Feminist Icons: Who Is Betty Friedan?

Betty Friedan, feminist writer and activist, graduated first in her class form Smith College and did a year of graduate work at the University of California at Berkeley.

BIOGRAPHY

Betty Friedan, feminist writer and activist, graduated first in her class from Smith College in 1942 and did a year of graduate work at the University of California at Berkeley. She married soon after and was fired from her newspaper job when she became pregnant. She freelanced for magazines for years and was a homemaker while raising her three children. At her fifteen year college reunion she circulated a questionnaire among her former Smith classmates, questioning them about their roles in life and the level of satisfaction they had in those roles. This questionnaire sparked the research which culminated in the now-classic book, THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE. The title refers to the feelings of worthlessness and despondency in women that results from being intellectually, economically, and emotionally dependent on one's husband. The book became one of the most talked about and controversial books of the decade, and Friedan is now considered to be one of the mothers of modern feminism.

Friedan cofounded the National Organization for Women (NOW) and was one of the founding members of the National Women's Political Caucus. She helped to organize the Women's Strike for Equality in 1970 and was instrumental in the campaign for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. She is currently an Adjunct Scholar at the Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian and Distinguished Professor of Social Evolution at Mount Vernon College. She is the co-chair of Women, Men and Media, a research organization devoted to studying gender and the media. Additionally, she advocates a shorter work week which would provide more employment opportunities, strengthen job security, and provide more free time.

CHRONOLOGY

1921 She was born in Peoria, Illinois. (February 4)

1942 She graduated from Smith College.

1957 She surveyed her Smith classmates about their roles in life.

1963 THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE was published.

1966 She cofounded the National Organization for Women. (October)

1969 She and Carl Friedan divorced.

1970 She stepped down as president of NOW. (March); She helped organize the Women's Strike for Equality. (August 26)



1971 She became a founding member of the National Women's Political Caucus.

1973 She became the director of the First Women's Bank and Trust Company.

1976 IT CHANGED MY LIFE: WRITINGS AND THE WOMEN'S MOVEMENT was published.

1981 THE SECOND STAGE was published.

1993 THE FOUNTAIN OF AGE was published.

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