has made her so good at being all of those other things. To be a great organizer, you need to first listen, and from the listening will come empathy, understanding, knowledge, and new ideas. Now into her eighth decade, Steinem continues to listen, never one to believe she has learned all there is to know, or is now someone who carries all the answers to truth and justice and gender equality.

I was surprised to learn that Steinem is a nervous public speaker, and though she has spent a life doing it, still gets butterflies before getting up in front of a group of people. I can't imagine a life on the road as she has lived it, so very untethered. I am too much of a homebody to have ever been called to such a nomadic life, but there is a part of me that wonders what I've missed in the way of human connection and adventure. When she turned 50, Steinem finally purchased a home and began to nest, and though her nomadic adventures would persist at least now she had a place to return and rest and refuel. Maybe when I turn 50 I'll do the opposite and take to the road!
It's the surprise, the unexpected, the out of control. It turns out that laughter is the only free emotion--the only one that can't be compelled. We can be made to fear. We can even be made to believe that we're in love because, if we're kept dependent and isolated for long enough, we bond in order to survive. But laughter explodes like aha! It comes when the punch line changes everything that has gone before, when two opposites collide and make a third, when we suddenly see a new reality. Einstein said he had to be very careful while shaving, because when he had an idea he laughed -- and he cut himself. Laughter is an orgasm of the mind. ~Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road

Profile Image for Jacki (Julia Flyte).
1,254 reviews172 followers
December 31, 2018
Editor: Ms Steinem, we think it's time you wrote another book.
Gloria Steinem: Hmm. It's all been fairly extensively mined. Oh, but I do have a couple of good stories about taxi rides.
Editor: That sounds good. Maybe we could devote a chapter to taxi stories.
Gloria Steinem: And I met an interesting woman on a plane once.
Editor: Ok, it sounds like grouping it around a travelling theme might pull it all together nicely.
Gloria Steinem: Can I write about my Dad too?
Editor: That sounds good. Anything else you'd like to cover? Hillary Clinton is very topical.
Gloria Steinem: I'd like to talk about all the campaigning I've ever done and I can write about Hillary as part of that. Oh and I want to write about Native Americans as well. I've got some stories that I've been drafting over the last 10 years or so. I don't think people realise what an amazing culture they have or that the US Constitution is based on the Iroquois Confederacy.
Editor: Ok...doesn't quite fit with the travelling theme but maybe we can put that all in the second half and people won't notice. They always love what you write, you know that. It'll be terrific!
Profile Image for El.
1,355 reviews503 followers
January 30, 2016
I want to be Gloria Steinem when I grow up.

I went to a women's college for my undergraduate degree, and while I have a lot of complaints about the particular experience I had, one thing I appreciated was the communal existence. I didn't live in a dorm, but it didn't matter - the classes were small, there was relatively open communication between the students and the professors, you could basically just walk into any professor's office and take a seat and chat for a while. The classes, for the most part, had a conversational tone to them, which means sometimes you learned without realizing you were learning. There's a magic in that.

Since I graduated, I haven't had quite the same experience in any other part of my life where groups of women get together and talk about their lives or their beliefs or how they feel just walking down the street. I work primarily with women, and yet we don't have those conversations. No one really talks about what it's like to be a woman (besides the coworker who recently is trying to get us all to buy these cami things from her friend's business because they're more comfortable than bras or something), and yet the environment is so very much female. We've all had very different experiences in life, and yet no one really talks about it, about the one thing that we all have in common in spite of our differences: the fact that we are women.

Reading Gloria Steinem's book made me miss that sense of community. She talked about things I always want to discuss with people, but others don't always want to have those talks, and still there's often this overriding "This is how it is" tone to those discussions that might come up.

At 81 years of age, Steinem is still quite the firecracker. I've always especially appreciated her because she's a relatively quiet source of strength. She may not always have been the most verbal, she gets anxious in public speaking situations, and yet she says so much that I either already agree with or hadn't quite thought out myself yet, or didn't realize I already agreed with.

In this book, she talks about her life on the road. She grew up in a nomadic environment, and for so long "on the road" was home for her. Her way of rebelling against that was wanting to one day own a home and have a stable place to land; but she found herself just as much on the road as an adult as she had been as a child. She felt comfortable there, without even realizing it, and the existence works for her. She spent time trying to reconcile that in her mind - where is home, what is home, how can one feel at home without actually being a traditional home? I love the way she discusses the various ways one can be on the road, whether traveling to other countries, within one's own country, or just within one's own town. She is a non-driver (as am I) and says that adventure begins the moment you leave your door.

I adore that.

She writes in a conversational, anecdotal tone that is very engaging and enjoyable to read. She is the friend everyone wishes they have. She's down-to-earth, but has this wealth of experience from a lifetime of traveling and learning, and sharing those experiences with other like-minded people. It makes me want to find that in my world now more than ever, in a way that I didn't even quite realize I was missing since graduation until just more recently, partly in thanks to Ms. Steinem.

