Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan (February 4, 1921February 5, 2006) was an American feminist, activist and writer, best known for starting what is commonly known as the "Second Wave" of feminism through the writing of her book "The Feminine Mystique".

Early life and education

Friedan was born Betty Naomi Goldstein on February 4, 1921 in Peoria, Illinois,cite web
title = NOW Mourns Foremothers of Feminist, Civil Rights Movements
url =
publisher = National Organization for Women
last = Wing
first = Liz
date = Summer 2006
accessdate = February 19
accessyear = 2007
] to Harry and Miriams Goldstein. Harry owned a jewelry shop 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 Jewish 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". h] She went to high school in Peoria. She briefly became involved in her high school newspaper, but 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 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 anti-war stance and occasionally causing controversy. h] She graduated "summa cum laude" in 1942, majoring in psychology.

In 1943, she spent a year at the University of California, Berkeley having won a fellowship to undertake graduate work in psychology with Erik Eriksoncite journal
last =Henderson
first =Margaret
title =Betty Friedan 1921-2006
journal =Australian Feminist Studies
volume =22
issue =53
pages =163–166
month =July | year =2007
doi =10.1080/08164640701361725
accessdate = 12th Decemeber 2007
] . She became more politically active, continuing to mix with Marxists (many of her friends were investigated by the FBI h] ). 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.


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.f]

Friedan claimed she was fired from the union newspaper "UE News" in 1952, because she was pregnant with her second child. This claim has been disputed and the true cause of her firing is not clear. [Horowitz, Daniel. "Rethinking Betty Friedan and "The Feminine Mystique": Labor Union Radicalism and Femininsm in Cold War America", American Quarterly 48 (1998):1-42; Meltzer, "Betty Friedan: A Voice for Women's Rights", Penguin 1985] After leaving UE News, she became a freelance writer, and wrote for various magazines, including Cosmopolitan.hf]

For her 15th college reunion in 1957, Friedan conducted a survey of Smith 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.

"The Feminine Mystique"

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 book became a bestseller, which some people suggest was the impetus for the second wave of feminism, and significantly spurred the women's movementcite book
last =Davis
first =Flora
title =Moving the Mountain: The Women's Movement in America since 1960
publisher =Simon & Schuster
year =1991
location =New York
pages =50-53
] .

Other works

Friedan's other books include "The Second Stage", "", and "The Fountain of Age". Her autobiography, "Life so Far", was published in 2000.


Betty Friedan co-founded the U.S. National Organization for Women with 27 other people. She wrote its statement of purpose with Pauli Murray, the first black female Episcopal priest. Friedan was its first president, serving from 1966 to 1970. [ [ NOW statement on Friedan's death] ]

Controversy over gay and lesbian rights

One of the most influential feminists of the late 20th century, Friedan opposed "equating feminism with lesbianism." She later acknowledged that she had been "very square" and was uncomfortable about homosexuality. [ [] Dead link|date=March 2008]

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 beat 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". [ [ Betty Friedan, Who Ignited Cause in 'Feminine Mystique,' Dies at 85 - New York Times ] ] She later on said "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. One of their sons, Daniel Friedan, is a noted theoretical physicist.

Friedan died of congestive heart failure at her home in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2006, her 85th birthday.cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title= Betty Friedan, Who Ignited Cause In 'Feminine Mystique,' Dies at 85 |url=|quote= Betty Friedan, the feminist crusader and author whose searing first book, "The Feminine Mystique," ignited the contemporary women's movement in 1963 and as a result permanently transformed the social fabric of the United States and countries around the world, died yesterday, her 85th birthday, at her home in Washington. The cause was congestive heart failure, said Emily Bazelon, a family spokeswoman. ... For decades a familiar presence on television and the lecture circuit, Ms. Friedan, with her short stature and deeply hooded eyes, looked for much of her adult life like a 'combination of Hermione Gingold and Bette Davis,' as Judy Klemesrud wrote in The New York Times Magazine in 1970.|publisher=New York Times |date=February 5, 2006 |accessdate=2008-03-31 ]


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", [ [,,1703933,00.html The Betty I knew | World news | 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 Iran in 1972.

Indeed, Carl has 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." [Ginsberg L., "Ex-hubby fires back at feminist icon Betty," "New York Post", 5 July 2000]

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


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.1 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.2 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.”3 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.4 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".5 Horowitz argues that Friedan’s feminism did not start in the 1950’s but rather before that in the 1940’s.6 Horowitz goes deep into Friedan’s life not her personal life but rather her ideas in feminism.7 Horowitz’s over all book is trying to connect Friedan’s life to the history of American Feminism.8

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.9 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.10 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".11 Betty Friedan has influenced many individuals into writing about her and topics about women's rights and equality.

