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Betty Friedan Publishes The Feminine Mystique

1963

By

Betty Friedan

Portrait of feminist author and social activist Betty Friedan (circa late 1970s or early 1980s)

Susan Wood/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1963, Betty Friedan's groundbreaking feminist book, The Feminine Mystique, hit the shelves. In her book, Friedan discussed her discovery of a problem that had formed within post-World War II society that she called, "the problem that has no name."

 

 

 

The Problem

The problem stemmed from the growing expectation that women in American society should enjoy the benefits provided by the new, modern, time-saving appliances and thus make their role in society exclusively based on maintaining their home, pleasing their husbands, and raising their children. As Friedan explained it in the first chapter of The Feminine Mystique, "The suburban housewife -- she was the dream image of the young American women and the envy, it was said, of women all over the world."

The problem with this idealized, 1950s image of women in society was that many women were discovering that in reality, they were not happy with this limited role. Friedan had discovered a growing discontent that many women couldn't quite explain.

 

Second-Wave Feminism

In The Feminine Mystique, Friedan examines and confronts this stay-at-home mom role for women. By doing so, Friedan awakened renewed discussion about roles for women in society and this book becomes credited as one of the major influences of second-wave feminism (feminism in the last half of the twentieth century).

Although Friedan's book helped change the way women were perceived within U.S. society in the latter half of the century, some detractors complained this "feminine mystique" problem was only a problem for the wealthy, suburban housewives and did not include many other segments of the female population, including the poor. However, despite any detractors, the book was revolutionary for its time. After writing The Feminine Mystique, Friedan went on to become one of the most influential activists of the women's movement.

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