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Betty Friedan

1921 – 2006

“No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor.”

Demystifying Femme

In 1957, 15 years after graduating from Smith College, Betty Friedan conducted an attitude survey of her former classmates. Their responses, from 200 women, expressed levels of dissatisfaction and a sense of being “trapped in limiting roles.”At the time, Friedan was a working mother of three young children and living in the suburbs of New York City and she, too, had gotten a sense “that something is very wrong with the way American women are trying to live their lives.” Friedan began to dig more deeply, and for the next six years spoke to therapists, researchers, social scientists, educators and editors to get to the root of why so many women felt empty and desperate. The result was The Feminine Mystique, a landmark book that exposed the worthlessness women felt in roles that required them to be financially, intellectually and emotionally dependent on their husbands. The book sold nearly 3 million copies its first three years in print.

The time for NOW

With Friedan’s book as a rallying cry, the time was ripe for an organization that would make the feminist movement stronger. In 1966, Friedan along with others – including the Reverend Pauli Murray, the first African-American female Episcopal priest — founded the National Organization for Women (NOW). NOW spoke out against and exposed many discriminatory practices, including bank policies that denied married women credit in their own names, sex-segregated help wanted ads, and different jury duty responsibilities and rates for men and women. Though some women bristled at the “feminist” label, most agreed with NOW’s goal: all working women should be treated equally with men, receive equal pay for equal work and be entitled to the same access to jobs and promotions. In 1970, NOW celebrated 50 years of women’s suffrage with a march down Fifth Avenue in New York City; 10,000 people joined the march.

Annette Adams: Ann Baumgartner: Cathleen Black: Dr. Nina Starr Braunwald: Jacqueline Cochran: France A. Córdova: Bessie Coleman: Charlotte Curtis: Grace Hoadley Dodge: Alene Duerk: Elsie Eaves: Amy Eilberg: Claire Giannini Hoffman: Sarah Tilghman Hughes: Kara S. Hultgreen: Mae Jemison: Beverly Johnson: Claudia Kennedy: Mary Florence Lathrop: Ruth Law: Faith Sai So Leong: Kathleen McGrath: Constance Baker Motley: Pauli Murray: Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: Judith Rodin: Florence Rood: Dr. Florence Sabin: Jill Abramson: Ruth J. Simmons: Norma Merrick Sklarek: Dr. Janet Graeme Travell: Maggie Mitchell Walker: Alice Stebbins Wells: Ella Flagg Young: