Betty Friedan

“The Problem that has No Name”

Betty Friedan grew up in Peoria the daughter of a jeweler and a stay-at-home mom. When Betty Friedan married in 1947, the breadwinner husband and wife with kids at home was still widely considered the middle-class ideal.

Friedan began interrogating this ideal after the birth of her second child while also balancing her career as a journalist. She surveyed her Smith College classmates and Friedan’s findings led her to write The Feminine Mystique, in which she critiqued white, middle-class women’s roles in 1960s society. In her book she asks, “Who knows what women can be when they are finally free to become themselves? Who knows what women’s intelligence will contribute when it can be nourished without denying love?” The book became a sensation, causing women around the world to reexamine their own ideas of home and limited gender roles. Friedan’s activism led her to join with Pauli Murray and Aileen Hernandez in establishing the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966.


Object label:

The Feminine Mystique

A first edition of Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking The Feminine Mystique.

Courtesy of the Illinois State Library

Social Links