Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 19, 2014
Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan

February 19, 1963: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan is published. The book is often cited as a spark for the beginning of the second-wave of feminism in the US. In 1957, Friedan was asked to conduct a survey of her former Smith College classmates in order to present it for their 15th class reunion. While speaking with many of the women, she was interested to learn that many were dissatisfied with their role as housewife. She went on to conduct interviews with other suburban housewives as well as research of the media and advertising and the current findings among psychologists. She intended to write a magazine article but couldn’t find anyone to publish it. So instead, she wrote a book.

The 239 page book has fourteen chapters discussing various aspects of “the problem that has no name” or the widespread unhappiness of women in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The role of housewife was not fulfilling the promise of women even as the culture insisted that the road to happiness was marriage and children. Women’s magazines (created mostly by men) showed women as happy housewives or unhappy and neurotic careerists. These messages created a “feminine mystique” based on what women wanted and needed for their happiness. Unfortunately, it didn’t hold true. Women were not fitting the mold created by a variety of men including Sigmund Freud. As women gained more education, they were less satisfied with their lot.

Friedan was born in 1921 in Illinois. When her father fell ill, her mother began working outside the home and seemed to find satisfaction in the role. Friedan was active in both Marxist and Jewish circles even as a teenager. When she wanted to write for the school newspaper, she was turned down and she got six friends together and they began their own paper. She went on to the all-girls Smith College where she became editor-in-chief of the newspaper there. In 1943, she spent a year at the University of California, Berkeley working with Erik Erikson. She claimed that her boyfriend of the time pressured her to turn down working on a Ph.D and abandoning her academic career.

After leaving school, she began writing in earnest. She married Carl Friedan in 1947 and continued to work. She claimed to have been let go when she was pregnant with her second child and so began working freelance. She and her husband divorced in 1969. Friedan is credited with changing the world single handedly. She shaped our definition of what a happy woman is. She strongly defended the equality of women. She was known for her aggressive attitude and never forgot that women are adult humans and have the right to living their lives in the way they see fit. She died in 2006 at the age of 85.

Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.

Men are not the enemy, but the fellow victims. The real enemy is women’s denigration of themselves.

The feminine mystique has succeeded in burying millions of American women alive.

A woman is handicapped by her sex, and handicaps society, either by slavishly copying the pattern of man’s advance in the professions, or by refusing to compete with man at all. – all from Betty Friedan

Also on this day: Cracker Jack – In 1912, Cracker Jack began to include prizes in every box.
Bollingen Prize – In 1949, the prizes were first given out.
Rockin’ the World – In 1600,  the most powerful volcano in South America erupted.
Soaps – In 1985, the EastEnders was first broadcast.

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