My life on the road

by Gloria Steinem

Paper Book, 2015




New York : Random House, 2015.


"Gloria Steinem had an itinerant childhood. Every fall, her father would pack the family into the car and they would drive across the country, in search of their next adventure. The seeds were planted: Steinem would spend much of her life on the road, as a journalist, organizer, activist, and speaker. In vivid stories that span an entire career, Steinem writes about her time on the campaign trail, from Bobby Kennedy to Hillary Clinton; her early exposure to social activism in India, and the decades spent organizing ground-up movements in America; the taxi drivers who were "vectors of modern myths" and the airline stewardesses who embraced the feminist revolution; and the infinite, surprising contrasts, the "surrealism in everyday life" that Steinem encountered as she traveled back and forth across the country. With the unique perspective of one of the greatest feminist icons of the 20th and 21st centuries, here is an inspiring, profound, enlightening memoir of one woman's life-long journey"--… (more)

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(227 ratings; 4.1)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Terrell_Solano
I got my copy through the Goodreads Giveaway program in exchange for an honest review.

I found out so much information that I hadn't known before. I felt like I was there with her taking the journey. I will be reading it again.
LibraryThing member LaPhenix
A great and empowering read as I'm about to embark on my own big adventure, the book is filled with many touching anecdotes and personal vignettes.
LibraryThing member Rosa.Mill
This history of Gloria Steinem's travels are pretty interesting. It gave me a different perspective on travel and I learned a lot about not just Steinem but other strong amazing woman who have advanced the women's movement that I had never heard of before. Totally worth the read.
LibraryThing member Rosa.Mill
This history of Gloria Steinem's travels are pretty interesting. It gave me a different perspective on travel and I learned a lot about not just Steinem but other strong amazing woman who have advanced the women's movement that I had never heard of before. Totally worth the read.
LibraryThing member Rosa.Mill
This history of Gloria Steinem's travels are pretty interesting. It gave me a different perspective on travel and I learned a lot about not just Steinem but other strong amazing woman who have advanced the women's movement that I had never heard of before. Totally worth the read.
LibraryThing member Rosa.Mill
This history of Gloria Steinem's travels are pretty interesting. It gave me a different perspective on travel and I learned a lot about not just Steinem but other strong amazing woman who have advanced the women's movement that I had never heard of before. Totally worth the read.
LibraryThing member Beamis12
3.5 Grew up hearing about this amazing woman, reading MS magazine and cheer 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
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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?
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LibraryThing member ecataldi
Very few books have the power to awaken you, or make you think about aspects of your life differently but that is exactly what this book did for me. It was an honest to goodness eye opener. Before reading this I am ashamed to admit that all I knew about Gloria Steinem was that she was an outspoken
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feminist, I had just never paid attention. I had also never paid all that much attention to feminism; I agree that women should be equal but I never stopped to consider in all the ways that we still inequal. I'm a travesty, I have a graduate degree and I just never stopped to consider how my gender is treated. I mean, I knew it was lopsided but had I ever spoken out against it or taken action? Never. Reading this memoir of Gloria Steinem's travels, encounters, and feminist beliefs really made me aware of how little I've done. This book has definitely motivated to read more of her books, research more, and take action! Steinem talks a lot about organizing and uniting women, it's really motivational. I also got teary eyed when she described her friendships with different Native American women and the hardships they've had to overcome and still have to overcome. It was very moving and very well written. Thank goodness I'm a Harry Potter fanatic. Had it not been for Emma Watson's feminist book club I can honestly say I never would have picked up this book!
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LibraryThing member Bodagirl
A great read! I had no idea how involved Steinem is with Native American issues. I am utterly impressed with how much she has done and the extent of her knowledge. At the same time, she never talks down and the entire book is very chatty.
LibraryThing member Kaethe
Spring break was spent accompanying my daughter on a tour of colleges she was considering. Smith was on the list; Smith holds Gloria Steinem's papers, so I checked out Steinem's newest book to read on the trip. It was also the first pick of Emma Watson's reading group. So the universe was telling
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me it was a good time. Universe is always right. It was a good time. Mostly because I had forgotten how amusing Steinem is. I went in expecting to learn about her experience as an organizer, but I didn't know it was going to feel like catching up with my best friend who has been off having a fabulously interesting life while I have been at home. You are welcome, of course, to read this or any others of her books because they will be good for you (they will: not least because she owns up to her mistakes, as well as her successes), but even more so, you she read her because she's funny, and the tone of the book is that of your cool, adventurous friend catching you up on the decades over a bottle of wine, or, say, a guest on Graham Norton who has saved all of her funniest anecdotes for this occasion. And don't just take my word for it. My daughter started it either immediately after or slightly before I finished, and the humor was er favorite aspect, too. You can trust her, she's young and clever.


Library copy
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LibraryThing member Jaylia3
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member yvonne.sevignykaiser
First Book in Emma's Book Club to read books on women's issues.

Fascinating vagabond life growing up with a faller that could not stay put and a mother who was not well. I do like that she feels you should talk to everyday people and not listen to political hacks to get a gauge on what is really
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happening. I was also struck by her honesty when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were running for President and she explains her reasoning by who she ended up getting behind for the election.

Which after reading this book I felt she had a double standard when she was recently on the news for her comment against any women who would support Bernie Sanders were only doing that for a date. Just a reminder that women can be our own worst enemy instead of respecting our differences.

I also enjoyed the political history she gave of the time she was the most active.

A note that the audio version is read by the author.
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LibraryThing member Lindsay_W
An interesting look into the life of Gloria Steinem, her activism for women and many campaigns for other oppressed groups. She reminds us that women were not given the right to vote – they fought for it. Today’s young women owe a debt of gratitude to this woman who planted the seeds for many of
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the rights we take for granted today. What was most interesting to me were the people and stories who impacted her, and her willingness to listen to other’s stories.
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LibraryThing member TimBazzett
I've wanted to read this book ever since I read a fascinating article about it last year in THE NEW YORKER. Unfortunately, at least for me, the article was a lot more compelling than the book. MY LIFE ON THE ROAD, for the most part, reads like a lot of warmed over journalistic leftovers. The
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exception was the first chapter, "My Father's Footsteps." Now that was interesting, because it offered a peek into Steinem's unconventional and nomadic childhood, the second child of a father who was a wanderer, always looking for his next deal, his next sale, and a mother who suffered from mental illness. It's pretty amazing that Gloria Steinem became the influential figure she is today, given this upbringing. It was also interesting to learn how shy she is about public speaking, even after a lifetime of participating in so many important historical movements - civil rights, women's rights, political campaigns, etc.

The book was a national bestseller, of course. I mean it's Gloria Steinem, for cripesakes. And I have a tremendous amount of respect for all she's accomplished. I used to read her Ms Magazine on a fairly regular basis back when it was new, in the 70s. But not since then. (Is it still around?) This book, though, well it just kind of meanders along with no particularly compelling forward momentum. I tried to finish it, but finally, after nearly 200 pages, I gave up on it. And I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of those people who bought the book and made it a bestseller did too. Three stars? I think that means a book is 'okay.' That first chapter was in fact VERY good, so, along with a few other minor revelations scattered here and there, yeah, I'll give it an okay. But I probably wouldn't recommend it. I suspect I am just not the right audience or demographic.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
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LibraryThing member jessibud2
I listened to the audiobook version of this memoir, oddly, read by Debra Winger. Steinem reads the intro and dedication. I don't know why she didn't read the rest of it. It's well-written and I enjoyed her story. Although Winger is an accomplished actress, I have to say, her narration is just
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awful. I think there is a similar tonal quality between Winger's and Steinem's voices, sort of flat. But I know Steinem's voice and while it isn't what anyone would call melodious, you can at least hear the proper punctuation: periods at the ends of sentences and questions marks where they should be. Winger uses *upspeak* or *uptalk* and if I hadn't enjoying the book so much, I'd have ditched it ages ago, it was that annoying. I think what bothers me almost as much as the actual upspeak, is the fact that she is supposedly a professional actress, and I would expect that she ought to know better how to project and come across to an audience. I wonder if Steinem knows how the finished product sounds and if she had any say in it at all. I certainly have never heard Steinem herself speak that way.

