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The Feminine Mystique

"The Problem That Has No Name," Then and Now

It is no mistake that when people think of the 1950s, a very specific image comes to mind. A slim white woman wears her kitten heels as she holds a baby on her hip with one hand and pushes a vacuum with the other. That same slim white woman flashes a smile while placing a cooked meal in front of her husband and children, family programming playing on the television. This ideal housewife was present everywhere, dominating women’s magazines, advertisements, TV shows, movies, and literature. Women were supposed to be simple, kind, doting, dutiful, and, of course, selfless.

Betty Friedan

For her acclaimed book, The Feminine Mystique, and her presidency of the National Organization for Women, Betty Friedan is hailed as the mother of second wave feminism.

Planting the seed: Memories of "The Feminine Mystique"

There’s a lot of buzz these days about Stephanie Coontz’s new book A Strong Stirring, an assessment of Betty Friedans’s 1963 manifesto The Feminine Mystique. It’s stirring up some personal memories of my own.

Betty Friedan, 1921 - 2006

The news of Betty Friedan’s death made me feel that I had a lost an old and dear friend—and for many women everywhere, so we had. If there was any one woman who could be called the mother of feminism, it was Betty Friedan. Though “second-wave” feminism was a collective endeavor that had many founders, Friedan was the spark plug whose furious indictment of “the problem that had no name”—the false consciousness of “happy housewifery”—set off a revolution more potent than many of the other social and cultural upheavals of the 1960s.

Meetings held to plan National Organization for Women

June 30, 1966

The foundation for the National Organization for Women was laid at a meeting in Betty Friedan's hotel room in Washington, DC.

Publication of "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan

February 17, 1963

Publication of "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan; the book is credited with sparking the modern feminist movement.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "The Feminine Mystique." (Viewed on November 24, 2014) <http://jwa.org/tags/feminine-mystique>.

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