So, yeah, I do want to be Gloria Steinem when I grow up. The good news is she made me feel like I already am.
Profile Image for Rachel  L.
1,826 reviews2,187 followers
May 26, 2019
4 stars!

“You're always the person you were when you were born. You just keep finding new ways to express it.”

I've always been interested in learning more about Gloria Steinem. She was mentioned a lot in my college history courses, but never anything specifically about her was covered. This was also a book selected in Emma Watson's feminist book club, so I bought a copy and it say on my nightstand for two years. Now that I am into audiobooks on my commute, I decided to listen to this book.... on the road. See what I did there???? I know, I'm lame.

Lots of thoughtful ideas on activism. It's not a super cohesive book, much of it is out of sequence, flipping back and forth in time. I loved the stories, though. So many great quotes and moments while listening to this book. Instead of a straightforward biography, this is like having several conversations with a new friend and learning key moments of their life.

A very inspiring book for me, I wish more people had open minds and open hearts like Steinem.

“Decisions are best made by the people affected by them.”

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Profile Image for Jaylia3.
752 reviews131 followers
October 17, 2015
Reading this lively memoir of the vagabond life Gloria Steinem has led--first by necessity and then because she embraced it--made me want to hit the road myself in the hope that I could have even a fraction of her experiences. The varied places and people she’s encountered in her travels give her rich, interesting perspectives on the history and zeitgeist of the times she writes about, which extend from the later years of the Great Depression until today. It makes the book a fascinating, even inspiring combination of personal story and history that’s a lot of fun to read--and because this is Gloria Steinem, readers also get an enlightening front row seat for the burgeoning women’s movement of the 1960’s-70’s and its continuing development.

When she was a young child Steinem’s father ran a lakeside music venue in the summer, but once fall came he’d pack everyone in the car to spend the rest of the year driving around the country buying and then selling junk or antiques or whatever, earning enough of a profit to make it to the next town--an enterprise in which the whole family participated. Steinem thought she longed for a permanent home, but when she reached adulthood that didn’t happen. After college Steinem got a 2-year fellowship to study in India, but when she showed up at the ashram of Vinoba Bhave, one of the leaders in the land reform movement inspired by Gandhi, almost everyone was gone. Caste riots had broken out in nearby, now cordoned off villages, so the ashram residents had formed teams to slip under police barriers and travel from village to village hoping to help contain further violence. One more team wanted to go out, but they needed a women so Steinem was drafted, her first experience of traditional talking circles and modern community activism.

Working as a journalist back in the US, Steinem was dismissed by some of her male colleagues as a token “pretty girl” which helped lead her to the women’s movement and a continued life of organizing, activism, and travel. If you are expecting something dour and humorless, that’s not what you’ll find in this book. Steinem comes across as warmhearted, eager to learn from the people around her, and open to new experiences, all of which makes her wonderful company. I enjoyed learning more about mid-century politics and the growth of the women’s movement, but I also loved the personal glimpses she gives of people as diverse as Cherokee Nation chief Wilma Mankiller, who was a personal friend, and Frank Sinatra, who Steinem spent one awkward Thanksgiving dinner with--he didn’t talk much to anyone but he did let them watch while he put on an engineer’s hat and ran his toy trains around an elaborate track.

Steinem even works in interesting bits of older history, mentioning for instance that the American Constitution is partially modeled on the Iroquois Confederacy, but when Benjamin Franklin invited two Iroquois men to the Constitutional Convention to act as advisers, one of their first comments was something like--why aren’t there any women at this meeting? Good question.
Profile Image for Louise.
1,648 reviews290 followers
January 7, 2016

The understated prose may make this seem like a light volume of reminiscences, but it demonstrates her main point: you have to listen. If you listen to everyday people, not politicians or pundits, you can see what is really going on in the world.

After introducing who she is by way of describing her father and his independent traveling spirit and her unwell mother who admired the Roosevelt’s, she shares what she has heard over the years and what she has learned from it.

Living in India for two years, Steinem came to understand Gandhian principles and started to learn to listen. She notes “talking circles” as ways to mediate and inform. She shares the fruit of her listening be it through meeting native Americans, through listening in taxis, through young people on campus who pick her up at the airport or in listening to the audiences wherever she speaks. When she spends a weekend with corporate CEOs there is little to report.

You learn about the life of an activist. She is traveling: spending 8 days at home is a record. She gets stage freight and often thinks of what she should have said later. There are great anecdotes, for instance speaking at Harvard Law School where one of the faculty rises to tell her she doesn’t understand the traditions of HLS in a manner so out of control that he proved her point; another a former truck driver who showed her the truck driving world; another a young boy, who as a child was used as a girl.

