Betty Friedan and The Feminine Mystique (1963)- Sydney Altman

This chronology discusses Betty Friedan and the impact her novel The Feminine Mystique caused on the Women's Movement. 


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Ten years following the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, she reflects on the book and its impact in an article for The New York Times. She writes about her struggles with having her initial thoughts printed in multiple different magazines because they strayed so far from what the typical housewife would write. Her thoughts questioned the lies that feminine figures were not capable of accomplishing much more meaningful tasks than what they had been given for years. This rejection was the force pushing her towards writing the novel and having her words in print to share, but the backlash she received once the book was published shocked her, as it came from mostly women. Freidman states: 

“I didn’t blame women for being scared. I was pretty scared myself, It isn’t really 

possible to make a new pattern of life all by yourself… It was easier for me to start the women’s movement which was needed to change society than to change my own personal life” (1973, par. 17). 

Were these women scared of giving up their safe lives and the comfort they found in routine? Or were they genuinely happy with the constrained lives they lived in their homes, serving their families? The bravery it took for Friedan to publish such a groundbreaking manifesto for women’s independence was unmatched for the time period, and even in today’s society holds women to high standards. In her article she explains that this movement was not to make women, as the oppressed, become the oppressors. Men and women were created equally, and to have them participate in society equally they must work together to bridge the gaps and knock down the barriers. These barriers are not just seen within the economic gaps of opportunity, but also in the suppressing of women’s sexual and emotional needs. What makes women so incredible is their strength, despite being labeled as the weaker and more vulnerable sex. Freidman writes that she used to be fearful of flying, but her own book eradicated that fear. (Freidman, 1973, par. 41). Women and men can fly across oceans and mountain ranges together, supporting each other along the way. Feminism has no impact if we ignore the problems that need to be addressed. Freidman faced these problems head on and began a positive revolution. 

Friedan, B. (1973, March 4). Up from the kitchen floor. The New York Times. Retrieved November 18, 2021, from

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The National Organization for Women, founded in 1966 by Betty Friedan, Pauli Murray, and Aileen Hernandez serves as a anti-discriminatory foundation for women and a connection with like-minded women to take action as a group. Their mission statement at the time of their founding read: “The purpose of NOW is to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men” (Friedan, 1966, par. 2). To be in truly equal partnership with men, these women first identified the problems at their source in the economy. Help-wanted ads, specifically in The New York Times, were distinguished separately by sex. The members of NOW in New York led their very first picket in August of 1967 to protest The New York Times and their segregation in job advertisements. (NOW, 2020, par. 14). Gender discrimination reguarding employment was banned by the 1964 Civil Rights Act in title VII. These women found a community to stand up against their oppression and took action for their rightful opportunities. 

Friedan, B. (1966). Statement of purpose. National Organization for Women. Retrieved November 18, 2021, from 

History of marches and mass actions. National Organization for Women. (2021). Retrieved November 16, 2021, from 

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Timeline- Betty Friedan and The Feminine Mystique (1963)- Sydney Altman

“I never set out to start a women’s revolution. I never planned it. It just happened, I would say, by some miracle of convergence of my life and history, serendipity, one thing leading to another” (Friedan, 2000, p. 13). Betty Friedan was born in February of 1921, just six months after the 19th Amendment granted all American women the right to vote. She is the author of multiple novels—most notably The Feminine Mystique which was published in 1963. This novel radicalised the way women thought of their femininity and what it truly meant to be a woman who was equal in American society. 

Friedan grew up in Peoria, Illinois during the depression, which led to many monetary struggles within her family; causing secrets to build up and walls to grow around her heart and emotions. She saw how her mother’s emotions ruled her household and prayed that one day she would have a career like her father. Throughout primary and secondary school, Friedan was a talented writer, winning multiple contests and awards and bonding with her father over literary works and philosophers, but that bond later died out. As she grew older, she looked towards icons to find a sense of community that her siblings found with their friends. Invitations to collaborate with peers and higher-ups at Ivy-Leagues, the Smith paper, and eventually the American Youth Congress, helped Friedan to develop a deeper connection with writing, editing and voicing her opinion on controversial matters. 

“I was no feminist, don’t remember even studing the battle for the women’s vote, only knew of sufferattes, with my new Freudian sophistication, as neurotic spinsters suffering from penis envy” (Friedan, 2000, p. 41). However, marriage, motherhood and mystique led her down a path she had not considered while attending college. Fieidan reunited with many former classmates fifteen years post-graduation from Smith College and embarked on a journey of conducting interviews to better understand their contentment, or mostly lack thereof, with the current expectations of American women (Michals, 2017, par. 5). These interviews later led to the literary works that we now know as The Feminine Mystique. She dubs the inequality of men and women as “the problem that has no name” as the major theme within the book. The nonfiction writing ends with: “We can no longer ignore that voice within women that says: “I want more than my husband and my children and my home” (Friedan, 1963, p. 32). Women were not helpless housewives only created to fulfill men’s simple everyday and extravagant sexual pleasures, but to establish their own wants and needs separate from maternal expectations. The movement towards a generation of women finding their voices seemed more promising with this new foundation under their feet. Friedan articulated the problem that had the majority of women questioning their fulfillment for decades and consequently became the spokeswoman for women’s equality and she later co-founded the National Organization for Women. 


Friedan, B. (1963). The feminine mystique. DELL PUBL. CO.

Friedan, B. (2000). Life so far. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.

Michals, D. (Ed.). (2017). Betty Friedan. National Women's History Museum. Retrieved November 17, 2021, from

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