Steinem was a columnist for New York magazine, and a co-founder of Ms. magazine. In 1969, Steinem published an article, "After Black Power, Women's Liberation", which brought her to national fame as a feminist leader.
Steinem was born on March 25, 1934, in Toledo, Ohio, the daughter of Ruth (née Nuneviller) and Leo Steinem. Her mother was a Presbyterian of mostly German (including Prussian), and some Scottish, descent. Her father was Jewish, the son of emigrants from Württemberg, Germany and Radziejów, Poland. Her paternal grandmother, Pauline Perlmutter Steinem, was chairwoman of the educational committee of the National Woman Suffrage Association, a delegate to the 1908 International Council of Women, and the first woman to be elected to the Toledo Board of Education, as well as a leader in the movement for vocational education. Pauline also rescued many members of her family from the Holocaust.
The Steinems lived and traveled about in the trailer from which Leo carried out his trade as a traveling antiques dealer. Before Steinem was born, her mother Ruth, then aged 34, had a "nervous breakdown" which left her an invalid, trapped in delusional fantasies that occasionally turned violent. She changed "from an energetic, fun-loving, book-loving" woman into "someone who was afraid to be alone, who could not hang on to reality long enough to hold a job, and who could rarely concentrate enough to read a book." Ruth spent long periods in and out of sanatoriums for the mentally ill. Steinem was ten years old when her parents finally separated in 1944. Her father went to California to find work, while she and her mother continued to live together in Toledo.