Friedan is a theoretical physicist specializing in string theory, an approach to unifying gravity by taking account of weak, strong, and electromagnetic interactions. He is a member of the Institute for Advanced Study.
Friedan made waves with her publication of The Feminine Mystique in 1963 and its subsequent reissue the following year, encouraging women to participate in politics by co-founding the National Organization for Women in 1966 and serving as its first president.
Early Life and Education
Friedan was born Betty Naomi Goldstein on February 4, 1921 in Peoria, Illinois to a Jewish jeweler father and an editorial assistant who left her job at a newspaper to become a housewife. An eager student, Friedan excelled at Smith College – an esteemed women’s institution where she majored in psychology while editing its newspaper – where she majored in editing as a major and edited its campus newspaper as editor-in-chief.
Friedan came to her conclusion after surveying her Smith classmates that many suburban women were discontented with their traditional roles as wife and mother. As a result, she wrote The Feminine Mystique which became a best seller and ignited second-wave feminism. Additionally, Friedan became one of the founding leaders of the National Organization for Women pushing for equal pay laws as well as other issues impacting women.
Friedan gained insight into her contemporaries’ lives from working as a journalist during the 1940s and 50s as she designed a questionnaire for Smith College 15th reunion (1957) reunions, leading her to publish The Feminine Mystique; its analysis of women’s roles and status had profound effects on both the United States and worldwide.
Friedan used sociological research and her writing abilities to convince readers that their problems were social rather than personal, and could be resolved through collective action. One woman told Friedan she read her book and felt “her sanity, if not even her life”, had been saved after reading.
Series VI, General Correspondence 1961-1993 (#718f-1074o), contains invitations to speak; requests for autographs; notices of art, literary and political functions; notices of public meetings; fliers; correspondence with members of the public, authors, publishers as well as correspondence with editors or members of organizations (where applicable).
Achievement and Honors
Friedan was an outspoken feminist activist and author of The Feminine Mystique, the book that helped launch the women’s movement in America. She campaigned for equal rights for all women and founded the National Organization for Women (NOW). Additionally, Friedan campaigned tirelessly for abortion rights; helping change outdated abortion laws with her activism.
Friedan was actively engaged in women’s issues up until her death at age 86, publishing six books and frequently appearing as a guest on television shows.
Carl Friedan was her husband, and they had two children – Jonathon and Emily. She passed away in June 1996. Daniel Friedan is currently teaching physics at Rutgers University where his work involves developing theories for two-dimensional systems that could apply to problems associated with string theory – an approach to unifying gravity with strong, weak, and electromagnetic interactions.
Friedan rose to fame with the publication of her 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique. This work caused an immediate social revolution by challenging the perception that women desired only domestic duties as housewives. Many attribute its publication with sparking second-wave feminism.
After her marriage ended in divorce, Friedan turned her energies towards advocating for women’s equality and became an activist; writing numerous articles, books, and speeches as she campaigned on this cause.
She co-founded and served as president of the National Organization for Women in 1966, lobbying for pay equity, child care access and abortion rights. Friedan died of heart failure at her Washington, D.C. residence on February 4th 2006 at age 87; her son Daniel now works on string theory and condensed matter research.