Betty Friedan, writer and feminist leader, born in Peoria, Illinois, USA. A summa cum laude graduate from Smith (1942), she was awarded fellowships for working toward a doctorate in psychology, but abandoned this under the influence of what she would later call ‘the feminine mystique’. She married in 1947, and for almost the next 20 years lived the life of a conventional suburban housewife and mother.
(She had three children and was divorced in 1969.) As a result of surveys of female college graduates, she came to identify certain problems that women were experiencing in their lives, and after several years of research she published The Feminine Mystique (1963), an expose of the traditional roles assigned to women in modern industrial societies. Although not an especially profound critique, it became an international best-seller and is credited with generating the so-called second wave of modern feminism. In 1966 she co-founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) and served as its first president (1966-70), moving on to other activities promoting the advancement of women.
Through her writings, lecturing, organizational work, and outspokenness, she became one of the most influential feminist leaders of the late 20th-c. In 1982, feeling that some individuals and elements of the feminist movement had moved off into extreme positions, she published The Second Stage, calling for a more balanced approach in the women’s movement, and in 1993 she published The Fountain of Age about the ways that older people can find satisfaction in their lives.