Betty Friedan, author of the groundbreaking book (The Feminine Mystique)that helped launch the contemporary women’s movement, died today at the age of 85. “Not only did her book define the problem of the lesser status of women, but she also had the courage to launch a movement and an organization, the National Organization for Women, to change that status forever,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation and a former president of the National Organization for Women.
“Women of my generation owe Betty Friedan a great debt,” said Katherine Spillar, executive editor of Ms. magazine. “Had Friedan not defined the problem that had no name and helped start the National Organization for Women, opportunities in education, employment, and public life that my generation has enjoyed might not have been possible.”
“Betty Friedan was a giant for women’s rights and a leading catalyst of the 20th century whose work led to profound changes improving the status of women and women’s lives in the United States and throughout the world,” said Smeal. “She faced ridicule, scorn, anger, and personal denigration, but she never faltered in her advocacy for fundamental changes to improve the lives of women.”
“Like any icon or giant, Betty’s vision was limited by her time,” Spillar said. “One of her great shortcomings is that she was slow to endorse the fight for lesbian and gay rights as a part of the feminist movement. But she did finally vigorously endorse the movement for lesbian rights in 1978 at the International Women’s Year conference in Houston, Texas before an audience of 20,000 and an even greater worldwide audience.”
“The movement that Friedan’s energy sparked continues to grow, and is bigger today than she could ever have dreamed when she helped launch it in the 1960s,” said Smeal. “Many of the advances for women and girls that we all celebrate and enjoy would not have been possible without her determination and pioneering spirit to challenge the inequities when others dared not speak.”
“The feminist movement continues to change women’s lives today, as reflected on the pages of Ms. magazine,” said Spillar. Ms. magazine is encouraging all those whose lives were changed by Betty Friedan and the modern women’s movement to post their stories at MsMagazine.com.