“A lucid portrait of Friedan as a bold yet flawed advocate for women’s equality.”—Publishers Weekly
The feminist writer and activist Betty Friedan (1921–2006), pathbreaking author of The Feminine Mystique, was powerful and polarizing. In this biography, the first in more than twenty years, Rachel Shteir draws on Friedan’s papers and on interviews with family, colleagues, and friends to create a nuanced portrait.
Friedan, born Bettye Naomi Goldstein, chafed at society’s restrictions from a young age. As a journalist she covered racism, sexism, labor, class inequality, and anti-Semitism. As a wife and mother, she struggled to balance her work and homemaking. Her malaise as a housewife and her research into the feelings of other women resulted in The Feminine Mystique (1963), which made her a celebrity.
Using her influence, Friedan cofounded the National Organization for Women, the National Women’s Political Caucus, and the National Association to Repeal Abortion Laws. She fought for the Equal Rights Amendment, universal childcare, and workplace protections for mothers, but she disagreed with the women’s liberation movement over “sexual politics.” Her volatility and public conflicts fractured key relationships.
Shteir considers how Friedan’s Judaism was essential to her feminism, presenting a new Friedan for a new era.
“Rigorously fair.”—Moira Donegan, New Yorker
“Rachel Shteir offers a vivid portrait of Friedan as a person—her difficult character, her immense accomplishments, her relationships with friends and family, her struggles in personal, professional and political life. The time is ripe for a reevaluation of Friedan.”—Katha Pollitt, author of Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights
“Sympathetic but never less than clear-eyed, Rachel Shteir explores the achievements that put Betty Friedan at the center of the movement for women’s rights. An insightful and meticulously detailed portrait of one of America’s most successful political activists.”—Sigrid Nunez, author of Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag