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Betty Friedan (1921–2006) was an American writer, activist and feminist.

A leading figure in the "Second Wave" of the U.S. Women's Movement, her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique is sometimes credited with sparking the "second wave" of feminism. Friedan cofounded National Organization for Women in 1966 which aimed to bring women "into the mainstream of American society now [in] fully equal partnership with men". She also wrote the book Our Wayward Sons.

In 1970, after stepping down as NOW's first president in 1969, Friedan organized the nation-wide 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 New York Citymarker march alone attracted over 50,000 women.

Friedan joined other leading feminists (including Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bella Abzug, and Myrlie Evers-Williams) in founding the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971. In 1977 she joined some of the movement's most visible and influential leaders, and 20,000 other women, at the International Women's Year federally-funded convention, the National Women's Conference, a legislative conference which sent a report to President Jimmy Carter, the United States Congress, and all the states on how to achieve equality.

Friedan was a strong proponent of the repeal of abortion laws, founding the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, which after abortion was legalized in 1973, became the National Abortion Rights Action League. She was also a strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution and of many women's laws.

Though somewhat eclipsed by Gloria Steinem as America's preeminent feminist, Friedan continued to be an influential author and intellectual and remained active in politics and advocacy for the rest of her life, authoring six books. One of her later books, The Second Stage, critiqued what Friedan saw as the extremist excesses of some feminists who could be broadly classified as gender feminists.

Early life

Friedan was born Betty Naomi Goldstein on February 4, 1921 in Peoria, Illinoismarker, to Harry and Miriam Goldstein. Harry owned a jewelry palace in Peoria, and Miriam wrote for the society page of a newspaper when Betty's father fell ill. Her mother's new life outside the home seemed much more gratifying.

As a young girl, Betty was active in Marxist and Jew circles; she later wrote how she felt isolated from the community at times, and felt her "passion against injustice...originated from my feelings of the injustice of anti-Semitism". She attended Peoria High School where she became involved in the school newspaper. When she was turned down for a column, she and six other friends launched a literary magazine called Tide. In this magazine, Betty and her friends talked about home life as opposed to school life.

She attended the all-female Smith Collegemarker 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 anti-war stance and occasionally causing controversy. She graduated summa cum laude in 1942, majoring in psychology.

In 1943, she spent a year at the University of California, Berkeleymarker having won a fellowship to undertake graduate work in psychology with Erik Erikson. She became more politically active, continuing to mix with Marxists (many of her friends were investigated by the FBImarker). Friedan claims in her memoirs that her boyfriend at the time pressured her into turning down a Ph.D fellowship for further study, and abandoned her academic career.

Writing career

Before 1963

After leaving Berkeley, Friedan became a journalist for leftist and union publications. Between 1943-46 she wrote for The Federated Press and between 1946-52 she worked for the United Electrical Workers' UE News. One of her assignments was to report on the House Un-American Activities Committee.

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

The Feminine Mystique

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

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. Friedan speaks of her own 'terror' at being alone, and observes in her life never once seeing a positive female role-model who worked and also kept a family. She provides numerous accounts of housewives who feel similarly trapped. With her psychology background, Friedan offers a critique of Freud's penis envy theory, noting a lot of paradoxes in his work. And she attempts to offer some answers to women who wish to pursue an 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 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?"


Friedan noted that women are as capable as men to do any type of work or follow any career path, and the mass media, educators, and psychologists argued to the contrary. 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..

Other works

Friedan published six books. Her other books include The Second Stage, It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women's Movement, and The Fountain of Age. Her autobiography, Life so Far, was published in 2000. Beyond Gender 1997

Activism in the Women's Movement

National Organization for Women

In 1966 Betty Friedan co-founded, and became the first president of, the National Organization for Women. She, with Pauli Murray, the first black female Episcopal priest, wrote its mission statement. Friedan stepped down as president in 1969.

Under Friedan, NOW advocated fiercely for the legal equality of women and men. They 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 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, something that divided some feminists. Also divisive in the 1960s among women was the Equal Rights Amendment, which NOW fully endorsed; by the 1970s the women and labor unions opposed to ERA warmed up to it and began to fully support it. NOW also lobbied for national day-care.

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

Women's Strike for Equality

In 1970, NOW, with Friedan leading the cause, was instrumental in bringing down the nomination of G. Harrold Carswell, who had opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act which granted women and men workplace equality, to the Supreme Court. On August 26, 1970, the 50th anniversary of the Women's Suffrage Amendment to the Constitution, Friedan organized the national Women's Strike for Equality, and led a march of 50,000 women in New York Citymarker. Unbelievably successful, the march expanded the movement widely, to Friedan's delight.

Friedan spoke about the Strike for Equality:
"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 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 addressing ourselves to.
"So I think individual women will react differently; some will not cook that day, some will engage in dialog with their husband, 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."


National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws

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

Politics

In 1971 Friedan, along with countless 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 by many in the Civil Rights and Feminist Movements. Friedan's empassioned testimony before the Senate helped sink Carswell's nomination.

