Betty Friedan and the Making of "The Feminine Mystique"
The American Left, the Cold War, and Modern Feminism
A groundbreaking study of one of the major figures in the history of modern feminism
Ever since the 1963 publication of her landmark book, The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan has insisted that her commitment to women's rights grew out of her experiences as an alienated suburban housewife. Yet as Daniel Horowitz persuasively demonstrates in this illuminating and provocative biography, the roots of Friedan's feminism run much deeper than she has led us to believe. Drawing on an impressive body of new research—including Friedan's own papers—Horowitz traces the development of Friedan's feminist outlook from her childhood in Peoria, Illinois, through her wartime years at Smith College and Berkeley, to her decade-long career as a writer for two of the period's most radical labor journals, the Federated Press and the United Electrical Workers' UE News. He further shows that even after she married and began to raise a family, Friedan continued during the 1950s to write and work on behalf of a wide range of progressive social causes. By resituating Friedan within a broader cultural context, and by offering a fresh reading of The Feminine Mystique against that background, Horowitz not only overturns conventional ideas about "second wave" feminism but also reveals long submerged links to its past.
"A book that will be read, enjoyed, pondered, and debated. It is literate, broadly grounded in the intellectual and political currents of the era, reflects meticulous and imaginative sleuthing in archival sources, and is written in graceful and accessible prose."—Dorothy Sue Cobble, Rutgers University, New Brunswick
"A compelling story. The melding of genres—biography, exposé, historical monograph—should make the book useful in classrooms and also enhance its readership outside the university. . . . The book will make a big splash in and out of the historical profession."—Joanne Meyerowitz, editor of Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Postwar America, 1945-1960
"Horowitz's careful reconstruction of Friedan's radical past exposes unexpected continuities between generations of radical thinkers and activists, and forces a reconsideration of the oft-noted class and racial limitations of Friedan's book. His argument—judiciously framed yet bold in its implications—is built upon a meticulous piecing together of sometimes fragmentary evidence, and insures that we will never again see Friedan and the movement she came to stand for in quite the same ways."—Lois Palken Rudnick, author of Utopian Vistas: The Mabel Dodge Luhan House and the American Counterculture