Betty Friedan (Writer/Activist/Feminist)

betty-friedan.jpgBetty Friedan (February 4, 1921 - February 4, 2006) was an American writer, activist and feminist.

A leading figure in the "Second Wave" of the U.S. Women's Movement, her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique is sometimes credited with sparking the "second wave" of feminism.

Friedan co-founded National Organization for Women in 1966 which aimed to bring women "into the mainstream of American society now [in] fully equal partnership with men".

In 1970, after stepping down as NOW's first president in 1969, Friedan organized the nation-wide Women's Strike for Equality on August 26, the 50th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution granting women the right to vote.

The national strike was successful beyond expectations in broadening the feminist movement. The New York City march alone attracted over 50,000 women.

Friedan joined other leading feminists (including Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bella Abzug, and Myrlie Evers-Williams) in founding the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971. In 1977 she joined some of the movement's most visible and influential leaders, and 20,000 other women, at the International Women's Year federally-funded convention, the National Women's Conference, a legislative conference which sent a report to President Jimmy Carter, the United States Congress, and all the states on how to achieve equality.

Friedan was a strong proponent of the repeal of abortion laws, founding the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, which after abortion was legalized in 1973, became the National Abortion Rights Action League. She was also a strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution and of many women's laws.

Though somewhat eclipsed by Gloria Steinem as America's preeminent feminist, Friedan continued to be an influential author and intellectual and remained active in politics and advocacy for the rest of her life, authoring six books. One of her later books, The Second Stage, critiqued what Friedan saw as the extremist excesses of some feminists who could be broadly classified as gender feminists.

In 1966 Friedan co-founded, and became the first president of, the National Organization for Women. She, with Pauli Murray, the first black female Episcopal priest, wrote its mission statement. Friedan stepped down as president in 1969.

Under Friedan, NOW advocated fiercely for the legal equality of women and men. They lobbied for enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the first two major legislative victories of the movement, and forced the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to stop ignoring, and start treating with dignity and urgency, claims filed involving sex discrimination.

They successfully campaigned for a 1967 Executive Order extending the same Affirmative Action granted to blacks to women and a 1968 EEOC decision ruling illegal sex-segregated help want ads, later upheld by the Supreme Court. NOW was vocal in support of the legalization of abortion, something that divided some feminists. Also divisive in the 1960s among women was the Equal Rights Amendment, which NOW fully endorsed; by the 1970s the women and labor unions opposed to ERA warmed up to it and began to fully support it. NOW also lobbied for national day-care.

In 1973, Friedan founded the First Women's Bank and Trust Company.

In 1970, NOW, with Friedan leading the cause, was instrumental in bringing down the nomination of G. Harrold Carswell, who had opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act which granted women and men workplace equality, to the Supreme Court. On August 26, 1970, the 50th anniversary of the Women's Suffrage Amendment to the Constitution, Friedan organized the national Women's Strike for Equality, and led a march of 50,000 women in New York City. Unbelievably successful, the march expanded the movement widely, to Friedan's delight.

Friedan founded the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, renamed National Abortion Rights Action League after the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973.

In 1971 Friedan, along with countless other leading women's movement leaders, including Gloria Steinem, with whom she had a legendary rivalry, founded the National Women's Political Caucus.

In 1970 Friedan led other feminists in derailing the nomination of Supreme Court nominee G. Harold Carswell whose record of racial discrimination and antifeminism made him unacceptable and unfit to sit on the highest court in the land to many in the civil rights and feminist movements. Friedan's empassioned testimony before the Senate helped sink Carswell's nomination.

In 1972, Friedan unsuccessfully ran as a delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention in support of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. That year at the DNC Friedan played a very prominent role and addressed the convention, though she clashed with other women, notably Steinem, on what should be done there, and how.


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