Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique (1963), died yesterday. Margalit Fox of the San Fransico Chronicle writes, "With its impassioned yet clear-eyed analysis of the issues that affected women's lives in the decades after World War II -- including enforced domesticity, limited career prospects and, as chronicled in later editions, the campaign for legalized abortion -- "The Feminine Mystique" is widely regarded as one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century."
Online literary magazine Slate has an article by Friedan's friend and Slate editor, Emily Bazelon, fondly remembering a lesser known side to the famously assertive feminist. Bazelon tells about clothes shopping with a less confident Friedan. "From this shopping expedition I learned that you can have the confidence to take over any room in the world except a dressing room. You can start a revolution and still worry that you lack good taste. You can be a make-way-for-me feminist—the feminist, in fact, who was famously bitter about losing the spotlight to younger, more glamorous women like Gloria Steinem—and still, almost despite your ideals, want to find a dress that flatters you. In the 1960s and '70s, Betty was part of a wave of feminism that assiduously strove to free women from caring about what they looked like, thinking that preoccupation incompatible with the aims of equality. But Betty was never as radical as some of her peers. And though they attacked her for that, her views have proved more durable."
Regrettably, like many women who have benefited from Friedan's activism and revolutionary ideas, I never really read her book from cover to cover. It would be a good time to do that.