Women Supporting Women

There she was on Sunday. In color. Gloria Steinem on the cover page of the New York Times editorial section. Who would have thought in the 60’s that Steinem’s 80th birthday would be a cause for celebration in the mainstream press? I turned the page and there with Steinem were two women from my life: Elinor Guggenheimer first woman appointed to the New York City Planning Commission and later on, Commissioner of Consumer Affairs under Mayor Abe Beame, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, head of the Human Rights Commission under Mayor John Lindsay, now a delegate to the U.S. Congress.

Unlike these ladies, I was not a feminist. At least I didn’t think I was one. Or, more correctly, I suppose I didn’t recognize myself as one. Back then, it wasn’t clear to me that the Women’s Movement included me. I was a married, career-driven Mom with three kids and a house in Queens. Then along came Gloria Steinem. She was smart, good-looking, heterosexual, a professional woman, and above all collegial, who believed that working together women could achieve equity. I could relate to that, and so did thousands of other women.

In the 70’s, I was a neophyte in New York City government and I was grateful to Ellie Guggenheimer and Eleanor Norton for mentoring me. They were among the many women who supported me in my career. Now I believe as they did that the Women’s Movement was not just about equity. At its core, it was also about women supporting women.

Photo: From left: Betty Friedan, Elinor Guggenheimer, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Gloria Steinem, among the founders of the National Women’s Political Caucus, in July 1971. (photo credit: Don Hogan Charles / The New York Times)

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