Feminist leader dies at 85

Bryan Wroten

Women remember the life of Betty Friedan

A pioneer of the women’s movement passed away Saturday.

Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique and founder of the National Organization for Women, died of congestive heart failure, the Associated Press reported. She was 85.

“In 1963, it’s a pretty radical idea,” said Martha Cutter, associate professor of English, about the premise of Friedan’s book.

After World War II, Cutter said women were pushed to get married, have kids and be housewives. Friedan’s book showed that only being allowed to be a housewife was why many were unhappy.

“People thought it ludicrous that women could do anything a man could do,” Cutter said. “We take it for granted today.”

Cutter said she teaches a chapter from Friedan’s book in her classes titled “The problem that has no name,” referring to the dissatisfaction women felt.

Kathe Davis, associate professor of English, said The Feminine Mystique was the first book of the feminist movement. She said Friedan was part of the Second Wave of the movement. The Suffragist Movement was the First Wave, which ended in 1920.

“People thought the battle was over then,” she said. “After the Great Depression and World War II, Betty Friedan noticed there was a battle yet to be won.”

Davis, former director of Women’s Studies, said while people now would not consider Friedan’s ideas radical, it was new for people in the 1960s. She focused on equality between men and women, Davis said. She was against making men the enemy.

One of the focuses of feminism is breaking down gender roles, said Emily Costa, Feminist Union vice president. She said while it is becoming more common, it is not commonplace for men to stay home while their wives go to work. More men want to be more than just breadwinners – they want to be fathers, she said.

Having choices available to men and women are important to their happiness, Davis said.

“We all understand and believe that better gender arrangements would make happier men and women,” she said.

Contact minority affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].