Considered to be the “mother” of Feminism in the Gender Equality in the Gender Equality in the Gender Equality in the United States of America of America of America, the ‘housewife’ who helped bring about a sexual revolution, Betty Friedan was born on February 4, 1921 and died on February 4, 2006.
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Education and Early Career
She attended the all-female Smith College in 1938. In 1941, she became editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. The editorials became more political under her leadership, taking a strong anti-war stance and occasionally causing controversy. She graduated summa cum laude in 1942, majoring in psychology. She never went on to practice psychology.
In 1943, she spent a year at the University of California, Berkeley having won a fellowship to undertake graduate work in psychology with the renowned Erik Erikson. She became more politically active, mixing with Marxists.
Friedan worked as a freelance journalist, publishing in left-wing journals as well as Cosmopolitan magazine. In 1957, she conducted a survey of her former Smith College colleagues, with questions focusing on their subsequent experiences and satisfaction with their current lives. She started publishing articles about what she called “the problem with no name”. Based on conversations with women across the country, she published the Feminine Mystique.
The Feminine Mystique (1963)
The Feminine Mystique is widely regarded as one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century. The book had sold more than three million copies by the year 2000 and has been translated into many languages.
Friedan argued in the 400 pages of The Feminine Mystique that women as a class suffered a variety of forms of discrimination but were in particular the victims of a pervasive system of delusions and false values under which they were urged to find personal fulfillment, even identity, vicariously through the husbands and children to whom they were expected to cheerfully devote their lives. This restricted role of wife-mother, whose glorification by advertisers and others was suggested by the title of the book, led almost inevitably to a sense of unreality or general spiritual malaise in the absence of genuine, creative, self-defining work.
Other publications by Friedan are: The Second Stage (1981); The Fountain of Age (1993); Life So Far (2000)
In 1966, Friedan helped found the National Organization for Women (NOW) , serving as its first president. In 1969, she was a founder of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, now known as Naral Pro-Choice America. With Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug and others, she founded the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971.
“Some people think I’m saying, ‘Women of the world unite — you have nothing to lose but your men,’ ” she told Life magazine in 1963. “It’s not true. You have nothing to lose but your vacuum cleaners.”
See Germaine Greer’s criticism of Friedan at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/feb/07/gender.bookscomment