(1921 - 2006)
Betty Naomi Goldstein Friedan was born on February
4, 1921, in Peoria, Illinois.
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 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. 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 rejected it or wanted it rewritten
to a less feminist point of view. Refusing this recasting of 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, in particular
the ful-time homemaker role, which Friedan saw as stifling. The book
became a feminist bestseller. Friedan was invited to academic positions.
Friedan's other books include The Second Stage, which she wrote
under a less radical position, It Changed My Life, and The
Fountain of Age.
Friedan cofounded the U.S. National Organization for
Women and was its first president (1966-70). She is counted as one of
the most influential feminists of the late 20th century.
Friedan died of congestive
heart failure in Washington on February 5,
2006. She was 85.
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