Hallelujah! I finally finished “My Life on the Road” by Gloria Steinem, which I have had since my birthday last year. What makes this book so special to me – first and foremost- is that it is signed by THE Gloria Steinem, someone I have idolized growing up. Since the physical book is basically sacred to me, I think I was scared to open the book to actually read it but I did and….it did not disappoint!
The beginning of the book is Gloria’s tale of growing up with her father working as a traveling (and struggling) antiques salesman, in which she would travel with him in his car throughout the U.S. Meanwhile, her mother stayed at home and struggled with mental illness. As privileged as she was and still is, I was surprised at how humble her beginnings and how her time on the road with her father influenced her. Gloria would later chronicle her own many journeys throughout the U.S. as she gave speeches at universities and organized events.
Many experiences (unsurprisingly) include her talking about how she was not taken seriously and disrespected. During the Lyndon Johnson administration, on the way to an event for Bobby Kennedy two famous writers in a cab in NYC with Gloria leaned across one another to say “You know how every year there’s a pretty girl who comes to New York and pretends to be a writer? Well, Gloria is this year’s pretty” (139). This is just one of many examples in which Gloria was mistreated due to her gender. We all know, of course, that she is no pretty face. Ironically, she went on to break barriers for women everywhere.
What I also liked is what Gloria spent the final pages of her book on – the plight of Native Americans and the successes of her best friend, Wilma Mankiller, who was the first woman to lead the Cherokee Nation in 1985. This was a touching tribute to her friend that was with until her last breath, heaving fought many years recovering from a car accident and then succumbing to pancreatic cancer.
Between just Gloria and Wilma alone, there seemed so many possibilities as to what they could do, especially when together. Gloria was a women’s rights crusader who made feminism mainstream. Wilma was a true warrior spent her live improving health care and education for Native Americans. Both Gloria and Wilma were recipients of the Presidential Medals of Freedom. By the end of the book, you are left with the hopefully message that yes, life is a journey, and you really are free to make it your own. This may mean hitting the road and organizing events like Gloria, or finding passion at home. Whatever it is though, you should follow the path you love.
What’s your passion?