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Betty Friedan

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Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan
Friedan in 1960
Born Betty Naomi Goldstein
February 4, 1921
Peoria, Illinois, U.S.
Died February 4, 2006(2006-02-04) (aged 85)
Washington, D.C.
Cause of death Congestive heart failure
Nationality American
Known for Feminism
Spouse(s) Carl Friedan (1947–69; divorced)

Betty Friedan (February 4, 1921 – February 4, 2006) was an American writer,

In 1970, after stepping down as NOW's first president, Friedan organized the nationwide Women's Strike for Equality on August 26, the 50th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution granting women the right to vote. The national strike was successful beyond expectations in broadening the feminist movement; the march led by Friedan in New York City alone attracted over 50,000 women and men. In 1971, Friedan joined other leading feminists to establish the National Women's Political Caucus. Friedan was also a strong supporter of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution that passed the United States House of Representatives (by a vote of 354–24) and Senate (84–8) following intense pressure by women's groups led by NOW in the early 1970s. Following Congressional passage of the amendment, Friedan advocated for ratification of the amendment in the states and supported other women's rights reforms: she founded the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws but was later critical of the abortion-centered positions of many liberal feminists.

Regarded as an influential author and intellectual in the United States, Friedan remained active in politics and advocacy for the rest of her life, authoring six books. As early as the 1960s Friedan was critical of polarized and extreme factions of feminism that attacked groups such as men and homemakers. One of her later books, The Second Stage (1981), critiqued what Friedan saw as the extremist excesses of some feminists.[1]


  • Early life 1
  • Writing career 2
    • Before 1963 2.1
    • The Feminine Mystique 2.2
    • Other works 2.3
  • Activism in the women's movement 3
    • National Organization for Women 3.1
    • Women's Strike for Equality 3.2
    • National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws 3.3
    • Politics 3.4
    • Movement image and unity 3.5
    • Related issues 3.6
      • Lesbian politics 3.6.1
      • Abortion choice 3.6.2
      • Pornography 3.6.3
      • War 3.6.4
  • Influence 4
  • Personality 5
  • Personal life 6
  • Death 7
  • Papers 8
  • Awards and honors 9
  • Bibliography 10
  • Notes 11
  • See also 12
  • References 13
  • Further reading 14
  • Obituaries 15
  • External links 16

Early life

Friedan was born Bettye Naomi Goldstein[2][3][4] on February 4, 1921 in Peoria, Illinois,[5] to Harry and Miriam (Horwitz) Goldstein, whose Jewish families were from Russia and Hungary.[6][7] Harry owned a jewelry store in Peoria, and Miriam wrote for the society page of a newspaper when Friedan's father fell ill. Her mother's new life outside the home seemed much more gratifying.

As a young girl, Friedan was active in both Marxist and Jewish circles; she later wrote how she felt isolated from the latter community at times, and felt her "passion against injustice...originated from my feelings of the injustice of anti-Semitism".[8] She attended Peoria High School, and became involved in the school newspaper. When her application to write a column was turned down, she and six other friends launched a literary magazine called Tide, which discussed home life rather than school life.

She attended all-female Smith College in 1938. She won a scholarship prize in her first year for outstanding academic performance. In her second year she became interested in poetry, and had many poems published in campus publications. In 1941, she became editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. The editorials became more political under her leadership, taking a strong antiwar stance and occasionally causing controversy.[8] She graduated summa cum laude in 1942 with a major in psychology.

In 1943 she spent a year at the University of California, Berkeley on a fellowship for graduate work in psychology with Erik Erikson.[9] She became more politically active, continuing to mix with Marxists (many of her friends were investigated by the FBI).[8] In her memoirs, she claimed that her boyfriend at the time had pressured her into turning down a Ph.D. fellowship for further study and abandoning her academic career.

