In the fall of 1996, locked in a tough re-election fight against Republican Susan Sweetser, then-Rep. Sanders got a big boost when feminist writer and activist Gloria Steinem came to Burlington. At the time, Sweetser was running negative ads attacking Sanders’ liberal positions, and so the Sanders campaign held an event to highlight his support among progressive women. An opening act, a former state senator, told the audience that “a feminist is a person who challenges the power structure of our country” and “Bernie Sanders is that kind of feminist.” When it was Steinem’s turn, she started off with an announcement: “I’m only here today to make Bernie Sanders an honorary woman.”
In his memoir, Outsider in the House, Sanders, who went on to beat Sweetser comfortably, called the event “the nicest moment of the campaign.”
Sanders won’t be able to count on a repeat performance this time around. Steinem, supported Hillary Clinton for president in 2008 and is back in her corner again.