Betty Freidan

Writer and Women's Rights Activist

Background Information

  • Born Betty Naomi Goldstein on February 4th, 1921 in Peoria, Illinois, to Jewish immigrants from Russia and Hungary
  • 1938: Attended Smith College, where she became the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper her junior year.
  • 1942: graduated summa cum laude with a major in psychology
  • 1943: spent a year at the University of California, Berkeley on a fellowship with Erik Erikson
  • 1943-1946: wrote for The Federated Press
  • 1947: married Carl Friedan
  • 1946-1952: wrote for the United Electrical Workers' UE News (which she was fired from for becoming pregnant)
  • 1957: attended her 15 year reunion and conducted a survey that would inspire her to write The Feminine Mystique
  • 1963: The Feminine Mystique is published
  • 1966: co-founded and became the first president of the National Organization for Women
  • 1969: divorced Carl Friedan
  • 1971: co-founded the National Women's Political Caucus
  • 1973: founded the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (soon renamed National Abortion Rights Action League)
  • 1975: awarded honorary doctorate of humane letters from Smith College
  • 1981: The Second Stage was published
  • February 4, 2006: Friedan dies in Washington D.C.

Life Influences

  • Betty Friedan was raised in a middle class environment in Peoria, Illinois. Her father owned a jewelry store and her mother was a homemaker. Friedan's father fell ill when she was 12, forcing her mother to find employment outside the home. Even at such a young age, Friedan felt as though her mother's life outside the home seemed more gratifying.
  • In her high school years, Friedan was active in Marxist and Jewish circles, the latter of which she often felt alienated from. She cites her experiences with anti-semitism as what led her to be passionate about general injustices.
  • Friedan was notoriously loud and abrasive. She was know to get into fits of anger that would result in her yelling obscenities at people.
  • She and her husband fought constantly, and often the altercation would become physical. Friedan would mention this in her memoir, Life So Far (2000), stating that she wouldn't consider their relationship abusive.

Defining Quote

“In almost every professional field, in business and in the arts and sciences, women are still treated as second-class citizens. It would be a great service to tell girls who plan to work in society to expect this subtle, uncomfortable discrimination--tell them not to be quiet, and hope it will go away, but fight it. A girl should not expect special privileges because of her sex, but neither should she "adjust" to prejudice and discrimination”

-Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique

Betty Friedan was appalled by the idea of telling young women in the workplace to "grin and bear it". She believed girls should be taught to challenge the rules and guidelines set for them in the patriarchal society.

Book Trailer
I found The Feminine Mystique incredibly inspiring. The reader can see Friedan's passion in her many tangent rants.

Betty Friedan in the 21st Century

If Betty Friedan was active in today's feminist movement, I believe she would be impressed by people such as Emma Watson, Beyoncé Knowles, and Malala Yousafzai who use their place in society to speak out against the prejudices faced by women today.

Friedan would also most likely be supportive of the Black Lives Matter Movement. She was very vocal about the rights of Black People, having lobbied for many anti-segregation laws.

If I the same skills as Betty Friedan, I would also try to start a feminist revolution, but more specifically aiding minority women. I would focus on the race and gender pay gap. To illustrate, for every dollar earned by a man, a White woman will earn 73 cents, a Black woman will earn 65 cents, and a Hispanic woman will earn just 56 cents.


Stephanie Coontz pens an article explaining that the gender equality movement has come to a stand still. The goals of the second wave of feminism were to breakdown the social barriers that kept women in their homes. When that was accomplished, many women were unsure of how to get back into the workforce. If they did get back in, they were often wrongfully let go due to having to care for their children. In modern times, the feminist movement focuses on giving women the right to chose between full-time motherhood and pursuing a career. The third wave of feminism also focuses on eradicating the pay gap and keeping abortion legal

American Experience

Betty Friedan's American experience was an incredible one. She dealt with anti-semitisim all her life, and sexism after she got married. When she began to grow restless in her attempts to be a housewife, she sought a remedy. The discovery that many of her college classmates, who were all highly educated women that were forced to stay home after having children, suffered from the same listlessness, inspired her to research this phenomenon. Her findings led her to write the book that would inform suffering housewives that they weren't the only one that felt empty inside. This realization led to women recognizing the need for reform. In conclusion, this shows that if you believe in a cause and work towards improvement, you can create a positive trend.