10/24/2012 10:37 am ET

Free To Be

And lo, the word went out to New York’s songwriters and children’s book authors and frustrated Broadway bards and William Morris clients in the spring of 1972: Marlo Thomas, the star of That Girl, is putting together a children’s album, and she needs material. Sexist pigs need not apply.

To get things rolling, Thomas held a series of late-night brainstorming sessions that spring at her East 71st Street apartment: wine, pizza, and consciousness-raising. Carole Hart, the young producer Thomas had chosen for the album, and her husband, Bruce, a lyricist, came. So did Letty Cottin Pogrebin, the editor at the brand-new Ms. magazine who was serving as the project’s “feminist Jiminy Cricket,” making sure the album stuck to core principles of the movement. Mary Rodgers, the songwriter and children’s book author (and daughter of composer Richard Rodgers), was there, sent by her legendary editor at Harper & Row, Ursula Nordstrom. From Thomas’ circle of friends there was boyfriend Herb Gardner, Shel Silverstein, the screenwriter and playwright Peter Stone, and Gardner’s good pal Paddy Chayefsky. Thomas posed a simple question to them all: What lessons or stories do you feel were missing from your childhood?

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