Betty Friedan & Her Fight For Women'S Rights
The Problem that Has No Name was written by Betty Friedan, a mother, a writer, a proponent of women’s rights to their own bodies, and the freedom to choose a place in the world other than just the home. Betty lived in Rockland, NY and was a housewife raising three children. Although she had been raised in Peoria, IL in a typical Jewish home and grew up with Jewish traditions, she herself was an agnostic. She had had the privilege of going to an all-girls college for her education, called Smith College. (Amico, E. B., 2013).
She had become a magazine writer and as writers are prone to do, enjoyed listening to others conversations to find subject matter with which to write about. Friedan herself had many reasons to be a proponent of women’s rights. Her own mother had given up her career when she married, and encouraged Friedan to get an education. She did, and was working as a reporter when veterans returned home from the war. Forced to give up her reporter job, she was assigned a “women’s job” of researcher. When she did marry, she kept her job, but upon her requesting maternity leave for her second child, she was fired.
In 1963 she would boldly write a book called “The Feminine Mystique” which would shock many and inspire even more to a call for action. She herself realizing just writing about feminists’ ideals was not enough co-founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. The Problem that Has No Name began as a way of telling how her eyes were opened to the truths that lie beneath the surface for a multitude of women. After years of women being taught that their destiny, their truth, was to live the life of a homemaker and that there was “no greater destiny than to glory in their own femininity.” (Friedan, B. (1963) she heard voices speaking a different truth. Friedan describes the state of how life was for women – homemakers from young ages being encouraged to start a family, and have babies, decreasing female collegiate attendance, women being taught to embrace sewing, decorating, choosing home appliances, and taking care of their man. She then hears the perfect bubble burst in conversation all around her.
First, from housewife’s sharing how incomplete and angry they felt. Then, as more women shared and realized they weren’t the only ones, Friedan’s researcher brain turned on and she begins to notice more happening. There were television conversations like “The Trapped Housewife”, and other shows placing the housewife’s dissatisfaction on reasons like bad repairmen, and having to drive their kids too far, or too much school PTA responsibilities. As excuses were made and schemes were devised to help the poor housewife Freidan equates and states the following, “For human suffering there is a reason; perhaps the reason has not been found because the right questions have not been asked, or pressed far enough.” She goes on to say in a profound statement, “The women who suffer this problem have a hunger that food cannot fill.”
This feeling became her driving force to encourage the rights of women to choose their own destiny and to fight not just for civil rights of others, but for their own rights to use their talents for more than housework. (Friedan, B. (1963).
It was a starting conversation that allowed the Feminist Movement to break the ice and start fighting for their own rights. When the National Organization for Women was founded it was a small group of smart and educated women fighting for the Civil Rights Act. As they were passionately working for the rights of all, they realized their own rights as women weren’t being taken seriously, but rather were being danced around as other problems. As women began meeting in the early 1970’s “in suburban kitchens, college dorm rooms, and churches or synagogues” they “created “consciousness-raising” groups to talk about power and patriarchy, romance and marriage, sexuality, abortion, health care, work, and family.” (Norton, 2015) These conversations birthed other conversations about owning their own bodies and entered into abortion rights. By the end of the 1970’s so many things would change for women (first female Rhodes scholars in 1977, first female president of the Harvard Law Review in 1977) due to the persistence of the NOW. (Norton, 2015).