As one of the co-founders of The Feminist Majority Foundation, a former president of the National Organization for Women, and publisher of Ms. Magazine, Eleanor Smeal’s life and work has been dedicated to the achievement of women’s equality and human rights. Known as a political analyst, strategist, and grassroots organizer, Ms. Smeal has played a pivotal role in defining the debate, developing the strategies, and charting the direction of the modern day women’s movement. In her more than 40 years as a leader in the United States’ women’s movement, she has changed the landscape of women’s involvement in national life and culture.
One of the modern architects of the drive for women’s equality, Ms. Smeal’s 1984 book, How and Why Women Will Elect the Next President, predicted that women’s votes would be decisive in presidential politics. In this writing she was the first to identify the “gender gap”, the difference in the way women and men vote, and popularized its usage in election and polling analyses to enhance women’s voting clout. Her leading role in state and national campaigns for women’s rights legislation, including the Equal Rights Amendment, helped reshape the contours of U.S. politics as politicians could no longer ignore the voices of women, forcing their inclusion as part of the national political discourse. Her efforts led to women’s organizations shifting the strategy of targeting only a few select races for women candidates to a philosophy of recruiting women to run for as many elected offices as possible. Recognizing the power of the Internet, she pioneered its use as an organizing and research tool by launching the Feminist Majority Foundation Online in 1995.
At the forefront of nearly every significant women’s rights victory, her participation was pivotal in the passage of landmark legislation including the Equal Credit Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and stronger enforcement of Title IX. She continues to work toward making Social Security and pensions more equitable for women, closure of the wage gap and achievement of pay equity for women who are segregated in low‐paying jobs.
Ms. Smeal serves on a number of boards, including the National Council for Research on Women, the National Organization for Women, and the Leadership Circle of CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women).