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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. Friedan, a psychology major at Smith, was a journalist and labor organizer before her marriage, and continued writing for women’s magazines after having children. In 1957, she surveyed 200 fellow Smith graduates and discovered many were unhappy with what was supposed to be the ideal life of suburban marriage and motherhood. She wrote The Feminine Mystique based on her findings, arguing that women’s problems were not simply personal, but were caused by unreasonable social expectations and discriminatory laws. The book was an immediate bestseller and helped galvanize support for the women’s movement. Friedan then founded NOW in 1966 and served as its president until 1970. The organization lobbied for the legalization of abortion, paid maternity leave, and the Equal Rights Amendment. After stepping down, Friedan organized the 1970 Women’s Strike for Equality and went on to cofound the National Women’s Political Caucus to encourage and support women candidates for public office. She continued to write and lecture on women’s equality until her death.

Betty Friedan at the ERA march in Washington, DC, July 9, 1978
Full image

Betty Friedan at the ERA march in Washington, DC, July 9, 1978.

Courtesy of Joan Roth.

Date of Birth
February 4, 1921
Place of Birth
Peoria, Illinois
Date of Death
February 4, 2006

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Betty Friedan." (Viewed on November 21, 2018) <>.


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