Writing career

Before 1963

After leaving Berkeley, Friedan became a journalist for leftist and labor union publications. Between 1943 and 1946 she wrote for The Federated Press and between 1946 and 1952 she worked for the United Electrical Workers' UE News. One of her assignments was to report on the House Un-American Activities Committee.[9]

Friedan was dismissed from the union newspaper UE News in 1952 because she was pregnant with her second child.[10] After leaving UE News she became a freelance writer for various magazines, including Cosmopolitan.[9]

Through these experiences as a journalist, she began to be aware of the oppression and exclusion of women at the workplace. However, according to Friedan's biographer Daniel Horowitz, she emphasized in her own writings her life as a suburban housewife, at the expense of her activities as a journalist. Given her past as a leftist journalist, she may have adopted this low profile to try and be recognized as a 'normal American woman' in the context of the prevailing McCarthyist red-baiting, thus minimizing "her participation in the public world, that is often described as male, and exaggerate her involvement with the private arenas usually identified as female".[11] Much later, in June 2000, in an editorial entitled Feminism's Dirty Secret, David Horowitz (another writer not related to Daniel Horowitz) accused Friedan of having lied about her past, concealing the fact that she had been "a Stalinist Marxist (or a camp follower thereof), the political intimate of leaders of America's Cold War fifth column".[12]

The Feminine Mystique

For her 15th college reunion in 1957 Friedan conducted a survey of college graduates, focusing on their education, subsequent experiences and satisfaction with their current lives. She started publishing articles about what she called "the problem that has no name," and got passionate responses from many housewives grateful that they were not alone in experiencing this problem.[13]

"The shores are strewn with the casualties of the feminine mystique. They did give up their own education to put their husbands through college, and then, maybe against their own wishes, ten or fifteen years later, they were left in the lurch by divorce. The strongest were able to cope more or less well, but it wasn’t that easy for a woman of forty-five or fifty to move ahead in a profession and make a new life for herself and her children or herself alone."[14]

Friedan then decided to rework and expand this topic into a book, The Feminine Mystique. Published in 1963, it depicted the roles of women in industrial societies, especially the full-time homemaker role which Friedan deemed stifling.[13] In her book, Friedan described a depressed suburban housewife who dropped out of college at the age of 19 to get married and raise four children.[15] She spoke of her own 'terror' at being alone, wrote that she had never once in her life seen a positive female role-model who worked outside the home and also kept a family, and cited numerous cases of housewives who felt similarly trapped. From her psychological background she criticized Freud's penis envy theory, noting a lot of paradoxes in his work, and offered some answers to women desirous of further education.

The "Problem That Has No Name" was described by Friedan in the beginning of the book:

"The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning [that is, a longing] that women suffered in the middle of the 20th century in the United States. Each suburban [house]wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries … she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — 'Is this all?"[16]

Friedan asserted that women are as capable as men for any type of work or any career path against arguments to the contrary by the mass media, educators and psychologists.[17] The restrictions of the 1950s, and the trapped, imprisoned feeling of many women forced into these roles, spoke to American women who soon began attending consciousness-raising sessions and lobbying for the reform of oppressive laws and social views that restricted women.

The book became a bestseller, which many historians believe was the impetus for the "second wave" of the women's movement and significantly shaped national and world events.[18]

Friedan originally intended to write a sequel to [19][20]

Other works

Friedan published six books. Her other books include The Second Stage, It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women's Movement, Beyond Gender and The Fountain of Age. Her autobiography, Life so Far, was published in 2000.

She also wrote for magazines and a newspaper:

Activism in the women's movement

National Organization for Women

(left to right): Billington, Friedan, Ireton, and Rawalt[23]

In 1966 Friedan co-founded, and became the first

Preceded by
President of the National Organization for Women
Succeeded by
Aileen Hernandez
  • The Betty Friedan Tribute website hosted by Bradley University, Peoria, IL
  • National Women's Hall of Fame: Betty Friedan
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Betty Friedan's Biography from The Encyclopaedia Judaica
  • The Sexual Solipsism of Sigmund Freud (chapter 5 of The Feminine Mystique)
  • First Measured Century: Interview: Betty Friedan
  • Betty Friedan: Late Bloomer.
  • Cheerless Fantasies, A Corrective Catalogue of Errors in Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique
  • Anything you can do, Icon do better — Germaine Greer remembers Betty Friedan
  • After a Life of Telling It Like It Is: Betty Friedan Dies at Age 85, Lys Anzia, Moondance magazine Spring 2006
  • Papers of Betty Friedan, 1933–1985: A Finding Aid.Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
  • Video collection of Betty Friedan, ca.1970–2006: A Finding Aid.Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
  • Audio collection of Betty Friedan, 1963–2007: A Finding Aid.Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
  • Lecture on Betty Friedan: Jews and American Feminism by Dr. Henry Abramson of Touro College South
  • Kaplan, Marion. "Betty Friedan", Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.

External links

  • Betty Friedan, philosopher of modern-day feminism, dies – CNN, February 4, 2006.
  • Betty Friedan, Who Ignited Cause in 'Feminine Mystique,' Dies at 85 – The New York Times, February 5, 2006.
  • Sullivan, Patricia (February 5, 2006). "'"Voice of Feminism's 'Second Wave. The Washington Post. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
  • Woo, Elaine (February 4, 2006). "Betty Friedan, Philosopher Of Modern-day Feminism, Dies". Los Angeles Times. 
  • Woo, Elaine (February 5, 2006). "Catalyst of Feminist Revolution". Los Angeles Times. 
  • Feeney, Mark (February 5, 2006). "Betty Friedan, feminist visionary, dies at 85". The Boston Globe. 
  • "Betty Friedan, 1921–2006". The Nation. February 9, 2006. 


  • Blau, Justine. Betty Friedan: Feminist (Women of Achievement), Paperback Edition, Chelsea House Publications 1990, ISBN 1-55546-653-2
  • Bohannon, Lisa Frederikson. Women's Work: The Story of Betty Friedan, Hardcover Edition, Morgan Reynolds Publishing 2004, ISBN 1-931798-41-9
  • Brownmiller, Susan. In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution The Dial Press 1999, ISBN 0-385-31486-8
  • Friedan, Betty. "Breaking Through the Age Mystique." 1991, Proceedings from the Kirkpatrick Memorial Conference. Muncie, IN.
  • Friedan, Betty. Fountain of Age, Paperback Edition, Simon and Schuster 1994, ISBN 0-671-89853-1
  • Friedan, Betty. It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women's Movement, Hardcover Edition, Random House Inc. 1978, ISBN 0-394-46398-6
  • Friedan, Betty. Life So Far, Paperback Edition, Simon and Schuster 2000, ISBN 0-684-80789-0
  • Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique, Hardcover Edition, W.W. Norton and Company Inc. 1963, ISBN 0-393-08436-1
  • Friedan, Betty. The Second Stage, Paperback Edition, Abacus 1983, ASIN B000BGRCRC
  • Horowitz, Daniel. "Rethinking Betty Friedan and The Feminine Mystique: Labor Union Radicalism and Feminism in Cold War America" American Quarterly, Volume 48, Number 1, March 1996, pp. 1–42
  • Horowitz, Daniel. "Betty Friedan and the Making of "The Feminine Mystique", University of Massachusetts Press, 1998, ISBN 1-55849-168-6
  • Hennessee, Judith. Betty Friedan: Her Life, Hardcover Edition, Random House 1999, ISBN 0-679-43203-5
  • Henry, Sondra. Taitz, Emily. Betty Friedan: Fighter For Women's Rights, Hardcover Edition, Enslow Publishers 1990, ISBN 0-89490-292-X
  • Meltzer, Milton. Betty Friedan: A Voice For Women's Rights, Hardcover Edition, Viking Press 1985, ISBN 0-670-80786-9
  • Moskowitz, Eva. It's Good to Blow Your Top: Women's Magazines and a Discourse of Discontent, 1945–1965, Journal of Women's History, Volume 8, Number 3, 1996, pp. 66–98
  • Sherman, Janann. Interviews With Betty Friedan, Paperback Edition, University Press of Mississippi 2002, ISBN 1-57806-480-5
  • Siegel, Deborah, Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild (N.Y.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007 (ISBN 978-1-4039-8204-9)), chap. 3 (author Ph.D. & fellow, Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership).
  • Taylor-Boyd, Susan. Betty Friedan: Voice For Women's Rights, Advocate of Human Rights, Hardcover Edition, Gareth Stevens Publishing 1990, ISBN 0-8368-0104-0

