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EXCLUSIVE: Gloria Steinem Reflects on How Her Mother’s Unlived Life Inspired Her Future

Based on Gloria Steinem’s 2015 memoir My Life on the Road, Julie Taymor’s new movie The Glorias takes us on Steinem’s journey from when she was a young girl through launching Ms magazine, and her role in the women’s rights movement of the 1960s and ’70s. We see Steinem played by four different actresses at different times in the feminist icon’s life — moments that defined her life and career.

My Life on the Road $16.43 on Amazon.com Buy now

As a child (played by Ryan Kiera Armstrong) and a young adolescent (played by Lulu Wilson) into her adult years (played by Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore), we come to understand the influential role Steinem’s mother, Ruth Nuneviller (played by Enid Graham), had in shaping her daughter’s future.

“My mother, like some of our mothers, was the sadness of what might have been…who she could have been,” Steinem exclusively told SheKnows. “I didn’t know until after I was a teenager that she too had been a journalist long before I was born and given up her career.”

In the film we see a teenage Gloria (Vikander) caring for her mother, who suffers from depression and hallucinations — and whose spirit is seemingly broken by what she wasn’t able to accomplish in her life. “One of the many great things about Julie’s movie is that my mother is there,” Steinem said of The Glorias. “I do think a lot of us are still saddened by thinking, ‘what might have been’ about our mothers.”

While in college, the now feminist icon was told she only needed to be educated, if she were to have kids. “‘We’re educating women because to have educated women, we must have educated mothers,’ that was what was told to me when I was in college, as if we had no brains. Since I don’t have children, ‘why educate me?’ I was saying this as a measure of the distance we have come from...having lived through the dreadful ’50s.”

And when we look at the events depicted in The Glorias, Julie Taymor, who wrote, directed, and produced the film, said, “We realize we’re in the same position now and or going backward in some cases.” There is a lot at stake right now, and “with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it’s very important who gets on the supreme court,” Taymor said. “I think Roe v. Wade will be on the chopping block. I think there are many issues of racial inequality, the ERA still has not been passed. There are so many things that could put us backward.” And the biopic, now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, while taking us back through the 1960s and ’70s is a reminder of how much work we still have left to do.

Before you go, click here to see women hidden in history whose stories deserve to be told.

Bella Abzug, left, and Patsy Mink of Women USA sit next to Gloria Steinem as she speaks in Washington where they warned presidential candidates that promises for women's rights will not be enough to get their support in the next election.

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