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September 13, 2010

Shelby Knox

The next Gloria Steinem

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Shelby Knox, 24, feminist organizer

Résumé: Despite roots in überconservative Lubbock, Texas, Shelby Knox is leading a new generation of feminists, traveling the U.S. campaigning for comprehensive sex education. At 15, she was plucked from obscurity by filmmakers who'd seen her quoted discussing teen pregnancy in a newspaper. The resulting documentary, The Education of Shelby Knox — about her transformation from Baptist good girl to sex-ed activist — premiered at Sundance in 2005.

Background check: "In high school, a friend got pregnant because her boyfriend told her she couldn't if it was her first time having sex. I would have believed that, too. That's when I started fighting for better sex ed."

Big break: "An activist I'd met arranged for me to take care of Gloria Steinem's pets while she was away. Gloria eventually let me live with her in New York for a couple of years while I figured out how to make it as an activist. She treated me as an equal. Now I can walk into a room and talk to anyone with confidence."

Oh-my-God moment: "At 20, I became the youngest person to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform during the first-ever congressional hearing on abstinence-only sex education. I was even mentioned on The Daily Show — the first time my brother showed any enthusiasm about my work!"


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