Gloria Steinem was born March 25, 1934, in Toledo, Ohio. She became a freelance writer after college and grew more and more engaged in the women's movement and feminism. She helped create both New York and Ms. magazines, helped form the National Women's Political Caucus, and is the author of many books and essays. A breast cancer survivor, Steinem celebrated her 75th birthday in 2009.
Around this time, Steinem's parents divorced and she ended up caring for her mother, Ruth, who suffered from mental illness. Steinem spent six years living with her mother in a rundown home in Toledo before leaving to go to college. At Smith College, she studied government, an non-traditional choice for a woman at that time. It was clear early on that she did not want to follow the most common life path for women in those days—marriage and motherhood. "In the 1950s, once you married you became what your husband was, so it seemed like the last choice you'd ever have…I'd already been the very small parent of a very big child—my mother. I didn't want to end up taking care of someone else," she later told People magazine.
In 1971 Steinem joined other prominent feminists, such as Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan, in forming the National Women's Political Caucus, which worked on behalf of women's issues. She also took the lead in launching the pioneering, feminist Ms magazine. It began as an insert in New York magazine in December 1971; its first independent issue appeared in January 1972. Under her direction, the magazine tackled important topics, including domestic violence. Ms. became the first national publication to feature the subject on its cover in 1976.