As for the book itself, I actually learned so much I did not know, not just about Steinem herself and her background, but about the politics and struggles of several decades in the United States. Also, about some of the players in those struggles that I had not necessarily known about before (maybe I would have, if I were American but I'm not). I probably would have enjoyed it much more if I had read the hardcopy myself.
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LibraryThing member weeta
things are not as they seem and never the same the second time. I am going to handsell this so hard to rigid binary thinkers / [city] "natives"
LibraryThing member simchaboston
An engaging memoir, if somewhat untraditional. Not being that familiar with Steinem's career (to my embarrassment), I sometimes found myself wishing for a more straightforward chronology. But I enjoyed her anecdotes, and really appreciate that she often highlights other feminists' work instead of
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just bragging about her own accomplishments. And her thoughts about her need to travel, share and listen (to people of all races and classes) are inspiring, especially in this age of partisanship where folks are so often locked into their own viewpoints that they can't even consider anyone else's.
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
My Life On The Road, Gloria Steinem author; narrator Debra Winger
This is not a book I would have chosen to read. I am not an ultra progressive. However, I have always considered myself to be a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. The author is nothing short of an extremist on the side of the
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progressives. She has written a book which is interesting about the places she visited and the people she met. Her family history is touching. Her father never liked domestic life and preferred the open road. He was known as a kind man, if not a man who was well groomed. Her mother would have liked a life in an urban setting as a journalist but seemed to sacrifice her own dreams for her family. She was emotionally challenged and could not live alone after being hospitalized with a breakdown. They rarely had a normal home or home life. Gloria’s life was challenging, but she harbors no ill will toward her family. She seems to love them and respect their different views on life.
However, the book is so left-leaning and biased that I had a hard time finishing it, and truthfully, if I had not already paid a handsome sum to hear her speak at an author breakfast in the spring, I would have walked away from it. I found many of the comments about people on the right not only unfair, but insulting. Gloria does not seem to approve of any views other than her own, and at times her words seemed hypocritical, like this obvious example when she stated that George W. Bush would not have been President without his family while mentioning nothing about Hillary Clinton hanging onto her husband’s coattails.
On the other hand, she paints a broad picture of her life of giving and fund-raising for many worthy causes like women’s rights, civil rights, and American Indian rights. She also speaks of her knowledge and relationship with Shirley Chisholm, Maxine Waters, Ho Chi Minh, Hugo Chavez and George Soros. There were times reading the book that I thought that she could rival Jane Fonda in her beliefs about several issues and in her stand on them. I will not mention them because a reader of her book should read it without anyone else’s positive or negative influence. We all come from different places and will have different emotional reactions to her past and present actions. There were times when I wondered about her remarks about America and religion, but others may not find them disturbing.
She never balked at venturing into unknown territory. She did work tirelessly for women’s issues and that effort bled into many other issues that needed reform and/or support. She covered many topics from The Hmong to effigy mounds. She campaigned for Lyndon Johnson and supported Hillary Clinton, among many other prominent liberals. She lived in an ashram, mixed with truck drivers, engaged with cab drivers and always, throughout her life attempted to find out their needs, their thoughts and their dreams. Then, if she identified with their plight, she worked hard to help further their cause, publicizing and fundraising to raise awareness. She made many friends and traveled far and wide. She espoused following your dreams so long as your dreams did not oppose her beliefs.
The book was a simple read. It was narrated by a left-“winger” of like mind and it was obvious in her presentation. Had the book not been filled with comments about those who disagreed with her obvious political positions, I might have actually liked it because of the unusual bits and pieces of information that were previously unknown to me. She should have written it for a broader audience. To me, it was nothing more than a free advertisement, promotion, or commercial for the left wing of the United States. I do not like to be hijacked into reading things that are not what I expect, and this was not what I expected. I felt that it was not about her life on the road as much as it was about having a platform to rail against those who disagreed with her so she could support the causes she favored. Her travels were interesting, her personal observations about people were insightful, but her remarks about her opposition were offensive to me. Some of the well-known people she insulted and denigrated were people for whom I have great respect. In America, we are supposed to have the ability to voice our opinions equally, and yet, it seems more and more that progressives only want to hear the sound of their own voices echoing back at them and to silence others. I thought she was a cheering squad for herself and those she appreciated, and that she placed a halo on all of their heads, including her own, while painting horns on the heads of those who opposed her.
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LibraryThing member wagner.sarah35
A captivating memoir that starts with Gloria Steinem's childhood and then jumps and skips over her adult life. I learned a lot through this memoir, I feel differently about feminism, and I have a lot of respect for this woman, who shares so much from her experiences and knowledge. I would highly
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recommend this book to any young woman, to help one understand the feminist movement and where it is today.
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LibraryThing member AliceaP
