7 Books to Launch Your Feminist Journey: An Interview with a Steinem Sisters Feminist

Posted on March 1, 2024

by Melissa L

On Monday, March 25 at 6:00 pm, the Library is celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Steinem Sisters Collection (and Gloria Steinem’s 90th birthday) at Main Library with A Steinem Celebration: 90 Years of Gloria.

Leading up to this event, we’ll be interviewing local feminists and members of the Steinem Sisters Collective. Our first interview is with former People Called Women bookstore owner, Gina.

The Steinem Sisters Collection originally lived at your Bookstore, People Called Women, before it was generously donated to the TLCPL in 2018. What was the inspiration to create the feminist lending library?

Gina: A handful of us who were committed to the bookstore and to feminism had been talking off and on for years about how there needed to be something in Toledo to honor Gloria Steinem. At the time we only knew we wanted to do something, but it shouldn’t be the typical patriarchal gestures like statues or a building named after her. The major catalyst that finally got us to do something was the approach of Gloria’s 80th birthday. When we discussed how to honor her, I remembered a discussion we had with her back in 2012, I believe it was, after she spoke at an event at BGSU. She talked to us about growing up on the East Side of Toledo and how her neighborhood library was a lifeline to her. Yes, a library. We felt that would be a fitting tribute to her and to her life’s work. It both honored her and continued her work of spreading feminist knowledge and activism in a living, growing, accessible way. Perfect! So, we used a portion of PCW’s used book room, invited several organizations to partner with us, and put out a call for donations of books and money to buy more books, and planned a Grand Opening Celebration to be held on Gloria’s 80th Birthday.

Can you share with us how you chose the name “Steinem Sisters?”

Gina: The name was the brainchild of Debbie Schwartz, one of the Steinem Sisters’ Collective members, who came up with it when we were standing outside of the bookstore brainstorming ideas. As soon as she said it, we knew it was exactly right. The Collective voted unanimously in our next meeting to name it Steinem Sisters’ Library and Resource Center.

Do you remember the first few titles in the collection?

Gina: The first titles were purchased on Gloria’s 80th birthday, March 25, 2014, at the grand opening. The Collective chose about fifty titles and displayed them for purchase that evening. People would purchase whatever books spoke to them from the display and we would put a Donated By bookplate on the inside of the book. They signed it and placed the book[s] back on the shelves. Some bought books, some donated money, and many of us ate birthday cake and toasted Gloria in absentia. It was a very fun evening attended by approximately sixty people. Here is a handful of the first titles:

Book Jacket: Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions

outrageous acts and everyday rebellions by Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem's first book is an informative collection of the best and most lasting of her writing over the 20 years to its publication in 1983.

Book Jacket: Letters From A War Zone

letters from a war zone by Andrea Dworkin

Dworkin gives us her experience of speaking out and speaking to women; being silenced again and again by publishers, and at the same time, living her life at the center of the debate on First Amendment rights; being a battered wife, marching, organizing, addressing the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography; as well as teaching "Wuthering Heights". From 1976-1989, the women's movement has changed; the battle lines have been drawn and redrawn, but Andrea Dworkin remained strong, passionate, consistent, and radical - as Erica Jong says, "a risk-taker in a world of bet-hedgers".

Book Jacket: Women, Race & Class

women, race & class by Angela Y. Davis

A powerful study of the women's liberation movement in the U.S., from abolitionist days to the present, that demonstrates how it has always been hampered by the racist and classist biases of its leaders. From the widely revered and legendary political activist and scholar Angela Davis.

Book Jacket: Grandmothers Counsel the World

grandmothers counsel the world by Carol Schaefer

In some Native American societies, tribal leaders consulted a council of grandmothers before making any major decisions that would affect the whole community. What if we consulted our wise women elders about the problems facing our global community today? This book presents the insights and guidance of thirteen indigenous grandmothers from five continents, many of whom are living legends among their own peoples. The Grandmothers offer wisdom on such timely issues as nurturing our families; cultivating physical and mental health; and confronting violence, war, and poverty. Also included are the reflections of Western women elders, including Alice Walker, Gloria Steinem, Helena Norberg-Hodge, and Carol Moseley Brown.

Book Jacket: The Vagina Monologues

the vagina monologues by V

A poignant and hilarious tour of the last frontier, the ultimate forbidden zone, The Vagina Monologues is a celebration of female sexuality in all its complexity and mystery. Hailed as the bible for a new generation of women, it has been performed in cities all across America and at hundreds of college campuses and has inspired a dynamic grassroots movement - V-Day - to stop violence against women. Witty and irreverent, compassionate, and wise, Eve Ensler's Obie Award-winning masterpiece gives voice to real women's deepest fantasies and fears, guaranteeing that no one who hears it will ever look at a woman's body, or think of sex, in quite the same way again...

Book Jacket: The House on Mango Street

the house on mango street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Told in a series of vignettes - sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous - Sandra Cisneros' masterpiece is a classic story of childhood and self-discovery. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.

Book Jacket: In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens

in search of our mothers' gardens by Alice Walker

Essays on the role of women, especially black women, in contemporary society.

Find your next great read in the Steinem Sisters Collection, located in the Fact and Fiction department of Main Library.

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