The Feminine Mystique

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The Feminine Mystique
The Feminine Mystique.jpg
Author Betty Friedan
Country United States
Language English
Subject Feminism
Genre Nonfiction
Publisher W.W. Norton and Co.
Publication date
February 19, 1963[1]
Pages 239
ISBN 0-393-32257-2

The Feminine Mystique is a 1963 book by Betty Friedan ex=1296795600&en=30472e5004a66ea3&ei=5090 Betty Friedan, Who Ignited Cause in 'Feminine Mystique,' Dies at 85] - The New York Times, February 5, 2006.</ref>

In 1957, Friedan was asked to conduct a survey of her former Smith College classmates for their 15th anniversary reunion; the results, in which she found that many of them were unhappy with their lives as housewives, prompted her to begin research for The Feminine Mystique, conducting interviews with other suburban housewives, as well as researching psychology, media, and advertising. She originally intended to publish an article on the topic, not a book, but no magazine would publish her article.[2][3]

Intended sequel[edit]

Friedan originally intended to write a sequel to The Feminine Mystique, which was to be called "Woman: The Fourth Dimension," but instead only wrote an article by that title, which appeared in the Ladies' Home Journal in June 1964.[4][5]


Friedan's essay on "The Sexual Solipsism of Sigmund Freud" was inspired by Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex.[6]


The Feminine Mystique is widely regarded as one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century, and is widely credited with sparking the beginning of second-wave feminism in the United States. Futurist Alvin Toffler declared that it "pulled the trigger on history."[7] Friedan received hundreds of letters from unhappy housewives after its publication, and she herself went on to help found, and become the first president of[8] the National Organization for Women, an influential feminist organization.[9]

By the year 2000, The Feminine Mystique had sold more than 3 million copies and had been translated into many foreign languages.[7]

On February 22 and 23, 2013, a symposium titled React: The Feminine Mystique at 50, co-sponsored by The New School for Public Engagement and Parsons the New School for Design, was held.[10][11] An accompanying exhibit titled REACT was also on display, consisting of twenty-five pieces of artwork responding to The Feminine Mystique.[10]

Also in February 2013, a fiftieth-anniversary edition of The Feminine Mystique was published, with a new introduction by Gail Collins.[12]

Also in 2013, to celebrate its centennial the U.S. Department of Labor created a list of over 100 Books that Shaped Work in America, which included The Feminine Mystique. [13][14] The Department of Labor later chose The Feminine Mystique as one of its top ten books from that list.[14]

In 2014 the Betty Friedan Hometown Tribute committee won the Superior Achievement award in the special projects category for its 50th anniversary celebration of the publication of The Feminine Mystique. [15] They received the award from the Illinois State Historical Society.[15]


Historian Joanne Meyerowitz argues (in "Beyond the Feminine Mystique: A Reassessment of Postwar Mass Culture, 1946-1958," Journal of American History 79, March 1993) that many of the contemporary magazines and articles of the period did not place women solely in the home, as Friedan stated, but in fact supported the notions of full- or part-time jobs for women seeking to follow a career path rather than being a housewife.[16]

Daniel Horowitz, a Professor of American Studies at Smith College points out that although Friedan presented herself as a typical suburban housewife, she was involved with radical politics and labor journalism in her youth, and during the time she wrote The Feminine Mystique she worked as a freelance journalist for women's magazines and as a community organizer.[17][18]

In addition, Friedan has been criticized for focusing solely on the plight of middle-class white women, and not giving enough attention to the differing situations encountered by women in less stable economic situations, or women of other races. She has also been criticized for prejudice against homosexuality.[19][20]


In 2009, produced an audio version of The Feminine Mystique, narrated by Parker Posey, as part of its Modern Vanguard line of audiobooks.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Addison, Heather; Goodwin-Kelly, Mary Kate; Roth, Elaine (2009). Motherhood misconceived: representing the maternal in U.S. film. SUNY Press. p. 29. ISBN 1-4384-2812-X. 
  2. ^ "Betty Friedan - Obituaries, News". The Independent. 7 February 2006. Retrieved 2011-02-18. 
  3. ^ Post Store (February 5, 2006). "Voice of Feminism's 'Second Wave'". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-18. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Webster, Richard (2005). Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis. Oxford: The Orwell Press. p. 22. ISBN 0-9515922-5-4. 
  7. ^ a b Betty Friedan, Who Ignited Cause in 'Feminine Mystique,' Dies at 85 - The New York Times, February 5, 2006.
  8. ^ McGuire, William; Leslie Wheeler (2013). Betty Friedan. Retrieved January 12, 2013. 
  9. ^ It changed my life: writings on the women's movement (reprint ed.). Harvard University Press. 1998. ISBN 0-674-46885-6. Retrieved 2011-02-18. 
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ Joanne Meyerowitz, "Beyond the Feminine Mystique: A Reassessment of Postwar Mass Culture, 1946-1958," Journal of American History 79 (March 1993): 1455-1482.p.1459
  17. ^ "AWM Book Review: Betty Friedan". Association for Women in Mathematics. September–October 1999. Retrieved 2011-02-18. 
  18. ^ Horowitz, Daniel. "Rethinking Betty Friedan and The Feminine Mystique: Labor Union Radicalism and Feminism in Cold War America." American Quarterly, Volume 48, Number 1, March 1996, pp. 1-42
  19. ^ "Puncturing Betty Friedan, but Not the Mystique: An Interview with Stephanie Coontz". 2011-01-24. Retrieved 2011-02-18. 
  20. ^ Daniel Horowitz, "Rethinking Betty Friedan and The Feminine Mystique: Labor Union Radicalism and Feminism in Cold War America," American Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 1(Mar. 1996) p.22

Further reading

  • Coontz, Stephanie. A Strange Stirring: "The Feminine Mystique" and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s (Basic Books; 2011) 222 pages
  • Meyerowitz, Joanne. "The Myth of the Feminine Mystique" in Myth America: A Historical Anthology, Volume II. 1997. Gerster, Patrick, and Cords, Nicholas. (editors.) Brandywine Press, St. James, NY. ISBN 1-881089-97-5

External links[edit]