How did The Feminine Mystique create tension between women in the 1960's?
Athena Petrides '08-'09

In 1963, a well-educated woman by the name of Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique.
This unconventional book shocked hundreds as it talked of the problems of women, and their unhappiness of being in the home. This book sparked the feminist movement, but also generated much controversy between women. While some women were happy with their place as a domestic goddess, others felt pain at such a boring lifestyle. This page shows the different types of women that emerged during the 60’s, the radicals and the conservatives. Throughout the 60’s there was much tension between both of these groups as the radicals wanted equal rights for women, and the conservatives fought for the exact opposite.

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“When the mystique took over, . . . the only problem was how to fit in” Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique 1963

The publication of this book opened the minds of suburban women all of over the country. Many domestic women found comfort and relief in this book as they now knew th
at they weren’t the only ones dissatisfied with being a housewife. The book brought women together to fight for rights and reject the conformist idea that women should remain in the home. The second wave of feminism or the liberation movement had begun

Betty Goldstein went and graduated from Smith College in 1942. She then married Carl Friedan in 1947 and settled into the life of a typical housewife and mother. However, she did not find this life satisfying and after talking to her friends she found out they did not either. She then wrote The Feminine Mystique to express her bitter feelings. The book was truly the start to the feminist movement and thus created the tension between the women in the 60's.

An early victory of the movement was the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which banned labor discrimination based upon gender, and demanded equal pay for women who did the same jobs as men. This act was further enforced by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was extended towards women. Throughout the course of the 60's divorce laws were also passed, usually giving women more benefits then before.


Court cases such as Griswold v. Connecticut and Weeks v. Southern Bell also increased the rights of women. In the Griswold case, revoked a law in Connecticut banning the sale of contraceptives, thus giving women more freedom. The Weeks case fought against labor discrimination in the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company, opening up more job opportunities for women. The most important court case was Roe v. Wade, concerning abortion. The Supreme Court made abortion legal (until the fetus is viable), using the Fourteenth Amendment which gives one a right to privacy.

By 1966, the National Organization for Women, or NOW, was founded by Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Gloria Steinem and other, with goals to increase equality for women in politics, the professional worl
d, and education. The active group fought for rights by lobbying and public demonstrations. Throughout the 60’s smaller groups of women, such as the New York Radical Feminists, the Redstockings, and the Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (WITCH), had formed to try and protest discrimination, however, NOW was and continues to be the largest and most successful group. These smaller groups often did public demonstrations, such as the "bra burners" at the 1968 Miss. America Pagent. Another group is NARAL Pro-Choice America, founded in 1969. Their purpose as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws was to increase the freedom of women.

Through many of the efforts of these organizations legislation was passed:

TITLE IX: guarantees that women are able to recieve an education equal to that of men

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      Betty Friedan
TITLE X- provides the means necessary to create programs that aid in family planning

  • The Equal Credit Opportunity Act-prevents creditors from discriminating against an applicant based upon gender or race
Gloria Steinem

One major piece of legislation that was not passed was the Equal Rights Amendment. This amendment states the following:
This amendment had three provisions: JacquiERAneworleans5.jpg
Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation the provisions of this article.
Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after ratification

In other words, this amendment would make the Constitution equal to both men and women. Although the radical feminists fought hard for this amendment to pass, others fought against it (see below).

In 1968, the first national liberation conference took place. Throughout the 70's women continued to protest for various rights, concerning issues of rape, domestic violence, education, and children. Step by step they made some progress.
Feminists showed the country that by uniting together progress could be made. Other feminist achievments include the publication of the anthology Sisterhood is Powerful. It included the works of many feminists and was editied by active feminist Robin Morgan.

These actions stretched the divide between women in the 60's. As feminists began to stray further from housewives more tension began to build and differences between the groups of women became more apparant.
The goal of the feminists was to give women more freedom so that they could do more then just be housewives. The feminists were not satisfied with their lives and wanted to break free from the conformity and be just as successful as men. Thus, they fought long and hard, even against other women.

This is an interview with Gloria Steinem. She was an active feminists who helped with the founding of NOW. She was also a playboy bunny as well as a journalist who fought hard for womens equality.


"What I am defending is the real rights of women. A woman should have the rights to be in the home as a wife and mother." -Phyllis Schlafly

While feminists fought to gain rights for women, other women still beleived that their place was in the house, and that they should not have rights. These women fought against the feminists creating a strife between
women in the 60's. Although many women progressed, others found their behavior unacceptable. Led by Phyllis Scalfley they fought against rights for women and encouraged women to saty in the home They were shocked by the feminine mystique since they thought that they lived so peacefully. These women were blinded by conformity and cared more about what others thought of them then what they thought of themselves.

With the publication of The Feminine Mystique, women were offended and felt betrayed. Many women did in fact enjoy their lifestyle as the domestic goddess, and did not want any more rights. They believed that their place as women was in the home and that they should be the caretakers of the house and the children.

The leader of such antifemin
ists was politcal activist Phyllis Schlafly. She beg
Phyllis Schlafly
an the "STOP ERA" movement, STOP standing for "Stop Taking Our Privaleges." Schlafly along with other antifeminists believed that the ERA would take away women's domestic rights. She believed that with the passage of the ERA, bathrooms would become unisex and women would be included in the draft. Through her campaigning, Schalfly helped prevent the passage of the ERA.
Other traditional role models of this time include Jackie Kennedy, the First Lady. She was very fashion forward and much of a traditionalist of the era.

Thus, many women stayed loyal to what they believed their place as a women was. They continued to work as housewives and stayed true to the traditional view of women in America.The goals of the anitifeminists were to retain their place as women
be treated differently then men. They did not want to be treated in a lesser manner, but they wanted to remain separate from men.

Throughout the history of America women have pondered over their place in society. It was originally thought that there was a domestic sphere where women belonged to take care of the house and children. During the 1960's this topic was once again brought up and argued in response to The Feminine Mystique. A question comes to mind when considering the tension that was created after the publicatoin of the book Were the women actually happy? Was Friedan speaking for all American women of just a small minority? However, there is no direct answer to this question. Many women continued to live on their lives as a domestic goddess as if nothing was wrong. However, the other women became stark feminists, a group that continued to expand finding more support in new places. Although both the feminists and anitfeminists fought against each other, they share an interesting similarity. They both embraced the fact that they are women, and that they are special;
they just believe that women have different places and have different ideas about the treatment of women. Ultimately, the question remains: what is the place of women? Some argue that it is in the home. Others argue that women are equal to men. These varying beliefs created controversy among women. The importance of The Feminine Mystique is that it separated women of America. It gave some hope in the fact that there are other opportunities for women to succeed. However, other women refused to move forward believing that their place was at home, as thought in the past. This tension has surr
50px-Woman-power_emblem.svg.pngounded numbers of issues including the ERA and other equality acts, as well as abortion and the care of children. This tension surrounding this question is still present today. While many women have found their place in the world others are still questioning their role in society.

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