Author Betty Friedan

BIRTHDAY: February 4, 1921
DEATH DATE: Feb 4, 2006  (age 85)

Author Betty Friedan

Author of the groundbreaking 1963 work, The Feminine Mystique, and a leading figure in 20th-century American feminism’s second wave. She established the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966 and served as the group’s first president.

Friedan was born Bettye Naomi Goldstein on February 4, 1921 in Peoria, Illinois, to Harry and Miriam (Horwitz) Goldstein, whose Jewish families were from Russia and Hungary. Harry owned a jewelry store in Peoria, and Miriam wrote for the society page of a newspaper when Friedan’s father fell ill. Her mother’s new life outside the home seemed much more gratifying. She studied psychology at Smith College and edited the campus newspaper. She began graduate study at the University of California-Berkeley, but dropped out of school to work as a left-wing journalist.

She was a strong supporter of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. In 1966, Friedan founded and was elected the first president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which aimed to bring women “into the mainstream of American society now [in] fully equal partnership with men”.

She married Carl Friedan in 1947; together, the couple had three children: Emily, Daniel, and Jonathan.  She continued to work after marriage, first as a paid employee and, after 1952, as a freelance journalist. The couple divorced in May 1969, and Carl died in December 2005.

She and Rebecca West were both important feminist authors. Friedan published six books. Her other books include The Second StageIt Changed My Life: Writings on the Women’s MovementBeyond Gender and The Fountain of Age. Her autobiography, Life so Far, was published in 2000.

She also wrote for magazines and a newspaper:

  • Columns in McCall’s magazine, 1971–1974
  • Writings for The New York Times MagazineNewsdayHarper’sSaturday ReviewMademoiselleLadies’ Home JournalFamily CircleTV Guide, and True Magazine


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