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Betty Friedan

BIRTHDAY: February 14, 1921

Betty Friedan was born the year after U.S. women won the right to vote. She became a journalist during World War II when there were more positions available because the male journalists were off at war. As a reporter for the Workers' Press in New York, Betty Friedan saw that women were paid a fraction of what men were paid and were then fired when the men returned from war. And, when Betty Friedan asked for maternity leave she too was fired.

After devoting nearly a decade taking care of her family at home, the life she had been told should make her the most happy as a woman, Betty Friedan still felt incomplete. She started questioning her friends and found to her surprise they felt the same way. Thus began The Feminine Mystique, the book that launched the Women's Liberation Movement. Its basis was that women's unhappiness was caused by society which "does not permit women to accept or gratify their basic need to grow and fulfill their potentialities as human beings."

Soon after this Betty Friedan helped found NOW (National Organization of Women) and became its first president. She worked to pass Title VII as well as the Equal Rights Amendment. She has been a visiting scholar at many universities and think tanks around the country, including Yale, Columbia, the Kennedy School of Government and the Woodrow Wilson Institute for International Scholars in Washington, D.C.


  • Co-founder of NOW and its first president
  • Humanist of the Year - 1975
  • Distinguished Professor of Social Evolution at Mount Vernon College in Washington, D.C.
  • Adjunct scholar at the Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution
  • First recipient of the American Society of Journalists and Authors' Mort Weisinger Award for Outstanding Magazine Journalism - 1979
  • The Eleanor Roosevelt Leadership Award - 1989

The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan
It Changed My Life, Betty Friedan
The Second Stage, Betty Friedan
Particular Passions, Lynn Gilbert and Gaylen Moore
Women Champions of Human Rights, Moira Davison Reynolds

Search our past database for famous women astronauts, politicians, athletes, mathematicians, authors, and educators: More Women of Achievement.



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