Betty Friedan


Betty Friedan is a household name because of her fight for women’s rights and passion for the cause. She was also an author, publishing a book in 1963 titled ‘The Feminine Mystique.’ Her book tried to identify the “female problem that no one will give a name” and the topic of the educated female choosing to be a housewife. Betty is the founder and initial president of the NOW (National Organization for Women). An advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment and opponent of the introduction of lesbian problems into the women’s movement, Betty makes no bones about where her support lied. Born on February 4, 1921 in Peoria, Illinois, Betty ironically passed away on her birthday, February 4, 2006 in Washington D.C.

Who was Betty Friedan?

It didn’t take too long for Betty’s mother to make the decision of becoming a housewife, departing from her well-loved journalism career to take care of her family. Although an unhappy choice for her mother personally, Betty was encouraged by her mother to get a college education and career. During World War II, Betty relocated to New York in an attempt to start her career as a journalist for a labor service. When the war ended, she had to relinquish her job to an army veteran who had returned from the war. She then landed a job as a social researcher and clinical psychologist.

Life as a Mother and Wife

She met a theatrical producer, Carl Friedan and the pair married and moved to Greenwich Village. After becoming pregnant with her first child, Betty asked for maternity leave, but in 1949, when she took the maternity leave from the job for their second child, she ended up being fired. She got no help from the union and so Betty gave up the fight for her job and moved to the suburbs to live as a housewife. While at home, she became a freelance writer, writing for magazines directed at women and the middle-class housewife.

Her Findings

Upon graduating, Betty attended her fifteen graduating class reunion in 1957. At the reunion, she was asked to conduct a survey of her classmates on how well they had utilized their acquired education. She discovered that 89% of her classmates weren’t utilizing their education in any way. Most of them seemed not to be happy in their roles. In analyzing the results, Betty decided to consult with experts. She discovered that both men and women felt trapped in restricted career roles. Upon creating an article with her findings, Betty tried to sell it, but there was no one who wanted to buy the article. She then transferred her work into a book, which she published in 1963. It landed on the best seller’s list and was interpreted in thirteen languages.

The Women’s Movement

After her published book, she became somewhat of a celebrity, joining the women’s movement. At a meeting in Washington that addressed women’s issues, Betty found that the meeting failed to speak directly to the inequality of women. So, that is when she founded her own women’s organization, the NOW. In 1967, Betty and her organization took on some big issues like abortion and Equal Rights Amendment. Up until her death, Betty was instrumental in making a difference and she will always be remembered for her highly controversial fight for several women’s issues.


What difference are you making in society at large? What is your take on the ongoing fight for equality in our society as it relates to women? Let us hear what you think by leaving your comments below.

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