Betty Friedan died on her 85th birthday, Feb. 4, 2006, at her home in Washington D.C of congestive heart failure. She was a founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the National Women’s Political Caucus and an important leader in the struggle for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and author of the 1960s best-seller, “The Feminine Mystique,” the infamous women activist, “‘The Feminine Mystique’ made Ms. Friedan world famous,” stated an article from the New York Times. “It also made her one of the chief architects of the women’s liberation movement of the late 1960’s and afterward, a sweeping social upheaval that harked back to the suffrage campaigns of the turn of the century and would be called feminism’s second wave.” “Her insights into what she described as the soul-draining frustrations felt by educated, stay-at-home women in the 1950s, “the problem that has no name,” startled a society that expected women to be happy with marriage and children. Her book became an instant and controversial bestseller, and Friedan became the leading spokeswoman for a revitalized women’s movement,” as described by Washington Post staff writer Patricia Sullivan.
Friedan’s best-seller was said to have “ignited the contemporary women’s movement in 1963 and as a result permanently transformed the social fabric of the United States and countries around the world,” described Margalit Fox in the New York Times obituary for Friedan.
“A brilliant student who graduated summa cum laude from Smith College in 1942, Ms. Friedan trained as a psychologist but never pursued a career in the field. When she wrote “The Feminine Mystique,” she was a suburban housewife and mother who supplemented her husband’s income by writing freelance articles for women’s magazines,” stated Fox.
In between the years of 1966 and 1971, Friedan helped found several women’s organizations including the National Organization for Women, serving as it’s first president, as well as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws,and the National Women’s Political Caucus.
“Though in later years, some feminists dismissed Ms. Friedan’s work as outmoded, a great many aspects of modern life that seem routine today – from unisex Help Wanted ads to women in politics, medicine, the clergy and the military – are the direct result of the hard-won advances she helped women attain,” wrote Fox.
Sullivan states that “she turned to other issues, focusing on ageism, family issues and economic empowerment. “It isn’t that I have stopped being a feminist, but women as a special separate interest group are not my concern anymore,” Friedan said in 1993.
Emily Bazelon, Friedan’s cousin, told The Washington Post, that “Her feminism was an aspect of her humanism, and she really cared about the economic well-being of families and of all people.