Further reading

  1. ^ "Betty Friedan." American History USA. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.
  2. ^ . N.Y. TimesBetty Friedan, Who Ignited Cause in 'Feminine Mystique,' Dies at 85Fox, Margalit (Feb. 5, 2006). , Retrieved February 2, 2010.
  3. ^ . The (London, Eng., U.K.) Independent (obit)Ground-Breaking Author of 'The Feminine Mystique' Who Sparked Feminism's Second WaveSweet, Corinne (Feb. 7, 2006). , Retrieved February 2, 2010.
  4. ^ . Encyclopædia Britannica300 Women Who Changed the World, in Betty Friedan, Retrieved February 2, 2010.
  5. ^ Wing Katie Loves Jason, Liz (Summer 2006). "NOW Mourns Foremothers of Feminist, Civil Rights Movements".  
  6. ^ "History of American Political Thought". 
  7. ^ "Women advocates of reproductive rights". 
  8. ^ a b c h (sampling of History suggests 1st appearance in WorldHeritage was as it is now)
  9. ^ a b c Henderson, Margaret (July 2007). "Betty Friedan 1921–2006". Australian Feminist Studies 22 (53): 163–166.  
  10. ^ Betty Friedan Biography –
  11. ^ Daniel Horowitz (2000). Betty Friedan and the Making of The Feminine Mystique: The American Left, the Cold War, and Modern Feminism. Univ of Massachusetts Press. pp. 243–247–.  
  12. ^ "David Horowitz". 
  13. ^ a b Spender, Dale (1985). For the Record: The Making and Meaning of Feminist Knowledge. London: Women's Press. pp. 7–18.  
  14. ^ Gilbert, Lynn (2012-12-10). Particular Passions: Betty Friedan. Women of Wisdom Series (1st ed.). New York City:  
  15. ^ "The Feminine Mystique," page 8.
  16. ^ Friedan, Betty (1963). "1 The Problem That Has No Name". The Feminine Mystique. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. p. 15. 
  17. ^ Fox, Margalit (February 5, 2006). "Betty Friedan, Who Ignited Cause in 'Feminine Mystique,' Dies at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
  18. ^ Davis, Flora (1991). Moving the Mountain: The Women's Movement in America since 1960. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 50–53. 
  19. ^ a b "American National Biography Online: Friedan, Betty". 
  20. ^ "Mass Media and the Shaping of American Feminism, 1963-1975". 
  21. ^ Siegel, Deborah, Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild (N.Y.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007 (ISBN 978-1-4039-8204-9)), pp. 90–91 & nn. 51–53 (author Ph.D. & fellow, Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership).
  22. ^ Siegel, Deborah, Sisterhood, Interrupted, op. cit., p. 90.
  23. ^ a b "(left to right): Billington; Betty Naomi Goldstein Friedan (1921-2006); Barbara Ireton (1932-1998); and Marguerite Rawalt (1895-1989)". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 11 July 2013. 
  24. ^ "The Feminist Chronicles, 1953-1993 - 1966 - Feminist Majority Foundation". Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  25. ^ a b c MAKERS Team (2013-06-30). "NOW's 47th Anniversary: Celebrating Its Founders and Early Members". MAKERS. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  26. ^ February 9th, 2014 by Allyson Goldsmith. (2014-02-09). "Honoring Our Founders and Pioneers | National Organization for Women". Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  27. ^ a b "Betty Friedan Biography". 
  28. ^ Fox, Margalit (February 5, 2006). "Betty Friedan, Who Ignited Cause in 'Feminine Mystique,' Dies at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
  29. ^ David Farber (2004). The Sixties Chronicle. Legacy Publishing. p. 256.  
  30. ^ David Farber (2004). The Sixties Chronicle. Legacy Publishing. p. 257.  
  31. ^ NOW statement on Friedan's death
  32. ^ Nation: Women on the March, Time Magazine, September 2, 1970, Accessed December 28, 2013
  33. ^ 1970: The Women's National Strike for Equality, Mary Breasted, Village Voice, September 3, 1970, Accessed December 28, 2013
  34. ^ Local Photographer Remembers Fight for Gender Equality, Demonstration on Liberty Island, Matt Hunger, Jersey City Independent, Accessed December 28, 2013
  35. ^ a b Nation: Who's Come a Long Way, Baby?, Time Magazine, August 31, 1970, Accessed December 28, 2013
  36. ^ a b , UPI (United Press International)1970 Year in Review: 50th Anniversary of Women's Suffrageanon, , as accessed June 18, 2013.
  37. ^ "Gifts of Speech - Betty Friedan". 