Her observations are food for thought, for instance the animosity achieving women have for Hillary Clinton may be based on their sense of an inequality in their own marriages; Some who condemn her for “not throwing the bum out” have accepted infidelity in their own marriage and want her to “punish” their husband through her punishing Bill. Another observation is that almost all abortion clinics have served a woman who protested against the clinic the the day before and went back to protesting the day after. Steinem notes that these women often have no access to birth control are frequently pregnant, they need an abortion and then feel guilty about it.

Steinem has a lot to be proud of. She was foundational, perhaps pivotal, in a movement that improved lives for women. She faced down the establishment that wouldn’t allow women in professional schools (a waste of money and time, they said), police forces, the military etc. Rape is now treated like the crime that it is and sexual harassment is no longer a joke. She doesn’t rest on those laurels. Campuses where she once pushed for a women’s study course, now have a major, but she looks to increase the number of tenured faculty.

As an interesting aside, three of the subjects of the last four biographies I've read don’t/didn’t drive. Gore Vidal and Gary Gygax (creator of Dungeons and Dragons) and Steinem. Steinem devotes a whole chapter to it noting that being free from the wheel leaves her freer to listen and observe.

I highly recommend this book, but note, it is understated. Names are not dropped and there is only one celebrity anecdote (Thanksgiving dinner at Frank Sinatra’s). There is little on the outright hostility she faced. Some readers will be disappointed that there is no tell all: Nothing on her high profile boyfriends/dates, nothing on her brief marriage to the father of a Hollywood star, no backstory about her undercover “Playboy” article. She continues to lead a full life and while the glimpse of it she gives the reader seems light, there is a lot in this short book.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
462 reviews289 followers
April 30, 2021
Gloria is an astute observationist, her success predominantly hinges on her listening skills, a skill gained from an almost exclusive life living on the road. Her journalistic endeavours allowing her to find the real stories that in her mind MUST be told. Her story is unique but also a universal story of a life trying to find meaning and connection in a turbulent and often unfair world, thus leading her into a productive life of social and political activism and professional organizer. She humbly details her meteoric rise in the public zeitgeist as a kind of poster child for feminism. She maintains that all efforts are collective and her successes are not hers alone. She’s always worked in tandem with strong women and surrounds herself with other movers and shakers. Her work as an organizer leading her to travel the world reaching out to groups of people of all walks of life giving them the space and platform to tell their stories. Her tireless work has been instrumental in making historic changes to many causes affecting women, I admire her dedication and her vision.

It’s easy to see all the injustices in the world and feel like it’s too hard, it’s easier to complain but do nothing. Gloria has spent most of her life fundraising which is a full time job in itself, it’s a lot of a unpaid hours of gathering support and travelling with those in power spreading the word on the street at ground level. Ultimately she’s her Fathers daughter. A true free spirit and free thinker absorbing the world and the people that she encounters to help make a better, more fairer and more equitable place for our future selves our children and the world.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews125k followers
October 29, 2015
I had never read a book by Steinem before, and was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this wonderful memoir. She recounts how a significant part of her life has been lived on the road, starting with her early years spent wandering the country with her traveling salesman father and deeply unhappy mother, to her travels around the world related to her work. This is an amazing look into the mind of one of America's most famous feminist icons.

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Profile Image for Ilana.
604 reviews163 followers
January 5, 2020
Some book come to us when we are ready and need to hear their message most. This is one of them. Now, at fifty, and finding myself at this particular juncture, where my feminist roots are helping make sense of a world gone completely out of balance, it is good to discover myself sharing so many affinities with a feminist icon who was little more than a name to me until now, but who obviously influenced me and my thinking throughout my life in ways I can barely begin to imagine.

Just last night, it was January first, and I’d invited a man I’d been seeing on and off for a couple of years for a New Year’s dinner. We had often had disagreement on matters of principle. Until now, I’d wavered, thinking my temper clouded my judgment. This time, when I got upset over “sexist” attitudes I found unacceptable, I understood clearly my perceptions were not deceiving me. That I could call it by many other names, other than his so-called “sexism” or my so-called “feminism” and it would still not fly with me, because I had found my centre, and I was no longer willing to negotiate on that terrain. I knew this strength had come to me from my own experiences and reflections, but what helped me most was having Steinem’s spirit so close by, informing me that my intuition was a powerful tool and that anyone trying to convince me otherwise could not have my wellbeing in mind. The night almost ended disastrously. But I decided there was no point in a bitter separation and that I would put anger aside, accept that we were incompatible, and part on good terms, though he was not necessarily aware of my resolve to end things definitely.

Feminism starts by not accepting oppression by those we let into our homes and our hearts. Feminism could simply be called: self-respect. And so, today, I am grateful. Not in the least bitter to have started the New Year on such a note, that is, by ending a relationship that was already on its last legs. On the contrary, this is a fresh start. Always be grateful to people for showing themselves as they truly are. Then you are free to choose to keep them in your life because they empower you, or let them go with a kind wave and goodbye because they take your light away.

