MANHATTAN – No topic was off limits, and there was zero question about which side of politics these three influential women are on. During a frank discussion for Women’s Equality Day Thursday night, iconic feminist Gloria Steinem, famed attorney Gloria Allred and Upper East Side Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney called men out by name. Regarding newly resigned former Governor Cuomo, Steinem chimed in that “you can always count on a man to fuck up.”
The conversation turned next to our duty as women. Steinem tells us that our reproductive rights are the key to democracy. A woman two rows up, wearing a Planned Parenthood t-shirt, nods vigorously.
Then, Maloney tells us that women cannot be empowered if history doesn’t recognize them. She mentions some of the subjects of her new children’s book by name: astronaut Sally Ride, congresswoman turned mass-shooting survivor Gabby Giffords, even Allred.
Maloney talks of getting a Women’s Museum put in the National Mall and remembers a conversation with Steinem. “Who is going to be in the museum?” Steinem asked. A pause. “You, Gloria,” Maloney said, and Steinem laughs.
About an hour earlier, a lone saxophonist performed at Rizzoli’s bookstore in NoMad. Just outside of the intimate event room, a quiet energy buzzed as the staff checked lists, IDs, and, for the first time, vaccination cards.
Two acrylic red chairs sat in front of a television, where the cover of Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s new children’s book, Strong Women, shined— the release of the hardcover focusing on influential women through history is the reason why we gathered on Women’s Equality Day.
It is a small crowd, but vigorous. Invitees sipped wine and sampled cheeses as they marveled at the store’s curated collection. At some point, Maloney swept through the crowd, wearing an off-white dress with gold embellishments. She is nonchalant. Observant.
Next, Gloria Steinem walks in alone, donning all black despite the heat wave.
Gloria Allred is the last to arrive, wearing a Ruth Bader Ginsburg mask. Later, she’ll joke that she’s not allowed to wear it in federal court.
Maloney’s publisher, Sequoia Schmidt, quieted the crowd and led us through a moment of silence for the women of Afghanistan. A video played next, the families of the inspiring women through modern history from Maloney’s book thanked the congresswoman for remembering their loved ones.
Madam CJ Walker’s great-granddaughter– who curiously still refers to her as ‘Madam Walker’– expresses her wish to be with us. Walker was the nation’s first Black woman to be a self-made millionaire.
Allred introduces Maloney to a gracious round of applause. She reminds us that, on Women’s Equality Day, we’re celebrating our right to vote. But there is more to do, she says, and quotes Susan B. Anthony: failure is impossible.
Later, a stack of Maloney’s books was brought out for the congresswoman to autograph. Although it is Maloney’s event, Steinem and Allred sign, too.
There is nothing to say but ‘thank you’ to these women. For their presence. For their words. For their fight. And then the guests part ways, pondering how they, too, can be strong women.