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What Betty Friedan Saw Coming

Judith Warner describes Betty Friedan's legacy and how the women's movement she talked about is only half-accomplished today.

Authors

  • Judith Warner

When Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique — the now-classic book that turns 50 next week and is generally credited with launching the modern women’s movement in America — unmarried women in more than half the United States weren’t allowed access to contraception. Married women in some states couldn’t sit on juries, get a job without their husband’s permission, or keep control of their property and earnings.

Today that world seems almost quaintly remote: an exotic long-lost era we revisit with love-hate fascination by watching Mad Men. The “happy housewifes heroines” of those years are grandmothers now, and a great many — having found new lives beyond their homes in the 1970s (whether by choice or necessity) — bear little resemblance to the “sweet, simpering and sort of stupid” femininity that Friedan once described as the ideal of her day.

The above excerpt was originally published in TIME. Click here to view the full article.

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Authors

Judith Warner

Senior Fellow