Steinem has given me much more than that . But if only for helping give me clarity on this relationship that has taken so much of my energy and made me question everything again and again, this book is worth all the stars.
Profile Image for Nat K.
415 reviews154 followers
February 24, 2018
”If you want people to listen, you have to listen to them.
If you hope people will change how they live, you have to know how they live.
If you want people to see you, you have sit down with them eye-to-eye.”

Why have I never read any of Ms Steinem’s books before?

While being aware of her background and involvement with the women’s movement, workplace equality, and co-founding ”Ms."magazine, I’d simply not read any of her writing from “cover to cover”. For which I am now kicking myself.

The stories Ms Steinem relays in this book had my absolute attention. They are diverse, well told, interesting, and I had many “ah ha” lightbulb moments reading them. What an amazing journey she’s had.

Starting with a childhood “on the road” thanks to a father with a vagabond soul, this theme has continued into her adult life. Always on the move, learning, having an open mind.

The people she’s met, spoken and listened to is amazing. The socially significant events she’s been part of are also incredible to consider.

Imagine being present to witness Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech? The various lobby groups and organisations she’s been involved with to bring about positive change. Not just for feminist issues, but also to end racial and sexual discrimination.

The constant work, the constant travel, the constant hustle.

I can’t count the number of times that I started to tear up reading this, as there were just so many poignant moments.

Gloria Steinem’s warmth, wit, intelligence and compassion shine through on these pages.

A must read for anyone with a heart who is interested in learning about their fellow human beings.
Profile Image for Lynne.
584 reviews55 followers
October 20, 2015
In this well written memoir we learn both how far we've come yet how far we have to go. The many stories had me laughing and crying! She has a strong sense of right and wrong and the wherewithal to make good use of her intuition. It was an honor and a priveledge to read this book. Thank you NetGalley for the ARC and thank you Gloria for all your efforts to advance gender equality.
Profile Image for monica kim.
202 reviews6,073 followers
January 18, 2016
This is an important book. Despite it being titled "My Life on the Road," it's really more a book about the modern feminist movement than about Steinem alone (although, can you discuss one without discussing the other?). I'm leaving it knowing more about the growth of feminism and the often hidden impact of women in history. And I think the big message of this book is how feminism can't live in a silo - that no equality movement can. The fight for women's rights is tied to socio-economic equality is tied to racial equality etc. It's all connected. And Steinem does a fantastic job helping the reader understand this through real examples and stories.

However, I have to also acknowledge that this book is not without its faults - the biggest one being the exclusion of trans women. Especially, considering Steinmen's (and the feminist movement in general) problematic history with the trans community.
Profile Image for Tegan.
1,198 reviews97 followers
February 7, 2016
So yeah, I'm going to be a dissenter, that's fine. I was struggling to get through this book before some current statements were made. I am highly disappointed in someone that is so pivotal in feminism. Calling women that are supporting Bernie Sanders "attention seekers", regardless of your political views, totally goes against what you're teaching. This is a step back from what you're trying to do. Aren't we trying to build women up, and not only want men and women to be treated equally, but for WOMEN to treat each other equally? Well you went WAY off track Gloria. I will not be finishing your book.
Profile Image for Pauline.
Author 7 books1,097 followers
January 24, 2016
Fan ! Je ne savais pas du tout à quoi m'attendre, c'est ma première lecture "féministe". J'ai adoré la narration de Gloria Steinem, qui transpire la passion et l'engagement. Le découpage est super bien fait, et j'ai adoré la place gigantesque laissée aux "autres", aux personnes non-blanches particulièrement. C'était passionnant, fascinant, j'ai appris énormément de choses, sans que ce soit trop lourd, trop théorique ou trop fermé. C'est un véritable coup de cœur, ça se lit comme un bon roman d'initiation, avec la saveur ajoutée des choses vraies savamment racontées.
Profile Image for RitaSkeeter.
693 reviews
June 18, 2017
This was an inspirational read. Although it's a memoir-y type book, the focus is really on Steinem's learnings and the people she has met on the road rather than about her per se.

There is a lot we can all learn from this book, but things that particularly stood out to me were the power of listening, and of hearing people's stories. Of taking away the filters we view the world through to open our eyes to new ideas and new realities. Steinem quotes a young taxi driver she meets who was embargoing all reading (against the Goodreads code I know!), all media, and so on after his partner had challenged him to think about ideas in a way that was unfiltered by his world view. Steinem quotes him as saying “Filters let in a cup of water, but keep out the ocean." a fascinating idea; not something I could do, but it does make me wonder how can I be more critical in my thinking? How can I let go of my lens to see the world differently? What might I learn if I did?

