Betty Friedan

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Betty Friedan

Betty Naomi Goldstein Friedan (born February 4, 1921) is an American feminist, social activist and writer.

Friedan was born in Peoria. While young, she was active in Marxist and radical Jewish circles. She attended Smith College, where she edited a campus newspaper and graduated with top honors in 1942.

After graduation, she spent a year at the University of Berkeley doing graduate work in psychology, but declined a scholarship for further study, and left Berkeley to work as a journalist for leftist and union publications. She married Carl Friedan in 1947, a marriage that would last 20 years and eventually dissolve amid mutual accusations of physical violence.

In 1952, she was fired from UE News when she was pregnant with her second child, and for the next decade her life would shift to the role of full-time homemaker.

For her 15th college reunion, she conducted a survey of Smith College graduates, which focused on their education, their subsequent experiences, and the satisfaction with their present lives. Her article on the survey, which lamented the lost potential of her classmates and present-day women college students, was submitted to women's magazines in 1958, but editors either rejected it or wanted it rewritten to a less feminist point of view. Refusing to recast her work, she withdrew the article and worked on expanding it into a book.

That book, published in 1963, was The Feminine Mystique. It depicted the roles of women in industrial societies, and in particular the full-time homemaker role, which Friedan saw as stifling. The book became a feminist bestseller, and she was offered many academic positions. Friedan's other books include The Second Stage, which she wrote under a less radical position, It Changed My Life, and recently The Fountain of Age.

Friedan cofounded the U.S. National Organization for Women with Pauli Murray, the first African-American female Episcopal priest, and was its first president from 1966-70. She is counted as one of the most influential feminists of the late 20th century.


"[T]he core of the problem today is not sexual but a problem of identity--a stunting of growth that is perpetuated by the feminine mystique."
- Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, 1963. NY: Dell Publ., 1974.

Further Reading

  • Horowitz, Daniel. Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminine Mystique: The American Left, the Cold War, and Modern Feminism, Paperback Edition, University of Massachusetts Press 2000de:Betty Friedan

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