Women’s Rights Pioneers Gloria Steinem, Sally Roesch Wagner Featured in SDHC Program Feb. 18

A Conversation on Women's Movements

For more than half a century, American icon Gloria Steinem has led the fight for women's rights. Now, she brings her stories from the front lines of the movement to South Dakota Humanities Council audiences during an exclusive virtual event.

"An Evening with Gloria Steinem," free to the public via Zoom Webinar at 7 p.m. CT on Thursday, Feb. 18, features Steinem in conversation with the nation's leading women's studies expert, Sally Roesch Wagner. The program, moderated by South Dakota Public Broadcasting radio host Lori Walsh, will explore the influences and effects of the women's movement from the pre-suffrage era to the present, including the impact of the women's vote.

The event is part of "Voting: Why It Matters," a new SDHC initiative funded by a $50,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to educate South Dakotans on the importance of civic participation.

"It would be difficult to find two people more qualified to speak about the evolution of the women's movement than Gloria and Sally," said South Dakota Festival of Books Director Jennifer Widman.

"They are both committed to recognizing typically unsung influences, like the Indigenous women who showed the suffragists that equality was possible and the women of color who have often been marginalized by mainstream feminists. We're excited to offer these wise voices to our audience members."

Natalie Portman: 'Gloria's Words Light the Way Forward'

Steinem, an award-winning writer and leading political activist, offers a unique first-hand perspective on women's issues throughout the past six decades. She founded New York and Ms. Magazines and co-founded the National Women's Political Caucus, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the Free to Be Foundation, and the Women's Media Center in the United States. In 2013, Steinem was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Her books include the New York Times bestselling memoir My Life on the Road, and she co-produced an Emmy Award–winning TV documentary for HBO, Multiple Personalities: The Search for Deadly Memories.

Steinem serves as a muse of sorts for women looking for answers to life's mysteries. "When the path is dark, Gloria's words light the way forward. I find myself returning again and again to her words for inspiration, comfort, and wisdom," said actress and advocate Natalie Portman of Steinem's book The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off.

"She has a way of saying things you feel you knew but never knew how to articulate. Other times, she expresses ideas you've never encountered, but once you've heard them, they are impossible to deny. Her words contain the poetic clarity only truth offers."

Wagner Helped Host Initial 'Voting: Why It Matters' Event

The upcoming event also features the familiar face of Wagner, a South Dakota Festival of Books author and co-presenter for SDHC's first "Voting: Why It Matters" event, a screening and discussion of the documentary film Without a Whisper. Founder and executive director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center for Social Justice Dialogue in Fayetteville, N.Y., Wagner earned one of the nation's first doctorates in women's studies, founded one of the first college-level women's studies programs and has taught women's studies for 50 years. She appeared in the Ken Burns documentary Not for Ourselves Alone, which focused on Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Her most recent book is the intersectional anthology The Women's Suffrage Movement, for which Steinem wrote the foreword.

Featuring a discussion of ideas that inspired the early suffragists and the influence that voting rights had on various women's movements that followed, the event will also be streamed on the SDHC Facebook page. However, Zoom will offer audience members better opportunities to ask questions and interact with the speakers.

South Dakota is one of 43 US states and territories selected to participate in the Mellon initiative, which began in December and will run through spring 2021. For more information, see below and also check out sdhumanities.org/voting.

Sally Roesdh Wagner

Author Sally Roesch Wagner, above, will discuss women's suffrage and other issues with Gloria Steinem during an SDHC program Feb. 18.

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This program was funded by the "Why It Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation" initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.