The founder of Ms. magazine, Gloria Steinem is the world's most famous feminist.

Steinem's upbringing was far from charmed: She spent her childhood traveling the U.S. in a trailer with her parents until they divorced when she was eight. She spent the rest of her youth taking care of her mentally ill mom before leaving home to study government at Smith College. Moving to the city in the early '60s, she got a job at a humor rag called Help! and wrote freelance for Esquire and Glamour. To many, Steinem's feminist stance has been at odds with her always glamorous appearance. It was her beauty that helped her get her big break as a journalist in 1963, when she went undercover as a Playboy Bunny-the interview included a gynecological exam-and wrote an exposé of the experience for New York. Steinem says she really became an activist while covering abortion hearings for the mag-a personal topic, since she'd had an illegal abortion after college. In 1971, she founded the pro-choice group National Women's Political Caucus with Betty Friedan, and the following year Steinem launched feminist bible Ms. with funding help from New York's founding editor, Clay Felker. Now more than 35 years old, the magazine's an icon in the publishing world (despite near-constant financial woes), and Steinem now sits on the Ms. advisory panel, as well as the board of the Women's Media Center.

Steinem made headlines in 2000 by finally getting married at age 66; the groom was environmentalist David Bale, father of actor Christian Bale. Bale died of brain lymphoma just three years later. [Image via Getty]