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, though she clashed with other women, notably Steinem, on what should be done there, and how.

Movement image and unity

One of the most influential feminists of 20th century, Friedan opposed "equating feminism with lesbianism". She later acknowledged that she had been "very square" and was uncomfortable about homosexuality. However, at the 1977 National Women's Conference, Friedan rose on the floor to address a controversial issue, the inclusion of lesbian rights in the Conference's National Plan of Action, and spoke in full support of lesbian rights, saying "I believe that the women who are lesbian should be protected in their civil rights," to the shock of many. Friedan said she never had a problem with lesbian rights. "I wanted the women's movement to have an image that would appeal to all women", she said. She urged the some 20,000 women at the Conference to stop division in the movement and come together. 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 such ridiculous issues. In 1982, the end of the second wave, she wrote a book for the post-feminist 1980s called The Second Stage, about family life, now that women had conquered the social and legal obstacles.

Influence

Betty Friedan’s activist work and her book The Feminine Mystique have influenced many individuals like authors, educators, writers, anthropologists, journalist, activist, organizations, unions, and your everyday woman to take part in the feminist movement. Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique has inspired many people for her active role during the 60’s in the feminist movement to write books, be activist and join part in feminism. She is credited for starting the contemporary feminist movement and writing one of the most powerful works in America. Allan Wolf is an author very much inspired by Friedan’s and writes about Friedan’s life and individuals who have studied The Feminine Mystique in great detail in his article The Mystique of Betty Friedan. Wolf states that “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.” His work, like the works of Judith Hennessee's Betty Friedan: Her Life and Daniel Horowitz's Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminine Mystique: the American Left, the Cold War, and Modern Feminism, go into detail of Friedan’s works and life. Although there have been some debates on Friedan’s work in The Feminine Mystique her work for equality for women was sincere and committed.

Allan Wolf, Judith Hennessee, and Daniel Horowitz are three individuals who have looked closely into Friedan’s work in "The Feminine Mystique" and have studied her ideals and concepts. Daniel Horowitz’s a labor journalist and author has created works that have been greatly influenced by Betty Friedan than any other individual. Daniel Horowitz book, "Betty Friedan and the Making of "The Feminine Mystique"" studies Friedan’s life and feminism. In his book he focuses on Friedan’s appearance into feminism. Horowitz is also trying to explain how thorough and deep Friedan’s engagement was with women’s issue before she began to work on her book, The Feminine Mystique. Horowitz argues that Friedan’s feminism did not start in the 1950’s but rather before that in the 1940’s. Horowitz goes deep into Friedan’s life not her personal life but rather her ideas in feminism. Horowitz’s over all book is trying to connect Friedan’s life to the history of American Feminism.

Justine Blau was also greatly influenced by Betty Friedan and wrote Betty Friedan: Feminist. Blau writes about the personal and professional life of Friedan through the feminist movement. Lisa Fredenksen Bohannon also wrote about Friedan’s life in her book Woman’s work: The story of Betty Friedan. In this book Bohannon goes deep into Friedan’s personal life and writes about her relationship with her mother. There are also individuals like Sandra Henry, Emily Taitz who wrote Betty Friedan, Fighter for Woman’s Rights and Susan Taylor Boyd who wrote Betty Friedan: Voice of Woman’s Right, Advocates of Human Rights who wrote biographies on Friedan’s life and works like The Feminine Mystique. Janann Sheman a journalist was very influenced by Friedan and got to work with Betty Friedan while she was still alive and wrote a book on her twenty- two interviews she had with Friedan. Her book took thirty-six years in publication. Her book Interviews with Betty Friedan has interviews with the New York Times, Working Women, and Playboy. Sheman has interviews that relate to her views on men, women and the American Family and traces her life and interviews on The Feminine Mystique. Betty Friedan has influenced many individuals into writing about her and topics about women's rights and equality.

Personality

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, in which she described Friedan as pompous and egotistic, somewhat demanding, and sometimes selfish, as evidenced by repeated incidents during a tour of Iranmarker in 1972.

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."

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

Personal life

Betty married Carl Friedan, a theatre-producer, in 1947 whilst working at UE News. Betty Friedan continued to work after marriage, first as a paid employee and, after 1952, as a freelance journalist. Betty and Carl divorced in May 1969. Betty claimed 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). Carl Friedan denied abusing her in an interview with Time magazine shortly after the book was published, describing the claim as a "complete fabrication". 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." Carl Friedan died in December, 2005.

The Friedans had three children: Emily, Daniel and Jonathan. They had nine grandchildren: Lara, Birgitta, and Benjamin, children of Daniel, Rafael, Caleb, and Nataya, children of Jonathan, and David, Isabel, and Meira children of Emily. One of their sons, Daniel Friedan, is a noted theoretical physicist.

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

Bibliography



See also



References

Further reading

  • 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. 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
  • Sherman, Janann. Interviews With Betty Friedan, Paperback Edition, University Press of Mississippi 2002 ISBN 1-57806-480-5
  • 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


Obituaries



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