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Betty Friedan, Her Life Essay, Research Paper

1.) Betty Friedan, Her Life

2.) Born, February 4, 1921

3.) Betty was born at the beginning of the decade of change, coincidentally one year after the 19th Amendment was passed, giving women the right to vote. The twenties were years of carefree living. Women were cutting their hair, shortening hemlines, and driving, now that the automobile was available. Her parents, Harry and Miriam Goldstein were very active in the jewish community and fairly wealthy. Betty grew up priviledged with butlers and maids tending to her every need. Despite all of this, Betty did not have the most enjoyable childhood. Growing up in a time when beauty was highly focused on, Betty had a number of physical ailments. She had bow legs and had to wear braces on them for three years. Bronchitis affected her every winter, which developed into asthma. She could hardly see out of one eye and had to wear glasses, and had crooked teeth.

Harry and Miriam placed high value on appearances, which didn’t agree with Betty. She never kept her room clean and didn’t care about dresses and things. Her family members said she was too smart to be interested in ordinary things. She was also her father’s favorite and he treated her like a son. Unfortunately, her and her mother clashed. They were both controlling. Miriam dominated Betty, and Betty resented it a great deal. In her early years, Betty tried to measure herself to her mother and would always fall short. It took her a few years to realize that the perfect image of motherhood, along with beauty, talent, and strength, was only a fa ade, and something she never wanted to be. From there, she told herself that she would be more than a wife and mother.

Betty was eight years old when the depression hit. The Goldstein’s were never poor, but all the little luxuries had to be done away with. Harry and Miriam would often argue in the middle of the night over expenses. Battlefields at the dinner table, where Harry would pound his fist on the table and storm out of the room set the mood for many of Betty’s later battles in the women’s movement. This also led to Betty’s discomfort with money matters.

Betty had many immediate friends throughout her youth. She was also a mischievous child. She would start clubs like the Baddy Baddy club (foreshadowing her numerous future organizations). Her and her schoolmates would plan certain times to drop their books or break out into coughing fits. Sadly, around junior high, anti-Semitism grew and those in the Jewish community were excluded from the many new sororities and fraternities. Her whole social whirl had come to an end. High school was thought to be a new beginning, but she still had problems. Betty overwhelmed people and had a bossy streak and strong opinions, which led her to become an outcast.

She had an outlet in drama clubs, and participated in many writing clubs at her school. She started Tide, a literary magazine, with two other girls; Evelyn Shemas and Dorothy Stimpson. She graduated June 9, 1938 as one of 6 valedictorians.

She attended Smith College where she made a huge name for herself. Everyone knew the girl with the 180 IQ and the fire in her belly. She was brilliant, and let everybody know it. Even during WWII, while American intervention was the popular idea, Betty was against it, and took a lot of heat for it. Every obstacle Betty faced in her life, only paved the way for her great accomplishments to come.

4.) Betty Friedan made a monumental change in women politics. She, not only, founded the National Organization for Women (NOW), but also helped organize the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) in 1971, the International Feminist Congress in 1973, and the First Women’s Bank in that same year. The idea of NOW came about during a conversation, and was finalized at a Women’s conference. Its constitution was written on a paper napkin. It’s purpose was “to take action to bring women into the full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.” NOW has gone on to obtain more than a dozen resolutions on many different issues affecting women. Some of these include women in poverty, the Equal Right Amendment, and lesbian rights.

NOW was probably her biggest accomplishment. She served as president until 1970. Along with her amazing political career, she was a lecturer, she was active in the academic community, and an accomplished author. Betty’s most famous book, The Feminine Mystique, challenged the nation’s idea that women were only good as housewives. Her other books, It Changed My Life, The Second Stage, and The Fountain of Age, were about everything from her political years to the novelty of growing old.

5.) Betty’s main driving force is difficult to pinpoint. It’s possible that her mother, being the epitome of femininity, and motherhood, could have pushed Betty to break beyond the cookie cutter lifestyle of that which her mother seemed the poster girl for. It could also be

the isolation she felt from other children because she was so different.

I think, that it was all Betty, herself. Her enormous intelligence, passion, talent, and not-so-enormous beauty all wrapped up into one gave her the edge she needed to do what she dreamed. She was never looked upon as attractive, too smart for her own good, a girl, outspoken, and she was Jewish. She seemed to model the social outcast. Luckily she was strong. I think it may have been her father who instilled, in her, those qualities she needed to speak up. The superficial fantasies going on all around her disgusted her so much that she had to liberate herself from it, as well as find a way to change it. She was raised to be poised and proper, and always take care of appearances, but she couldn’t live in the cloud that masked real life forever. She was one who noticed what real life was like, and was also the one to say it out loud when she did. Betty Friedan used all the things about her that society labeled as unladylike, and used them for the good of all women.


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