Steinem, of course, has much to say on the topic of feminism. I particularly appreciated this quote from Paula Gunn Allen

"Feminists too often believe that no one has ever experienced the kind of society that empowered women and made that empowerment the basis of rules and civiliszation. The price the feminist community must pay because it is not aware…is necessary confusion, division and much lost time”. And “The root of oppression is the loss of memory”.

The same idea was summed up succinctly by Rayna Green “feminism is memory”. Steinem's words are particularly resonant with me when she speaks of schools teaching all about Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt but not of the indigenous peoples of our own lands whom we can learn so much from.

A fascinating book, I'd like to re-read it.
Profile Image for Maria.
622 reviews100 followers
January 28, 2016
I stopped reading for a moment. Gloria Steinem's melodious voice faded into quietness and all I could hear was the silence surrounding me. I remember thinking, how is it possible to be so quiet when there's a revolution going on inside my head? Then I realized I had yet to speak up.

My Life on the Road is an extraordinary journey. More than a book of hope, it's a book of possibilities. Not only are we told stories that make us believe that equality is possible, we are shown proof that equality was once a reality. As Rayna Green would say, "Feminism is a memory".

I find the way equality was discussed in this book absolutely wonderful. It's refreshing to read someone writing about how it is truly difference, its acceptance and the respect for it, and by it. Difference is indeed one of the characteristics we all have in common.
"When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses."

We might have a similar shade of brown eyes, but we all see the world differently. And one specific way is not better than the other, it's just different. This fact only makes the world a richer place. It's something we should celebrate.
"If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them.
If you hope people will change how they live, you have to know how they live.
If you want people to see you, you have to sit down with them eye-to-eye."

I had never heard of Gloria Steinem before. However, while reading this book, her voice felt familiar, like one of an old friend that you haven't seen in years. Suddenly you run into each other and it's like you were never apart in the first place. I am so grateful for this intimate tone, for her delicate presence.
"In fact, many questions have three or seven or dozen sides. Sometimes I think the only real division into two is between people who divide everything into two, and those who don't."

This book is a lesson. A lesson on history, on humanity, on hope and possibilities. It's a lesson one shouldn't skip, a lesson told by one's favourite professor. All you have to do is listen. Then raise your hand and speak.
"I could leave – because I could return. I could return – because I knew adventure lay just beyond an open door. Instead of either/or, I discovered a whole world of and."

Gloria Steinem's memories are so alive. It was a pleasure to walk, arms linked, down her memory lane. I hope more people decide on taking this path. I hope more people fall in love with the idea that one can travel wherever they are, even if they have been in the same place their whole lives.

Oh, and never forget to ask the turtle. You may think you know where it wants to go, but you will never be sure until you ask it.
Profile Image for Raquel Casas.
281 reviews178 followers
July 19, 2018
«Yo misma lloraba cuando me enfadaba, y luego me veía incapaz de explicar por qué estaba enfadada. Más tarde descubriría que es un mal endémico femenino. Se supone que la rabia es “poco femenina”, de modo que la reprimimos... hasta que nos desborda»
Leer a Gloria Steinem es prepararse para un largo y maravilloso viaje, no solo por su vida, sino por el movimiento feminista de EEUU del que ella ha sido (y es) una parte destacada. Recorriéndose el país de punta a punta descubre que el miedo generaliza, el amor especifica y que, definitivamente, la carretera (metáfora de la vida que cambia a cada momento) también especifica. Haciendo suya la frase de su amiga Florynce Kennedy, decide «preparar la revolución y no sólo la cena», y vaya si la hace. Escucha a taxistas, a granjeras y a indígenas. Comprueba de primera mano cómo las azafatas hacen su propia revolución feminista dentro las compañías aéreas, cómo las universitarias se organizan, cómo se desarrollan campañas políticas, todo en aras de un feminismo inclusivo y extensivo a todo tipo de mujeres y hombres. Escucha, concilia, se posiciona.
Gloria derrocha empatía, humanidad, autocrítica, entusiasmo. Nos convence de que el activismo debe hacerse en el día a día, sin descanso, ni siquiera en esas horas interminables de espera en los aeropuertos. A cada esquina siempre existe una historia agazapada para ser escuchada, una causa que debe ser defendida, una oposición que hay que derribar. Un testimonio increíble que merece la pena ser leído y que nos reconcilia con la incertidumbre como algo positivo y con las vivencias que pueden formar parte de nuestra educación sentimental con solo que estemos un poco dispuestos a observar y escuchar desde la humildad. En fin, me ha encantado y me ha reenganchado al género de la autobiografía que a veces me ha parecido demasiado presuntuoso o autoindulgente.
#GloriaSteinem #MiVidaEnLaCarretera #Joyaza #Feminismos #Activismo #Sororidad
Profile Image for Kimberly.
517 reviews36 followers
March 25, 2017
I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. I'm trying to broaden my horizons this year, and reading more non-fiction by women writers is part of that effort. My book diet to date has been sadly bereft of this type of writing and I'm aiming to improve. This book came highly recommended and did not disappoint.