[National Organization for Women. "Tributes to Betty Friedan".] [Wolf, Allan. "The Mystique of Betty Friedan".] [Wolf, Allan. "The Mystique of Betty Friedan".] [Iowa Sate University Archive of Women’s Political Communication. "Betty Friedan".] [Daniel Horowitz. "Betty Friedan and the Making of "The Feminine Mystique".University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.] [Daniel Horowitz. "Betty Friedan and the Making of "The Feminine Mystique".University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.] [Daniel Horowitz. "Betty Friedan and the Making of "The Feminine Mystique".University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.] [Daniel Horowitz. "Betty Friedan and the Making of "The Feminine Mystique".University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.] [Blau, Justine. "Betty Friedan: Feminist".Chelsea House Publications 1990.] [Bohannon, Lisa Fredenksen. "Woman’s work: The story of Betty Friedan".Morgan Reynolds Publishing 2004.] [Sheman, Janann. "Interviews with Betty Friedan". University Press of Mississippi 2002.]


* "The Feminine Mystique" (1963)
* "It Changed My Life" (1976)
* "The Second Stage" (1981)
* "The Fountain of Age" (1993)
* "Beyond Gender" (1997)
* "Life So Far" (2000)


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


* [ 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.
*cite news|url=|title=Voice of Feminism's 'Second Wave'|date=February 5, 2006|publisher=The Washington Post
*cite news|url=,0,2296445.story|title=Betty Friedan, Philosopher Of Modern-day Feminism, Dies|date=February 4, 2006|publisher=Los Angeles Times
*cite news|url=,0,2472152.story|title=Catalyst of Feminist Revolution|date=February 5, 2006|publisher=Los Angeles Times
*cite news|url=|title=Betty Friedan, feminist visionary, dies at 85|date=February 5, 2006|publisher=The Boston Globe
*cite news|url=|title=Betty Friedan, 1921-2006|date=February 9, 2006|publisher=The Nation

External links

* [ National Women's Hall of Fame: Betty Friedan]
* [ American Writers: Betty Friedan]
* [ 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's secret Communist past] , David Horowitz, Salon, January 18, 1999.
* [ Find a Grave: Betty Friedan]
* [ Cheerless Fantasies, A Corrective Catalogue of Errors in Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique]
* [,,1703933,00.html 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

NAME=Friedan, Betty
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Goldstein, Bettye Naomi
SHORT DESCRIPTION=American activist
DATE OF BIRTH=February 4, 1921
PLACE OF BIRTH=Peoria, Illinois, United States
DATE OF DEATH=February 4, 2006
PLACE OF DEATH=Washington, D.C., United States

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Betty Friedan — Betty Friedan, 1960 Betty Friedan [ˈfɹiːdən] (* 4. Februar 1921 in Peoria (Illinois); † 4. Februar 2006 in Washington, D.C.; eigentlich Betty Naomi Goldstein) war eine US amerikanische Femin …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Betty Friedan — en 1964 Nom de naissance Betty Friedan Naissance 4 février 1921 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Betty Friedan — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Betty Friedan Betty Friedan, 1960 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Betty Friedan — noun United States feminist who founded a national organization for women (born in 1921) • Syn: ↑Friedan, ↑Betty Naomi Friedan, ↑Betty Naomi Goldstein Friedan • Instance Hypernyms: ↑feminist, ↑women s rightist, ↑women s liberationist, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Betty Friedan — ➡ Friedan * * * …   Universalium

  • Betty Naomi Friedan — Betty Friedan, 1960 Betty Friedan [ˈfɹiːdən] (* 4. Februar 1921 in Peoria (Illinois); † 4. Februar 2006 in Washington (D.C.); eigentlich Betty Naomi Goldstein) war eine US amerikanische …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Betty Naomi Goldstein Friedan — Betty Friedan, 1960 Betty Friedan [ˈfɹiːdən] (* 4. Februar 1921 in Peoria (Illinois); † 4. Februar 2006 in Washington (D.C.); eigentlich Betty Naomi Goldstein) war eine US amerikanische …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • FRIEDAN, BETTY — (1921–2006), U.S. writer and feminist. Born Naomi Goldstein in Peoria, Illinois, she received her B.A. in psychology from Smith College in 1942. She then held a research fellowship in psychology at the University of California at Berkeley,… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Betty (Vorname) — Betty ist eine im Englischen übliche Kurzform des weiblichen Vornamens Elizabeth bzw. Elisabeth. Bekannte Namensträgerinnen Betty Allen (1930–2009), US amerikanische Mezzo Sopranistin Betty Amann (1905–1990), deutsch amerikanische Schauspielerin… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Friedan — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Betty Friedan (1921–2006), US amerikanische Feministin Daniel Friedan (* 1948), US amerikanischer Physiker Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung zur Unterscheidung mehrerer mit demsel …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.