  38. ^ Freeman, Jo (February 2005). "Shirley Chisholm's 1972 Presidential Campaign". University of Illinois at Chicago Women's History Project. 
  39. ^ a b CBCtv interview of Betty Friedan on YouTube, from CBCtv (Canadian television)
  40. ^ Hulu – PBS Indies: Sisters of '77 – Watch the full episode now
  41. ^ Friedan, Betty; ed. Brigid O'Farrell. Beyond Gender: The New Politics of Work and Family. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Ctr. Press (Woodrow Wilson Ctr. Spec. Studies ser.), cloth, (ISBN 0-943875-84-6) [1st printing?] 1997. E.g., pp. 8–9.
  42. ^ a b Friedan, Betty. Life So Far: A Memoir. N.Y.: Simon & Schuster (Touchstone Book), © 2000, pbk., 1st Touchstone ed. (ISBN 0-7432-0024-1) [1st printing?] 2001, p. 221.
  43. ^ Friedan, Betty. Life So Far, op. cit., p.  223.
  44. ^ Friedan, Betty. Life So Far, op. cit., p. 222.
  45. ^ Friedan, Betty. Life So Far, op. cit., pp. 248–249.
  46. ^ Friedan, Betty. Life So Far, op. cit., p. 295.
  47. ^ Friedan, Betty. The Second Stage: With a New Introduction. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, © 1981 1986 1991 1998, 1st Harvard University Press pbk. ed. (ISBN 0-674-79655-1) 1998, pp. 307–308.
  48. ^ Friedan, Betty. Life So Far, op. cit., p. 365.
  49. ^ Friedan, Betty. Beyond Gender, op. cit., p. 91.
  50. ^ Friedan, Betty. Life So Far, op. cit., p. 249.
  51. ^ Friedan, Betty. Life So Far, op. cit., pp. 212–216.
  52. ^ Friedan, Betty. Life So Far, op. cit., p. 219.
  53. ^ Friedan, Betty. Life So Far, op. cit., p. 176.
  54. ^ Friedan, Betty. The Second Stage, op. cit., pp. 94–95
  55. ^ Friedan, Betty. The Second Stage, op. cit., p. 98.
  56. ^ Friedan, Betty. The Second Stage, op. cit., pp. 95–96.
  57. ^ Friedan, Betty. The Second Stage, op. cit., pp. 97–98.
  58. ^ Friedan, Betty. Life So Far, op. cit., p. 377.
  59. ^ Friedan, Betty. The Second Stage, op. cit., pp. 246–248, esp. p. 247.
  60. ^ Puente, Maria, Bill Holds Porn Producers Liable For Sex Crimes, in USA Today, April 15, 1992, p. 09A (Final ed.).
  61. ^ “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  62. ^ a b Wolf, Allan. "The Mystique of Betty Friedan". 
  63. ^ "Tributes to Betty Friedan". National Organization for Women. 
  64. ^ a b c d Daniel Horowitz. Betty Friedan and the Making of "The Feminine Mystique". University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.
  65. ^ Blau, Justine. Betty Friedan: Feminist. Chelsea House Publications, 1990.
  66. ^ Bohannon, Lisa Fredenksen. Woman’s work: The story of Betty Friedan. Morgan Reynolds, 2004.
  67. ^ Sheman, Janann. Interviews with Betty Friedan. University Press of Mississippi, 2002.
  68. ^  - Regina Weinreich"MAKERS: Women Who Make America"Gloria Steinem and the Faces of Feminism: . The Huffington Post. 
  69. ^ "History News Network - Betty Friedan, Norman Mailer among new biographies added to the American National Biography Online". 
  70. ^ Greer, Germaine (February 7, 2006). "The Betty I knew". The Guardian (London). Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  71. ^ a b Fox, Margalit (February 5, 2006). "Betty Friedan, Who Ignited Cause In 'Feminine Mystique,' Dies at 85".  
  72. ^ Ginsberg L., "Ex-hubby fires back at feminist icon Betty," New York Post, July 5, 2000
  73. ^ Friedan, Betty. Life So Far, op. cit., p. 379.
  74. ^ Fox, Margalit (February 5, 2006). "Betty Friedan, Who Ignited Cause in 'Feminine Mystique', Dies at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  75. ^ Daniel Horowitz (2000). Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminine Mystique: The American Left, the Cold War, and Modern Feminism with a New Preface by the Author. Univ of Massachusetts Press. p. 170.  
  76. ^ "Humanist Manifesto II". American Humanist Association. Retrieved October 9, 2012. 
  77. ^ "Friedan, Betty. Additional papers of Betty Friedan, 1937-1993 (inclusive), 1970-1993 (bulk): A Finding Aid". 
  78. ^ "Fifty Jewish Women Who Changed The World". 
  79. ^ "Humanists of the Year". American Humanist Association. 
  80. ^ a b "Women's Equity Resource Center". 
  81. ^ For Friedan, a Life on the Run
  82. ^
  83. ^ Search the Hall - National Women's Hall of Fame
  84. ^
  85. ^ Glamour Magazine. "The Most Inspiring Female Celebrities, Entrepreneurs, and Political Figures:". Glamour. 