I found this book to be a cross between a memoir and a history book, aka required reading. I knew so little about the author herself, let alone about the various people, places, and topics she discussed. Her story began with her itinerant father who, while perennially absent, provided her with strong parental guidance and instilled in her a love for travel. From there, her story meanders back and forth in time covering various hot spots in history, as well as touching on turning points in Gloria Steinem's life. Sometimes the two intersected and often provided teachable moments, both for the author and the reader.

I quite enjoyed this book. I found myself Googling various events that Gloria discussed as I sometimes had little, if any, knowledge about them and I wanted to learn more. She really seems to have had a remarkable life, and I'm glad that she has decided to share her experiences.
Profile Image for Jeannot.
256 reviews1,157 followers
August 16, 2020
If I'm completely honest this book was a bit hard to go through, but I'm glad I know more about Gloria Steinem. Her story is very powerful and empowering.
Profile Image for Donna Davis.
1,758 reviews235 followers
August 25, 2015
Feminist heroes are everywhere, but if I had to name half a dozen women that were at the core of the feminist movement that followed closely on the heels of the Civil Rights movement and the movement to end the US war in Vietnam, Steinem’s name would be among them. In fact, hers might be the first name out of my mouth. It was she who coined the salutation “Ms”, and who founded Ms. Magazine. When I saw she had written a memoir, I knew I had to have it, and when Net Galley and Random House gave me the DRC, I was delighted. But this is one of the few books that if I’d had to, I’d have been willing to pay full jacket price in order to read. Heroes are thin on the ground these days, and we treasure those that still walk among us.

My reading records, some three years of documentation, reflect over 300 biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs I’ve read, and I didn’t even start listing them until about 3 years ago, so who knows how many? The one thing I know to expect, when someone really famous sits down to tell us about her life, is that the ego will be there. It might be veiled, especially if the person is famous for writing as opposed to something else, or it might be big and bold. Once in awhile it’s been so bald-faced that I came away wishing I hadn’t read the book so I could go on liking the author. So for one of the most famous of living feminists, I was braced and ready.

And this icon’s ego isn’t there. I don’t mean she hides it well; I just don’t find it. And it appears as if large amounts of time spent among Native sisters in struggle—Wilma Mankiller foremost among them—taught her so much about focusing on the circle, rather than a table that has someone at its head, a big-boss type, that she let go of whatever ego she might have been thinking about building. For example, when she works as an organizer, she dreads public speaking, but looks forward to the place at which one part of the auditorium begins to answer the questions from another part, and she knows a circle has formed, one in which she becomes just another person present. I was blown away!

Steinem began her career in journalism, and she is one of the finest writers whose work I have read. For a brief time in years gone by, I dismissed her because of her sometimes-attachment to Democratic party candidates, but the sum of her contributions has been so much more that I missed the forest for the trees during that time of my life. Now I want to read everything she ever wrote.

Travel is a great metaphor, but it’s also a material fact for Steinem. She grew up with a father who was a traveling salesman, and unlike most such men, he took his family with him. For most of her childhood, there was no home, merely a series of stop-overs. This rootless existence would leave some children traumatized. Kids thrive on routine, and not all would be able to translate constant travel into a sense of the usual. But Steinem mostly remembers it as a positive attribute, and credits her parents for their capacity to question social norms during a time most Americans were madly conforming. The fact that she continued to live out of a suitcase once she was grown and on her own is the greatest testament of all to her upbringing, and to her response to it.

There are oh, so many stories, some of which made me laugh out loud, and others that made me think. You can go winnow those out for yourself. And of course, my favorites may not be yours.

But the one thing I can promise you is a really great read, one with depth, yet not difficult to access. It’s friendly and feels as if we are having coffee with an old, dear friend, right at the table with one another. A circular table.

You have to read this book. It will be available in stores October 27, or you can pre-order it now.
Profile Image for Ross Blocher.
430 reviews1,372 followers
April 4, 2021
My exposure to Gloria Steinem has always been second-hand, so it was nice to finally read one of her books and learn more about her directly. This is her most recent (2015) of some two dozen books, and Steinem has found "the road" as a throughline to share some previously untold stories about her life. Though she owns a house, Steinem says she never spends more than a week there. The itinerant life found her early, and she attributes this to her father, Leo, who spent a similarly nomadic existence. She devotes a chapter to him, trying to untangle the restlessness and social engagement she inherited from him from his less laudable attributes, and balance that with the quiet reserve, longsuffering and deferred dreams of her mother. Funny aside: she doesn't drive, so there are lots of interesting stories about interactions with cab drivers and trailer truck stops and students who pick her up at the airport.

