How Betty Friedan Responded to Her Critics

I’m proud to say that I am a strong, independent woman, because of the women who fought for women’s rights and am thankful for those women who continued to fight for that right. If it weren’t so, I wouldn’t be going back to college, I wouldn’t be able to say I’m a military veteran that served on board a ship…


When The Feminine Mystique hit bookstores on Feb. 19, 1963, more than a few readers dismissed author Betty Friedan’s claims as dangerous. “If most mothers followed her advice, divorce and juvenile delinquency would increase tremendously,” read one letter to the editors at LIFE. “By the time American women have been indoctrinated by Betty Freidan and Simone de Beauvoir, they’re ready to commit mass suicide,” read another.

To these readers, Friedan’s identification of “the problem that has no name”—the elusive sadness of housewives whose lives revolved around vacuums and burp cloths rather than self-actualization—represented a threat to the social order. To Friedan, it was long past time to name the source of so many women’s unhappiness so that steps could be taken to address it.

The words “anger” and “angry” appear frequently in reviews and reactions published in response to the book. LIFE called Friedan an “Angry Battler for Her Sex,”…

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