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Women's Movements

Women's Movements

Betty Friedan in Women's Movements

Betty Friedan (1921-2006) wrote The Feminine Mystique, launching the modern women's rights movement, and was the founding president of the National Organization for Women. Born in Illinois, Friedan graduated from Smith College in 1942 and studied psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. After college, she worked as a writer and editor before marrying and starting a family in 1947.

In 1963, Friedan published The Feminine Mystique. Based on her own experiences and interviews with others, the book explored the discontent plaguing many middle-class women. In 1966, Friedan was a key figure in the founding of the National Organization for Women and was elected its first president. During her tenure as president (1966-1970), NOW scored several victories in its battle against gender discrimination in the workplace, including convincing President Johnson to prohibit federal contractors from practicing gender discrimination and pressuring the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to ban sex-segregated job ads.

Many feminists criticized the relatively moderate agenda advanced by Friedan. Some were critical of her initial reluctance to embrace lesbian rights as a women's issue. Others argued that she ignored the needs of poor, non-white, and unskilled working women.

In later years, Friedan directed her energies toward other issues, in particular, aging. In 1993, she published The Fountain of Age, challenging yet another series of cultural stereotypes.

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