Betty Friedan, 1921-2006

  • Betty-Friedan-WWP

Woman Category: Academy & Education and Activism & FeminismWoman Tags: Author and NYC Women

  • HerStory

    A feminist leader, activist, and writer. The co-founder and the first president of the National Organization for Women.

    Betty Naomi Goldstein was born in Peoria, Illinois, to a Jewish family. From a young age, she was active in Jewish and Marxist circles. In high school, she wrote for the school newspaper, but after her request to write a column was declined, she founded, with six other friends, a literary magazine which dealt with subjects relating to home life. After high school, she attended the all-female Smith College, and won a scholarship for her academic achievements. She published poems in the campus publications and became editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, which became more political under her leadership. After graduating summa cum laude with a major in psychology, she received a fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley.
    At age 22, she started to write for left-wings and labors publications, first at Federated Press and then at UE News. At the time, she married Carl Friedan, and the couple had three children before their divorce in 1969. At the age of 31, she was dismissed from the newspaper because she was pregnant with her second child. Though she wrote as a freelance for several magazines, she was mainly a housewife, taking care of her family and doing household chores. She became restless and felt restrained and wondered if other women feel as she did. In 1957 she surveyed her fellow college graduates, asking about their experiences and satisfaction with their lives. The conclusions of the survey led her to write articles on the subject, which she called “The problem that has no name.” Those publications were the basis of her groundbreaking book – “The Feminine Mystique.” Published in 1963, the book explores the roles of women in society, their self-identity as homemakers, and finding fulfillment in life. It challenged the perception of sexism in US society and changed the context of the meaning of “women’s rights.” Not only it became a bestseller, but it also sparked the second wave of the women’s movement in the US.
    In 1966 Friedan co-founded the National Organization for Women and became its first president. The organization lobbied for equal rights matters, such as the outlaw of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, enforcing civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, equal access to public places, establishing national daycare system and the legalization of abortion. Throughout the years, she founded various organizations focusing on women’s needs and women’s rights, including the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, the First Women’s Bank and Trust Company, and the National Women’s Political Caucus. She published six books, including The Second Stage and The Fountain of Age, and lectured at universities as well as women’s conferences around the world. She died at the age of 85 due to heart failure. To this day, she is referred as the “mother” of the modern women’s movement.

    “No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor”

    “No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She was pressured by her boyfriend at the time, to turn down a Ph.D. fellowship and abandoned a further academic career.
    • In 1972, she ran as a delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention in support of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.
    • On August 26, 1970, on the 50th anniversary of the 19th amendment ratification, Friedan organized the national Women’s Strike for Equality, leading a march of 20,000 women in the streets of NYC.
    • Actress Tracey Ullman portrays her in the TV series “Mrs. America.”
  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Books she wrote


    * Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame
    * Eleanor Roosevelt Leadership Award
    * Humanist of the Year in 1975
    * Mort Weisinger Award

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Woman Tags: Author, NYC Women

    1950s Housewife to Women's Activist: Betty Friedan

    1950s Housewife to Women's Activist: Betty Friedan was a project entered into the 2009-2010 National History Fair. This years theme was innovations in history.

    This project was entered into the State fair were it fell short. However, it won various projects prior to that event. This project received 1st place at both the local and regional fair in the group documentary division. It also received the best women's project at the local fair from the Daughters of the American Revolution or DAR.

    The annotated bibliography and script are available upon request.

    This project was created by Rebeca Rivera and Shawna Campbell.