Fact Check: Did Feminism Prophet Gloria Steinem Really Work For The CIA?

Fact Check: Did Feminism Prophet Gloria Steinem Really Work For The CIA?

Gloria Steinem

Fact Check: Did Feminism Prophet Gloria Steinem Really Work For The CIA? This Oct. 22, 2019 file photo shows Gloria Steinem at the 2019 Women's Media Awards in New York. The 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that guaranteed women's right to vote in the United States is being celebrated in a variety of programming by PBS this summer. Steinem is featured in Great Performances “Gloria: A Life." (Photo by Christopher Smith/Invision/AP, File)

Gloria Steinem has long been recognized and revered as one of the leaders of the American feminist movement. However, she also worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – a less reported on aspect of her life by mainstream media. Some have accused Steinem of being planted by the CIA to mutate the original focus of the feminist movement.

In an article entitled, “Did the CIA Use Gloria Steinem to Subvert the Feminist Movement?”, Dr. Stuart Bramhall, whose name belies her gender, lays out a thorough argument that Steinem did just that. Bramhall cites the years of 1958 through 1962 when Steinem was the director of the Independent Research Service, a front group for the CIA. She also recounted other instances to make her case about Steinem’s alleged duplicitousness.

“Steinem’s work for the CIA front group Independent Research Service first entered the public domain  in 1967 when Ramparts magazine exposed both the Independent Research Service and the National Student Association (NSA) as CIA front organizations,” Bramhall wrote.

“Steinem’s CIA links came to mainstream media attention a second time in 1979, when the Village Voice ran an article about a chapter Random House had censored from Redstockings Collective’s 1979 book Feminist Revolution. Random House spiked the chapter, which describes Steinem’s earlier CIA work, after Steinem threatened to sue them,” Bramhall continued.

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Steinem herself admitted to working as an “agent” for the CIA. In an interview, she claims she was unable to secure funding for youth to attend world festivals from private foundations and individuals without restrictions and praised the CIA for funding her trips to  the events.

“The private individuals who I went often had particular points of view to put forward, which would have been much, much more restricting than the CIA funds were, which were free. I mean no one was told what to say,” Steinhem said. “The reason I think that comes as a surprise, as it did to me at the time, I had the conventional liberal view of the CIA as a right wing, incendiary group and I was amazed to discover that this was far from the case. That they were enlightened, liberal, non-partisan activists of the sort who characterized the Kennedy administration.”

According to Bramhall, Steinem’s ties to the CIA have been reported on several times by various sources, yet those reports have been largely suppressed or simply ignored over the years. She isn’t the only one to highlight how the CIA used the organization Steinem led for its purposes.

“The C.I.A. embedded agents in the N.S.A., and it worked behind the scenes to insure that pliable students got elected to run the association and that the desired policy positions got adopted,” The New Yorker reported in 2015. “It took the extra precaution of starting up a covertly funded summer program, called the International Student Relations Seminar, and using it to groom future N.S.A. leaders. A number of N.S.A. members who went through the seminar went on to have careers at the agency.”

Steinem’s alignment with the CIA was also reported on by The Chicago Tribune. “CIA agents are tight-lipped, but Steinem spoke openly about her relationship to ‘The Agency’ in the 1950s and ’60s after a magazine revealed her employment by a CIA front organization, the Independent Research Service,” the Tribune wrote. “While popularly pilloried because of her paymaster, Steinem defended the CIA relationship, saying: ‘In my experience The Agency was completely different from its image; it was liberal, nonviolent and honorable.’”

Bramhall believes Gloria Steinem used her influence in the feminist movement, as founder of Ms. Magazine and through a variety of to her platforms to help redefine feminism – and she was nudged by the CIA to do it. She particularly pointed out how Steinhem heavily promoted a book allegedly written by Michele Wallace, a Black feminist activist who was also touted as a leader of the movement.

“In her early twenties Wallace, who like Steinem came out of nowhere (she was a Newsweek book review researcher), was suddenly being touted as the “leader” of Black feminism,” Bramhall wrote. “In the book, Wallace called abolitionists like Harriet Tubman and Sojouner Truth ‘ugly’ and ‘stupid’ for supporting Black men. She called Black Revolutionaries ‘chauvinist macho pigs’ and advised Black women to ‘go it alone.’ Gloria Steinem maintained that Wallace’s book would ‘define the future of Black relationships’ and she pushed hard to make sure the book received massive publicity. Gloria Steinem’s efforts triggered a flood of ‘Hate Black Men’ books and films that continues to this day.”


Bramhall added, “The original feminists of the sixties and seventies didn’t hate men (at least not the ones I worked with). What they hated was patriarchy and the use of male privilege to deny women and children full equality as human beings.”