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Brilliant Women in History: Betty Friedan

by Marianne Colahan {{"2016-02-04T13:12:00.000Z" | blogDate:'MMMM d, y'}}

Madison Reed celebrates phenomenal women who have made a positive impact on the world. Let’s get inspired by their accomplishments and the possibility for all of us to make a difference! Get to know feminist icon Betty Friedan, who would have been 95 today.

Born to Jewish families from Russia and Hungary, Betty grew up in Illinois, where her mother Miriam wrote for the society page of a newspaper to help support their family when her father was ill. 

Betty was inspired by her mother’s new life outside of their home—a rare occurrence in the 1920s and 1930s. In her early life, Betty was active in Jewish and Marxist circles, and was involved in her high school newspaper. She also launched a literary magazine with her friends. 

Betty attended Smith College, an all-female college in Massachusetts, where she published poetry and became the editor-in-chief of Smith’s newspaper. This role allowed Betty to express her political views, often taking an anti-war position. After Smith College, Betty went to the University of California, Berkeley, becoming more politically active.

Known for writing The Feminine Mystique in 1963, Betty revealed the typical experience for American women—specifically being tied to a home life and abandoning academic and career pursuits in order to be a wife and mother. She asserted that women were as capable as their male counterparts, and women should not be relegated to traditional roles. 

As a leading figure in the women’s movement in the United States, Betty is often given credit for inspiring the second wave of American feminism in the 20th century. She co-founded the National Organization for Women in 1966, for which she was elected the first president. The goal of NOW was to bring women into mainstream American society, celebrating the feminist principle that women are equal to men and should therefore have the same opportunities that men have.

Most often recognized for her work as an author, Betty also made significant contributions to American Feminism, including organizing the 1970 Women’s Strike for Equality, co-founding the National Women’s Political Caucus, and fighting for women’s equality throughout her life. So, on her birthday, we salute Betty Friedan, for all of her accomplishments in empowering women.

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