Betty Friedan in Postwar Suburbia
Betty Friedan (1921-2006) was an American icon of second-wave feminism, an activist, and a writer best known for her work The Feminine Mystique (1963), which questioned women's domestic roles in the suburban landscape. Friedan also conceived of the National Organization of Women, of which she became the first president in 1966.
To write The Feminine Mystique, Friedan drew on conversations and interviews with her former classmates from Smith College. Many of the women had become "successful" suburban housewives, yet they were fundamentally dissatisfied. In the book, Freidan identified "The Problem That Has No Name," that is, the restlessness and dissatisfaction middle-class American women felt during the 1950s. Friedan herself had once been one of the housewives she would later write about; her husband carried on numerous affairs, and Friedan later alleged that he had physically abused her (Carl Friedan denied those charges). Friedan also had a long history of union and political activism, which she chose to omit from her self-description in The Feminine Mystique.