See also

  1. ^ On equal opportunity in jobs: equal opportunity employment, access to jobs without suffering discrimination on certain grounds
  2. ^ On freedom of sexual choice: human female sexuality#Feminist concepts, how feminism addresses a wide range of sexual issues



Awards and honors

Some of Friedan's papers are held at the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.[77]


Friedan died of congestive heart failure at her home in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2006, her 85th birthday.[71]


Carl and Betty Friedan had three children, Daniel, Emily and Jonathan. She was raised in a Jewish family, but was an agnostic.[75] In 1973, Friedan was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto II.[76]

Friedan stated in her memoir Life So Far (2000) that Carl had beaten her during their marriage; friends such as Dolores Alexander recalled having to cover up black eyes from Carl's abuse in time for press conferences (Brownmiller 1999, p. 70). But Carl denied abusing her in an interview with Time magazine shortly after the book was published, describing the claim as a "complete fabrication".[74] She later said, on Good Morning America, "I almost wish I hadn't even written about it, because it's been sensationalized out of context. My husband was not a wife-beater, and I was no passive victim of a wife-beater. We fought a lot, and he was bigger than me."

She married Carl Friedan (né Friedman), a theater producer, in 1947 while working at UE News. She continued to work after marriage, first as a paid employee and, after 1952, as a freelance journalist. The couple divorced in May 1969, and Carl died in December 2005.

Personal life

Writer Camille Paglia, who had been denounced by Friedan in a Playboy interview, wrote a brief obituary for her in Entertainment Weekly:

Indeed, Carl Friedan had been quoted as saying "She changed the course of history almost singlehandedly. It took a driven, super aggressive, egocentric, almost lunatic dynamo to rock the world the way she did. Unfortunately, she was that same person at home, where that kind of conduct doesn't work. She simply never understood this."[72]

The New York Times obituary for Friedan noted that she was "famously abrasive", and that she could be "thin-skinned and imperious, subject to screaming fits of temperament." And in February 2006, shortly after Friedan's death, the feminist writer Germaine Greer published an article in The Guardian,[70] in which she described Friedan as pompous and egotistic, somewhat demanding and sometimes selfish, citing several incidents during a 1972 tour of Iran.[71]


In 2014, a biography of Friedan was added to the American National Biography Online (ANB).[19][69]

Friedan (among others) was featured in the 2013 documentary Makers: Women Who Make America, about the women's movement.[68]

Justine Blau was also greatly influenced by Friedan. In Betty Friedan: Feminist Blau wrote of the feminist movement's influence on Friedan's personal and professional life.[65] Lisa Fredenksen Bohannon, in Woman’s work: The story of Betty Friedan, went deep into Friedan’s personal life and wrote about her relationship with her mother.[66] Sandra Henry and Emily Taitz (Betty Friedan, Fighter for Woman’s Rights) and Susan Taylor Boyd (Betty Friedan: Voice of Woman’s Right, Advocates of Human Rights), wrote biographies on Friedan’s life and works. Journalist Janann Sheman wrote a book called Interviews with Betty Friedan containing interviews with Friedan for the New York Times, Working Women and Playboy, among others. Focusing on interviews that relate to Friedan's views on men, women and the American Family, Sheman traced Friedan's life with an analysis of The Feminine Mystique.[67]

Judith Hennessee (Betty Friedan: Her Life) and Daniel Horowitz, a professor of American Studies at Smith College, have also written about Friedan. Horowitz explored Friedan’s engagement with the women's movement before she began to work on The Feminine Mystique[64] and pointed out that Friedan’s feminism did not start in the 1950s but even earlier, in the 1940s.[64] Focusing his study on Friedan’s ideas in feminism rather than on her personal life[64] Horowitz’s book gave Friedan a major role in the history of American feminism.[64]

Friedan is credited for starting the contemporary feminist movement and writing a book that is one of the cornerstones of American feminism.[62] Her activist work and her book The Feminine Mystique have been a critical influence to authors, educators, writers, anthropologists, journalists, activists, organizations, unions, and everyday women taking part in the feminist movement.[63] Allan Wolf, in The Mystique of Betty Friedan writes: “She helped to change not only the thinking but the lives of many American women, but recent books throw into question the intellectual and personal sources of her work.”[62] Although there have been some debates on Friedan’s work in The Feminine Mystique since its publication, there is no doubt that her work for equality for women was sincere and committed.


In 1968, Friedan signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[61]


She joined nearly 200 others in Feminists for Free Expression in opposing the Pornography Victims' Compensation Act. "'To suppress free speech in the name of protecting women is dangerous and wrong,' says Friedan. 'Even some blue-jean ads are insulting and denigrating. I'm not adverse to a boycott, but I don't think they should be suppressed.'"[60]


She supported the concept that abortion is a woman's choice, that it shouldn't be a crime or exclusively a doctor's choice, and helped form [58] She asked, "Why don't we join forces with all who have true reverence for life, including Catholics who oppose abortion, and fight for the choice to have children?"[59]

Abortion choice

When she grew up in NOW) initially, and objected to what she saw as their demands for equal time.[42] "'Homosexuality ... is not, in my opinion, what the women's movement is all about.'"[44] While opposing all repression, she wrote, she refused to wear a purple armband or self-identify as a lesbian (particularly because she herself was heterosexual) as an act of political solidarity, considering it not part of the mainstream issues of abortion and child care.[45] But in 1977, at the National Women's Conference, she seconded a lesbian rights resolution "which everyone thought I would oppose" in order to "preempt any debate" and move on to other issues she believed were more important and less divisive in the effort to add the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution.[46] She accepted lesbian sexuality ("'Enjoy!'"), albeit not its politicization.[47] In 1995, at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, she found advice given by Chinese authorities to taxi drivers that naked lesbians would be "cavorting" in their cars so that the drivers should hang sheets outside their cab windows, and that lesbians would have AIDS and so drivers should carry disinfectants, to be "ridiculous", "incredibly stupid" and "insulting".[48] In 1997, she wrote that "children ... will ideally come from mother and father."[49] She wrote in 2000, "I'm more relaxed about the whole issue now[.]"[50]

