Remembering Betty Friedan

Madison Adler and Neeti Reddy

We all know about Eleanor Roosevelt and Michelle Obama, but how many of us know the names of the women from our own city who have made a lasting impact on world?  In honor of Women’s History Month, I would like to tell you about one of the many influential women from Peoria, Betty Friedan, and how she helped shape the world we live in today.

Betty Friedan was born on February 4th, 1921 in Peoria and attended Peoria High School when she was a teenager. During her time in high school, she discovered her passion for writing when she became involved in her school newspaper. In 1947, Betty Friedan married Carl Friedan and the couple moved to Rockland County. Friedan was a housewife, but provided for her family by writing for women’s magazines on the side.

In 1941, her writing career took flight as she became editor-in-chief of SCAN (Smith College Associated News.) Under her role as editor-in-chief, the editorials became more political and opinionated. Friedan eventually made her way to more respected journals such as Federated Press and United Electrical Workers (UE) News. Her interest in worker’s rights and advocacy was expressed in her writing. This soon gave way to a career in writing and publishing books for women’s rights.

Friedan’s most famous book is The Feminine Mystique. She wrote the book in 1963 and it has been credited with launching the modern-day feminist movement. Friedan wrote about the many hardships women have endured throughout history, such as the depression women feel when they must live up to the housewife stereotype. In 1999, she was interviewed by the Peoria Journal Star and asked if there was anything she took from her time growing up in Peoria that influenced her writing.  She replied, “A certain rootedness. A sense of solidarity. The power of community. A can-do spirit… If there was a problem, you could organize in the community to deal with the problem.” Peoria’s close-knit community spirit shaped Friedan into the feminist that she became, inspiring future generations of women to come.

Unfortunately, Betty Friedan is no longer with us as she died on her birthday in 2006. However, her work remains prized. Friedan was able to show the reality that many women were living. The world tried to tear her down more than once, but she knew that many women go through similar experiences. Her time growing up in Peoria helped her realize that. I think she’s a great example of a woman that we can all look up to. Thank you, Betty Friedan, for all you’ve done and how much you have impacted the lives of women all over the world.