WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2006-04 > 1146078917
From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: FRIEDAN: Betty Friedan--d.4/2/2006>USA
Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2006 20:15:17 +0100
WASHINGTON,DC -- Betty Friedan, whose manifesto "The Feminine Mystique"
became a best seller in the 1960s and laid the groundwork for the modern
feminist movement, died Saturday, her birthday, February 4, 2006. She was
Friedan died at her home of congestive heart failure, according to a cousin,
Friedan's assertion in her 1963 best seller that having a husband and babies
was not everything and that women should aspire to separate identities as
individuals, was highly unusual, if not revolutionary, just after the baby
and suburban booms of the Eisenhower era.
The feminine mystique, she said, was a phony bill of goods society sold to
women that left them unfulfilled, suffering from "the problem that has no
name" and seeking a solution in tranquilizers and psychoanalysis.
"A woman has got to be able to say, and not feel guilty, `Who am I, and what
do I want out of life?' She mustn't feel selfish and neurotic if she wants
goals of her own, outside of husband and children," Friedan said.
"That book changed women's lives," Kim Gandy, president of the National
Organization for Women, which Friedan co-founded, said Saturday. "It opened
women's minds to the idea that there actually might be something more. And
for the women who secretly harbored such unpopular thoughts, it told them
that there were other women out there like them who thought there might be
something more to life."
In the racial, political and sexual conflicts of the 1960s and '70s,
Friedan's was one of the most commanding voices and recognizable presences
in the women's movement.
As the first president of NOW in 1966, she staked out positions that seemed
extreme at the time on such issues as abortion, sex-neutral help-wanted ads,
equal pay, promotion opportunities and maternity leave.
But at the same time, Friedan insisted that the women's movement had to
remain in the American mainstream, that men had to be accepted as allies and
that the family should not be rejected.
"Don't get into the bra-burning, anti-man, politics-of-orgasm school,"
Friedan told a college audience in 1970.
To more radical and lesbian feminists, Friedan was "hopelessly bourgeois,"
Susan Brownmiller wrote at the time.
Friedan, deeply opposed to "equating feminism with lesbianism," conceded
later that she had been "very square" and uncomfortable about homosexuality.
"I wrote a whole book objecting to the definition of women only in sexual
relation to men. I would not exchange that for a definition of women only in
sexual relation to women," she said.
Nonetheless she was a seconder for a resolution on protecting lesbian rights
at the National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977.
"For a great many women, choosing motherhood makes motherhood itself a
liberating choice," she told an interviewer two decades later. But she added
that this should not be a reason for conflict with "other feminists who are
maybe more austere, or choose to seek their partners among other women."
By then in her 70s, Friedan had moved on to the issue of how society views
and treats its elderly.
She said that while researching her last book, "The Fountain of Age,"
published in 1993, she found those who dealt with old people "talk about the
aged with the same patronizing, `compassionate' denial of their personhood
that was heard when the experts talked about women 20 years ago."
She had not stopped being a feminist, she said, "but women as a special
separate interest group are not my concern any more."
Friedan, born Feb. 4, 1921, in Peoria, Ill., was a high achieving Jewish
outsider growing up in middle America. Her father, Harry Goldstein, owned a
jewelry store; her mother, Miriam, quit a job as a newspaper women's page
editor to become a housewife.
As a girl, Friedan watched her mother "cut down my father because she had no
place to channel her terrific energies, a typical female disorder that I
call impotent rage," she said.
From high school valedictorian in 1938 to summa cum laude graduate of Smith
College in 1942, "I was that girl with all A's and I wanted boys worse than
anything," she said.
She won a fellowship in psychology to the University of California,
Berkeley, but turned down a bigger fellowship there so as not to outdo a
The romance broke up anyway and Friedan moved to Greenwich Village in New
York and became a labor reporter.
She lost one job to a returning World War II veteran but found another
before marrying Carl Friedan, a summer-stock producer and later an
advertising executive, in 1947. The marriage, which produced three children,
ended in divorce 22 years later.
Friedan got a maternity leave to have her first child in 1949, but was fired
and replaced by a man when she asked for another leave to have the second
child five years later.
The family had moved to a big Victorian house in the suburban Rockland
County village of Grandview-on-the-Hudson, N.Y., where Friedan cranked out
freelance magazine articles while bringing up her brood.
Hoping to get a magazine piece out of a Smith College 15-year reunion,
Friedan prepared an in-depth survey of her classmates.
What she found was that these well-educated women of the class of 1942, now
largely suburban housewives, were asking, in effect, "Is this all?"
Friedan couldn't get the article published in a magazine, but five years of
more research and writing turned it into "The Feminine Mystique."
If some women read it as a call to arms, others were outraged, Friedan
recalled. Dinner invitations stopped; she was out of the school car pool.
But the first printing of 3,000 eventually grew to 600,000 copies hardcover
and more than 2 million in paperback. The book was listed at No. 37 on a
1999 New York University survey of 100 examples of the best journalism of
In 1964, the family moved back to Manhattan in 1964 and Friedan began
working to have the federal government enforce the Civil Rights Act as it
applied to sex and not only to race, religion and national origin.
Founding NOW was a response to federal inaction. The finale of Friedan's
presidency was the national women's strike of August 1970, which brought
women out across the country on the 50th anniversary of women's suffrage.
She also was a founder in 1968 of the National Conference for Repeal of
Abortion Laws, which became the National Abortion Rights Action League, and
of the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971.
During the following decade she taught and lectured, and her 1981 book, "The
Second Stage," was seen by many as a public break with the feminist
leadership that had succeeded her. She said they had pursued "sexual
politics that distorted the sense of priorities of the women's movement
during the 1970s," and had opened the way for conservatives and
reactionaries to occupy the center on family issues.
In "The Second Stage," Friedan also appeared to accept criticism from some
women that "The Feminine Mystique" was too dismissive of domestic life. "Our
failure was our blind spot about the family," she wrote.
Friedan taught on both coasts, at New York University and the University of
Southern California, lecturing widely and traveling to women's conferences
around the globe.
She helped persuade the Democratic Party to give women half the delegate
strength at its nominating convention and was herself a delegate when
Geraldine Ferraro was nominated for vice president in 1984.
She lived in New York City and Washington, D.C., and had a summer house in
Sag Harbor, N.Y.
Survivors include her sons, Daniel Friedan of Princeton, N.J., and Jonathan
Friedan of Philadelphia, and daughter Emily Friedan of Buffalo, N.Y.; nine
grandchildren; a sister, Amy Adams of New York; and a brother, Harry
Goldstein of Palm Springs, Calif.
Carl Friedan died in December, according to Bazelon.
She said the funeral will be Monday at Riverside Memorial Chapel in New
|FRIEDAN: Betty Friedan--d.4/2/2006>USA by "Peter_McCrae" <>|