Lesbian politics

Related issues

She pushed the feminist movement to focus on economic issues, especially equality in employment and business as well as provision for child care and other means by which both women and men could balance family and work. She tried to lessen the focuses on abortion, as an issue already won, and on rape and pornography, which she believed most women did not consider to be high priorities.[41]

One of the most influential feminists of the twentieth century, Friedan (in addition to many others) opposed equating feminism with lesbianism. As early as 1964, very early in the movement, and only a year after the publication of The Feminine Mystique, Friedan appeared on television to address the fact the media was, at that point, trying to dismiss the movement as a joke and centering argument and debate around whether or not to wear bras and other issues considered ridiculous.[39] In 1982, during the second wave, she wrote a book for the post-feminist 1980s called The Second Stage, about family life, premised on women having conquered social and legal obstacles.[27][39][40]

Movement image and unity

In 1972, Friedan unsuccessfully ran as a delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention in support of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. That year at the DNC Friedan played a very prominent role and addressed the convention, although she clashed with other women, notably Steinem, on what should be done there, and how.[38]

In 1971 Friedan, along with many other leading women's movement leaders, including Gloria Steinem (with whom she had a legendary rivalry) founded the National Women's Political Caucus.

In 1970 Friedan led other feminists in derailing the nomination of Supreme Court nominee G. Harold Carswell, whose record of racial discrimination and antifeminism made him unacceptable and unfit to sit on the highest court in the land to virtually everyone in the civil rights and feminist movements. Friedan's impassioned testimony before the Senate helped sink Carswell's nomination.[37]


Friedan founded the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, renamed National Abortion Rights Action League after the Supreme Court had legalized abortion in 1973.

National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws

So I think individual women will react differently; some will not cook that day, some will engage in dialog with their husband[s], some will be out at the rallies and demonstrations that will be taking place all over the country. Others will be writing things that will help them to define where they want to go. Some will be pressuring their Senators and their Congressmen to pass legislations that affect women. I don't think you can come up with any one point, women will be doing their own thing in their own way.[36]
All kinds of women's groups all over the country will be using this week on August 26 particularly, to point out those areas in women's life which are still not addressed. For example, a question of equality before the law; we are interested in the equal rights amendment. The question of child care centers which are totally inadequate in the society, and which women require, if they are going to assume their rightful position in terms of helping in decisions of the society. The question of a women's right to control her [sic] own reproductive processes, that is, laws prohibiting abortion in the state or putting them into criminal statutes; I think that would be a statute that we would [be] addressing ourselves to.[36]

Friedan spoke about the Strike for Equality:

[35] In 1970 NOW, with Friedan leading the cause, was instrumental in the U.S. Senate's rejection of President

Women's Strike for Equality

In 1973, Friedan founded the First Women's Bank and Trust Company.

Despite the success NOW achieved under Friedan, her decision to pressure Equal Employment Opportunity to use Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to enforce more job opportunities among American women met with fierce opposition within the organization.[29] Siding with arguments from the group's African American members, many of NOW's leaders accepted that the vast number of male and female African Americans who lived below the poverty line needed more job opportunities than women within the middle and upper class.[30] Friedan stepped down as president in 1969.[31]

NOW lobbied for enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the first two major legislative victories of the movement, and forced the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to stop ignoring, and start treating with dignity and urgency, claims filed involving sex discrimination. They successfully campaigned for a 1967 Executive Order extending the same affirmative action granted to blacks to women, and for a 1968 EEOC decision ruling illegal sex-segregated help want ads, later upheld by the Supreme Court. NOW was vocal in support of the legalization of abortion, an issue that divided some feminists. Also divisive in the 1960s among women was the Equal Rights Amendment, which NOW fully endorsed; by the 1970s, women and labor unions opposed to ERA warmed up to it and began to support it fully. NOW also lobbied for national daycare.[28]

Under Friedan, NOW advocated fiercely for the legal equality of women and men. [27], wrote NOW's statement of purpose; the original was scribbled on a napkin by Friedan.Pauli Murray Friedan, with [26]

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