By Sheila Stogsdill
In addition to being political allies, the women spent vacations together and shared life’s ups and downs, including sicknesses and the death of Steinem’s husband in 2003.
The two women met when Mankiller joined the board for the Ms. Foundation for Women, a nonprofit organization, co-founded by Steinem in 1973.
"A year or so after I met her, she was becoming ill and needed her first (kidney) transplant,” Steinem said. "We bonded over transplant surgery that happened to another friend.”
The two women fought side by side on many issues, including American Indian and women’s rights.
"She was always inclusive and she personified the balance between men and women,” Steinem said. "She saw people as equal.”
Mankiller’s biggest contribution was that she could show political and social causes were connected and many issues were one in the same, she said.
"Her gift was to create independence, not dependence,” Steinem said.
Wilma paved a way for all young women, not just Cherokee women, she said.
Steinem, often known to wear a necklace given to her by Mankiller, is scheduled be a speaker at the ex-chief’s memorial in Tahlequah, Okla. on Saturday.
Below: "Angela Davis, Wilma Mankiller and Gloria Steinem in 1998."