Steinem takes us along on her journey from journalist to activist and introduces some of the key figures in the women's liberation movement that she has spoken alongside, learned from, and campaigned for. Sometimes she'll freshly describe interactions with a person who died a long time ago (she campaigned for Adlai Stevenson in the 50s), and I have to remember just how long Steinem has been active. She tells us about talks in church basements and the advice of women like Dorothy Pitman, who helped her overcome a fear of public speaking and nervousness about speaking to non-white audiences. There are great little tactical tips for dealing with tough audiences, such as a slap-down for the inevitable man who goes on a tired about women's rights. "I swear, I didn't even pay him to say that! Next question." Steinem also opens up about the blessing and curse of being a beautiful woman. There are slurs, threats, dismissals and dismal headlines, but another woman points out that her beauty gives her extra credence: she chose the cause of women's liberation because it was right, not because she had to. She could have played the conventional game and succeeded. It wrecks the portrayal of "only ugly women" decrying the status quo.

She travels to India (from which I learned about Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, whom I just now assume Kamala Devi Harris got her name from). She speaks at countless college campuses. She gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the 1977 National Women's Conference. She campaigns for Shirley Chisholm. She spends time with Native American communities and learns that the Iroquois Confederacy was a template for the US Constitution. It's a restless, persistent, influential, rich life she's led, and this volume is a great way to become familiar with Steinem and the lessons she's learned and shared. I'll leave you with this quote that particularly resonated: "I was traveling and making the discovery that ordinary people are smart, smart people are ordinary, decisions are best made by the people affected by them, and human beings have an almost infinite capacity for adapting to the expectations around us- which is both the good and the bad news."
Profile Image for Bloodorange.
673 reviews191 followers
September 2, 2017
I started reading this book on Carol's recommendation, with only a dim awareness of who Gloria Steinem is. I knew her as a Ms. founder/editor, the "pretty feminist" attractive enough to become, and write about the plight of, a Playboy Bunny, and remembered some comments of "seasoned" feminists I encountered stating that Steinem was "privileged". The book does not even mention the Bunny episode, and effectively dispels any myth of financial privilege; Steinem's childhood was full of adventures caused by her parents' maladjustments and their attempts to survive when money was scant.

For a person like me - a curious European - this book was a great introduction into some more secret parts of America: distant homelands in the north part of the country, where the police do not dare enter (these are just mentioned, but how!), its prisons, and regions of the country inhabited by Native Americans. It also is a great primer on race issues and organizing - the social/ activist kind - and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who sees their future in activism.

Things I loved:

1) Common sense:
I remember an African American woman judge in a night court who refused to hear charges against any woman accused of prostitution until her customer was arrested, too. It was amazing how fast those charges melted away.
2) ...and its subversive applications:
people should have sued for being culturally deprived in a white ghetto. When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses.
Describing the practice of directing welfare mothers from Nevada to a legal, licensed brothel (1971) on penalty of losing welfare/unemployment checks:
I am discovering that words have consequences (...) If prostitution is "sex work", a job like any other, then women can be required to do it. Men, too.
3) Useful pieces of trivia:
...the Catholic Church not only didn't oppose abortion but actually regulated it until the mid-nineteenth century. It was made a mortal sin mostly for population reasons. Napoleon III wanted more soldiers, and Pope Pius IX wanted all the teaching positions in the French schools - plus the doctrine of papal infallibility - so they traded.
...as we explained our idea of teaching Gandhian tactics to women's movements, [Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, a rare woman leader during the independence struggle] listened to us patiently, sitting and rocking on her veranda, sipping tea. When we were finished, she said, "Well, of course, my dears. We taught him everything he knew."
4) Steinem's penchant for one-liners:
Surrealism is the triumph of form over content.
-so true of our political situation at the moment!
Profile Image for Caroline.
592 reviews799 followers
May 6, 2016
3.5 out of 5 stars (I feel like I give half star ratings way too frequently but whatever.)

THIS book was really interesting and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Not that I expected not to enjoy it, just that I liked it more than I thought I would. . Going into it, I didn't know that much about Gloria Steinem so it was great to learn more. I uploaded my review of this book on my YouTube channel so if you are interested then you should definitely check it out- https://youtu.be/Cv0F7O8SNGk :)
Profile Image for Renée.
Author 7 books35 followers
November 28, 2015
This is such a wonderful record by a public figure I treasure; however, the writing is repetitive and the organization is chaotic. It's still highly readable and quite moving, but I wish time had been taken for better editing of this important memoir.
Profile Image for Jenny.
153 reviews54 followers
January 29, 2017
"[...] yet I was traveling and making the discovery that ordinary people are smart, smart people are ordinary, decisions are best made by the people affected by them, and human beings have an almost infinite capacity for adapting to the expectations around us- which is both the good and the bad news."

Τελειώνοντας αυτό το βιβλίο έμεινα με ένα πολύ όμορφο συναίσθημα: έμαθα πολλά πράγματα και μου άνοιξε την όρεξη για να μάθω ακόμη περισσότερα!

