Today in Feminist History: Gloria Steinem and Shirley Chisholm Take Chicago

Today in Feminist History is our daily recap of the major milestones and minor advancements that shaped women’s history in the U.S.—from suffrage to Shirley Chisholm and beyond. These posts were written by, and are presented in homage to, our late staff historian and archivist, David Dismore.

January 21, 1972: This is certainly an exciting time to be a feminist, and that’s especially true in Chicago today.

Women at the center of two national events occurring next week are here vigorously promoting their upcoming ventures. Representative Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) is in town to talk about her Presidential campaign, which has been running informally since July, but gets officially launched four days from now; and Gloria Steinem is here as well, generating publicity for the first stand-alone issue of Ms. magazine (pronounced “miz”), which will hit the news stands nationwide in just a few days.

The two started the day early, and together, as guests on Channel 7’s Kennedy and Company.

Representative Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) and Gloria Steinem on WLS-TV’s Kennedy and Company this morning

Steinem was delighted to share the camera with Chisholm, saying: “I don’t even remember when we first met. I know our first long conversation was about two years ago when I tried to talk Shirley into running against Senator Javits. We’re in contact with each other at least once a month. We spent a fortune in telegrams yesterday trying to arrange our press conferences here so they wouldn’t conflict.” 

Though she forgot to bring her copy of Ms., Steinem did remember to wear her Shirley Chisholm for President button. Since she’s already been campaigning for Senator George McGovern (D-SD), Steinem was asked if there was a conflict, but said that she supported both candidates. 

Steinem has undivided loyalty to her new magazine, however. Originally an insert in the December 20th issue of New York magazine, the response was so great that a full-length version is about to be sent out to news stands all across the country. If the 300,000 issues printed up sell out—it’s labeled a Spring issue, so it will have several months to do so! Ms. will become a monthly forum for all women and deal with feminist and real-life women’s issues in a way that traditional, mainstream “women’s magazines” don’t. 

The idea could work. Though The Revolution, owned by Susan B. Anthony and edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Parker Pillsbury, had a rather short run after its launch in 1868, and ended up putting Anthony quite deeply in debt, the Woman’s Journal, founded by Lucy Stone, was quite successful and very influential from 1870 until 1917. Fifty-five years later, it’s time for the country to have a new, overtly feminist, nationally-distributed, large-circulation magazine. 

Representative Chisholm told viewers she thinks it’s time for the nation to get over its sex prejudice: “People in this country have to realize no psychological test says a man is more intelligent than a woman. We here in the United States have become so hung-up on sex. We waste our energies talking about the differences between men and women, not the similarities. I have talent, and I have ability. Permit me to use them. Don’t reject me because I’m a woman.”

Apparently there is still plenty of work to do in regard to sex bias in the media. One nationally syndicated talk show has given the eight other candidates seeking their party’s Presidential nomination an entire show to themselves, but Rep. Chisholm was offered only the chance to share a show with Gloria Steinem. As Steinem notes: “To this day, she hasn’t been invited to do the entire show. The problem is that people refuse to take Shirley’s candidacy seriously.” 

Let’s hope that both Ms. magazine and Chisholm for President meet with success, and are just two manifestations of the new wave of feminism that has already brought about such major changes in less than a decade. 


David Dismore is the archivist for the Feminist Majority Foundation. His journey from would-be weather forecaster to full-time feminist began with the powerful impression made by a photo and a few paragraphs about the suffragists in his high school history textbook; years later, he had his first encounter with NOW—in which he carefully peeked in a window before opening the door to be sure men were allowed. He was eventually active in the ERA extension campaign of 1978, embarked on a cross-country bikeathon for it in 1982 and even worked for pioneers Toni Carabillo and Judith Meuli.