I can't believe that I haven't read any feminist novels before now. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem has truly been an eye-opening experience. It's about her travels around the world and how she helped to fight injustice in multiple arenas such as gender inequality and racism just to name a
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few. It's packed with short stories about the people she's met, the obstacles she's conquered, and the continued optimism she has for the future. There was a lot that resonated with me. Certain snippets such as "making puns instead of plans, choosing spontaneity over certainty" made me think of my mom. Mentions of Gloria's relationship with her father and his understanding and acceptance of her also reminded me of my mom. There were poignant passages about the nature of humanity that filled me with hope. Such gems as "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" are sprinkled throughout. I felt somewhat ashamed that such simple concepts hadn't occurred to me before. For example, "White people should have sued for being culturally deprived in a white ghetto. When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses." Reading that, it seems obvious. I have many more passages I'd like to quote (I marked seven in total) but I really think everyone should read this one themselves. If you want to feel inspired and/or learn more about the humanist movement this is most definitely the book for you. Bonus: Pictures from Gloria's past at the start of each new section which I really appreciated. :-)
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LibraryThing member porch_reader
Gloria Steinem has spent much of her life on the road as a feminist activist and organizer. In this book, she shares her stories. I learned much more about the work that Steinem has done, but even more interesting was learning about Steinem herself. She is very forthcoming about her fears, her
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frustrations, and the people and events who influenced her most. I highly recommend this one. It worked well on audio, but there were several quotes that I would have liked to have lingered over.
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LibraryThing member PatsyMurray
What comes across most clearly is Gloria Steinem's warm and friendly personality. I have never met her, but she seems so open here and so willing to learn from absolutely everyone that she totally charmed me. Like Kamala Harris, whose book I just finished reading a couple of weeks ago, the best
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part of this memoir is when she writes about her childhood and the love between her and her father. It gave true insight into how someone like Gloria Steinem might develop into what she is today. This book is also a treasure trove of information. I had never heard of the Serpent Mound before, and now I want to go visit. I didn't know that the Iroquois had provided the basis for the Constitution and a score of other facts that she has squirreled away in her mind over the years. I also did not know that much about the political history she describes here (which really surprises me) and I found all of that very interesting. Oh, I know what I wanted to remember: for several years now I have known about the connection between anger and depression. When she mentions this, she makes the point that this is why so many more women are diagnosed with depression than men -- because we have no acceptable means of expressing our anger. This was a lightening bolt for me. I had long wondered about why women were so much more depressed then men and this now makes so much sense to me. Even today it is made clear to me that I should never openly express my anger and so I feel guilty when it bubbles over, but that is so much better than feeling depressed. So I am very pleased that I read this book. I did find it had one flaw: there were too many bullet points and that made certain sections appear to be undigested, but all around it is an engaging and valuable read.
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LibraryThing member obtusata
When I picked up this book, I expected your average memoir. The first section was a fairly typical (and utterly fascinating) look at Steinem's childhood, but the book took it's own course after that. Each section is devoted to a different theme and filled with anecdotes and insights on different
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events in Steinem's life and how other events (movements, politics, etc.) related. Many of the lessons she imparts are still relevant, despite being things she learned a generation ago. Many of the injustices she witnessed or learned of are still happening today. Anyone with an interest in social justice (she not *just* a feminist), politics, the right and suffering of North America's Native Indians, or even just the experiences of a woman who has seen a great deal of chance in her lifetime will find this book very interesting.
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LibraryThing member greeniezona
I picked this book up because I was excited about the possibilities of Emma Watson's Our Shared Shelf project. I didn't know how excited I was about this book in particular, but really, for a feminist and Ms. magazine subscriber, I know surprisingly little about Gloria Steinem. In the end I decided
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if there was a larger conversation spawned by the book club and/or this book, I wanted to be ready with an opinion.

Well, after all the flurry of press and blog posts about Watson's idea for the book club, I was a little surprised how quickly it all died away. After I bought my copy, I was curious about the strength of Watson's book bump, and looked for analytics on this book's sales both before and after he pick, but could find nothing. One or two articles mentioned how many thousands had signed on to the group on goodreads, but how many bought it? checked it out? read it?

As for the book itself -- I had a middling reaction. I liked learning more about Steinem, I liked learning more about pivotal moment in American feminist history, I liked the glimpses into her offbeat upbringing -- her family spending months at a time on the road. But I was often frustrated by the fragmentary nature of this book of essays. Steinem is accomplished at storytelling, and she's collected some good ones here -- but there were a lot of dots I wanted to see connected. Some deeper feminist analysis of issues touched on here only glancingly.

Interested in seeing how much momentum there is on this experiment, and where Watson hopes to take us.
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