Gloria Steinem is a feminist icon. But Steinem, a writer at heart — and 1971 NYWICI Matrix Awards winner — told an audience of rapt New York City teens that she sees life “as one big editorial meeting."
The young women just finished a school year as mentees in the Girls Write Now program, an intense series of workshops and outings with mentors. The goal is helping young women find a voice through writing, though many are still learning what voices came before them.
Here were some of the comments heard from young women after Steinem offered inspirational words at the Girls Write Now end-of-the year celebration at the Bowery Hotel:
“Feel stupid for not knowing her writing.”
“What should I read first?”
“She has so much energy!”
The program has helped nearly 5,000 girls from public high schools develop their creative, independent voices, explore careers in professional writing, and learn how to make healthy life choices.
Also honored were:
Dawn L. Davis, vice president and publisher, 37 Ink, Imprint of Atria, Simon and Schuster. Dawn discussed her role as a publisher to support writers on their journey, encouraged the audience to read across ethnicities and cultures and visit independent bookstores such as Three Lives and McNally Robinson.
Roberta (Robbie) Kaplan, Partner Paul, Weiss, Wharton and Garrison. Roberta is a litigator who won the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court on behalf of her client Edie Windsor. Speaking about this historic case for same sex couples’ rights, Robbie said “it’s so important to tell our stories.”
The program was emceed by Tanzina Vega, a New York Times national correspondent, and Tuhfa Begum, a high school senior and mentee. Tuhfa will attend New York University on a full scholarship; she also won four Scholastic art and writing awards.
Maya Nussbaum, founder and director of Girls Write Now, talked about “giving girls voice” as a communal enterprise with mentors and mentees working side by side, “never a solitary act.”
Gloria expressed how writing can be a compulsion that needs to be nurtured for future story tellers to succeed. “Freeing the heart and mind is truly a revolutionary act,” she said.
One mentee concluded, after being so close to Gloria Steinem: “Because of her, I’m here.”