Η Gloria Steinem αφηγείται ιστορίες από τα ταξίδια της και σιγά-σιγά ξεδιπλώνει μια ολόκληρη ζωή στο δρόμο, δίπλα σε ανθρώπους πολύ διαφορετικούς μεταξύ τους, οι οποίοι τη βοήθησαν να ανακαλύψει ένα σωρό πράγματα για τη διαφορετικότητα, τον κόσμο, τους ανθρώπους, την ιστορία και με τη σειρά της να βοηθήσει εμάς να τα ανακαλύψουμε. Εκτίμησα πάρα πολύ τη συνεχή αναφορά σε βιβλία και συγγραφείς, έχω ήδη βάλει στη λίστα μου πολύ υλικό.

Δεν σταμάτησα να σημειώνω καθ'όλη τη διάρκεια της ανάγνωσης. Όταν ένας τόσο έξυπνος, δοτικός και π��θιασμένος άνθρωπος, που έχει υπάρξει μάρτυρας σε ορισμένες από τις σημαντκότερες στιγμές της σύγχρονης (αμερικάνικης κατά βάση,αλλά με παγκόσμιες προεκτάσεις) ιστορίας και έχει συμβάλλει αποφ��σιστικά στη διαμόρφωση κάποιων από αυτών αποφασίζει να μοιραστεί τις εμπειρίες και τα συμπεράσματά του, δεν μπορείς παρά να επωφεληθείς!!

Το αγαπημένο μου κεφάλαιο ήταν αναμφισβήτητα το τελευταίο, που είχε να κάνει με τους αυτόχθονες Αμερικανούς, την κουλτούρα τους, το πόσο μπροστά ήταν τόσο σε κοινωνικά (αντιμετώπιση της γυναίκας,δημοκρατική κοινωνία στη οποία βασίστηκε και η δημοκρατία των ΗΠΑ) ), όσο και σε πρακτικά θέματα (τρόποι καλλιέργειας) και τον απαράδεκτο τρόπο με τον οποίο αντιμετωπίζονται ακόμη και σήμερα. Σε πολλά σημεία του βιβλίου ��υγκινήθηκα πολύ, σε άλλα θύμωσα κι έμεινα έκπληκτη με τη σκληρότητα και την αδικία των ανθρώπων- στο τέλος ένιωσα ευγνωμοσύνη για όσους αγώνες δόθηκαν για μένα, πριν από μένα, ώστε να μπορώ εγώ σήμερα να διαβάζω με έκπληξη όσα ήταν αναμενόμενα για τις γυναίκες στο παρελθόν και ελπίζω να έρθει σύντομα η μέρα που η ισότητα θα είναι γεγονός σε όλα τα σημεία του πλανήτη και για όλους κι όλες.

" I was angry about the human talent that was lost just because it was born into a female body, and the mediocrity that was rewarded because it was born into a male one."

Κλείνω με αυτό:

" No wonder oral history turns out to be more accurate than written history. The first is handed down from the many who were present. The second is written by the few who probably weren't. "

[Readathon17: 6/52, "μία βιογραφία ή απομνημονεύματα"]
10 reviews252 followers
January 25, 2016
Gloria Steinem's life experiences have been so many and so varied, My Life On The Road reads like a collection of short stories. In many ways it is, because she shares personal adventures alongside second-hand accounts. Steinem's greatest asset as an organizer and writer is her efforts in simply listening. This book is the result of all those years of listening and learning.

Steinem organizes her chapters by theme and discusses events with only a loose chronology. Dates are always provided, however, so the reader does not get lost. Not to mention, so many of her experiences, particularly in Chapter V When the Political Is Personal, are iconic and distinctive in American historical memory. These events are constructed anew from the point of view of a woman, feminist, writer, and organizer. As a first book for Emma Watson's book club Our Shared Shelf, it provides a detailed and helpful description of important checkpoints in American feminist history for an international cohort of readers.

There are places where Steinem conflates the privilege and the necessity of travel (which in some cases might merely be termed geographical movement, quite frankly—is travel a term of luxury?). She references the migrant Roma people as an example after stating that "an addiction to travel can exist anywhere" in the Introduction. She also romanticizes traveling in her claims that some lessons "can be learned only on the road" (Prelude). Despite how she essentializes travel, the road, etc., at the front end of the book, she remedies this with greater specificity later on—many of these lessons are hard won, and many of them are not realized until years after the fact.

The book begins with reminiscences of childhood adventure and ends with the loss of a beautiful life. The book moved me to laughter (an escape) and tears (of both sadness and anger). Steinem writes not for herself, not as if she is writing in a journal, but she writes to each of us, encouraging and, despite her many accomplishments and the joy she clearly takes from describing her life's work, hardly self-indulgent. I recommend this book to any young woman who is looking for her next meaningful adventure.

"I could leave—because I could return. I could return—because I knew adventure lay just beyond an open door."
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