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The Unfinished History of ‘Mrs. America’

The only thing I remember about the time I saw Gloria Steinem speak in the mid-1990s is the unamused reaction I got from my sixth-grade teacher when I declared the feminist icon to have been kinda boring. It was 1996, by my math, when I found myself in a room with Steinem on a Merrill Lynch corporate campus in Plainsboro, New Jersey. She was there as the featured speaker on Take Your Daughters to Work Day, a national initiative she had helped launch a few years before, and I was there as a daughter. Certain elements from that day linger in my mind with vivid specificity: trying to keep up with my dad’s long stride as we trekked from the parking garage to his office, across blank lawns, and through endless hallways. Or being assigned to a real-live cubicle with an actual working phone line. (When word spread among my fellow daughters about how to dial 9, we all called our home phone numbers with unbusinesswomanly glee.

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