Previously published in Examiner
Part 6 of the Betty Friedan series
Montreal Women of the early 1960’s and 1970’s was very involved with the early feminist movement and look towards Betty Freidan as a pioneer into the new movement of empowering women.
Betty Freidan America’s premiere feminist
Betty Freidan brought out the issues of how we as women fought for our rights to an education and a career throughout the 20th century; yet women of the 50’s and early 60’s reverted back to the housewife role and mother. She stated that 47 percent of American women went to college in the 1920’s and by the 1950’s it was down to 35 percent. Freidan also pointed out that women of the 1950’s and 1960’s were concerned with beauty and femininity, dyeing their hair blond, looking as pretty as they could for their husbands but not at all concerned about an education. Their goal in life was to find a man and make him marry them. They did not think that they would have needs or wants beyond pleasing a man, having a clean house, raising children, and looking beautiful. It was also the era when many women were bleach-blonds just like Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield. According to Freidan when women did go to college, it wasn’t to learn physics or history it was to catch a man. Learning physics was not “feminine”.
Freidan lamented over the fact that women could do anything if they let themselves do it, just like the women of the past who had paved the way for them. Yet somehow all the gains of womanhood through history were forgotten by the women of her generation.
Paving a way to a new future
The Feminine Mystique caught the attention of many women and got them to thinking about where they have been and where they were headed. One thing was clear, women wanted to be somebody, not just somebody’s wife or somebody’s mother. Women were attending consciousness raising sessions and beginning to question old world values while trying to forge new world values of their own. They were challenging the social mores of the time, lobbying for reform
Many historians believe that the work of Betty Freidan was the impetus for the second wave of feminism while affecting worldviews and world events.
To be continued