All women would agree that we are an important part of community just as men are. Women compete against men constantly whether it is for a promotion at work or even a simple game of basketball; we can do just about everything a man can. Though this is true today, it was just a fantasy in the mind of women in the 1950s during the feminist movement. But due to the work of Betty Friedan, one of many second-wave feminists, and her controversial book, The Feminine Mystique, changed the perception of a typical women of the 1950s and 60s. Her strong campaign for equality between the sexes provoked many of the men, but encouraged many women to stand up and fight. This is her story.
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Betty Friedan’s life began when Harry Goldstein and Miriam Horwits met. Harry Goldstein emigrated from Russia with his family at the tender age of six. Seven years later, he had left his home in St. Louis for Peoria, Illinois where he met his future wife Miriam Horwitz. He was an aspiring young business man who owned a jewelry store in the city. Miriam, 18 years younger than Harry, was a student who recently graduated from Bradley Polytechnic Institute. They got married on February 3, 1920. Twelve months later on February 4th, a daughter had been born by the name of Betty Naomi Goldstein (Hennessee 5). Later, they gave birth to another daughter, Amy, and a son, Harry Jr. As Betty grew older, her mother’s powerful personality had infected Betty to be a strong willed woman that we all know her to become. Though their relationship was a constant fight against one another, it made Betty a stronger feminine power. In high school, she was an active participant in the school’s literary magazine called Tide. Tide was a collection of stories and poems that she and a group of two guys published in which they discussed home life as well as school. This was her introduction to writing about her politics.
After graduating high school, she attended Smith College, an all-girls college where she learned to express her deepest thoughts on paper. Whether it was about family or the anti- Semitics at her college, her writing told it all. Though her passion was obviously writing, she majored in psychology, where she studied under Kurt Koffka and Kurt Lewin, very well known psychologist. Eventually, Betty joined Smith College Associated News, the college, newspaper and become editor in chief. Gaining this amount of power, Betty became a woman whom no one dared to mess with. She brought up topics that caught everyone’s attention, especially because of her strong opinions of them. Also, she was known for her strong belief to Marxist philosophy, based on the thoughts and concepts of Karl Marx. After graduating Smith College she continued to graduate school for one year in Berkley to study under Erik Erickson. By that time, World War II had come to affect her experience at Berkeley. Most of the male population of the school had gone away to war, thus making Betty frustrated that the intellectual level had gone down. But that incident did not suspend her from continuing at Berkley.
Her father’s death indirectly impacted her standards of her sexuality. She began to experience many sexual relations with men as well as explore her interest in politics. Betty Goldstein soon graduated Berkley and went on to work for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America as a reporter. It was not until 1946 where she met Carl Friedan while working at the UE News. The two, were attracted to each other rather than in love, betrothed the next year. Many complications came from this relationship mainly because neither measured up to the other’s ideals (Hennessee 47). They constantly fought, but eventually learned to tolerate one another for the sake of their upcoming son. Betty gave birth to a boy, Daniel Friedan, on October 3, 1948 and two other children later on. After her maternity leave, she continued to work at UE News. Nine years later in 1952, she left UE News feeling unaccomplished. “There was no movement in her career, no dramatic achievement she could point to” (Hennessee 53). Betty Friedan did not know it yet, but the next chapter in her life was going to be of great importance to not only her but to American society.
In 1963, Betty Friedan wrote the book The Feminine Mystique which was about the revival of women’s movement and in the transformation of the nation’s awareness of the challenges middle-class suburban women faced (Horowitz 197). Her book started developing based on the questionnaires her Smith classmates filled out that expressed how middle class women lost their identity due to suburban lifestyle. The result of this questionnaire came out to be that all American women were unhappy with their lives. Her first chapter describes the main point:” The Problem that has No Name.” According to Betty Friedan’s book, women expressed this sense of emptiness in their lives because the American culture was to bear children and raise a family. The remaining chapters discussed Betty Friedan’s personal struggle with her identity, her sexuality, and the women’s movement in general. “The women’s movement was not about sex, but about equal opportunity in jobs and all the rest of it” (Friedan 223). Societies, during the 1960s, were blown away by the controversial ideas that came within the pages of the book. Women began to realize that they could fight for their equality so women activist and politicians began to speak up about the unfairness of the man infested society. This resulted in another accomplishment of Betty Friedan: the start of NOW (National Organization for Women). The organization’s primary goal was to bring equality among women and men in American societies.
Though it took her five years to research and write this book, it was well worth the time to produce such a movement in women’s society. The Feminine Mystique brought the women’s movement moving at a faster pace by exposing the true lives of women. This exposé, if you will, succeeded to where men slowly become aware of the tribulation that women experience thus changing the perspectives of women.
http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/170790-1â†’ video provided by c-span.org.
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