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Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminine Mystique: The American Left, the Cold War, and Modern Feminism (Culture, Politics, and the Cold War) [Hardcover]

Daniel Horowitz
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 1998 1558491686 978-1558491687
Ever since the 1963 publication of her landmark book, The Feminie Mystique, Betty Friedan has insisted that her commitment to women's rights grew out of her experiences as an alienated suburban housewife. Yet as Daniel Horowitz persuasively demonstrates in this illuminating and provocative biography, the roots of Friedan's feminism run much depper than she has led us to believe. Drawing on an impressive body of new research - including Friedan's own papers - Horowitz traces the development of Friedan's feminist outlook from her childhood in Peoria, Illinois, through her wartime years at Smith College and Berkeley, to her decade-long career as a writer for two of the period's most radical labor journals, the Federated Press and the United Electrical Workers' UE News. He further shows that even after she married and began to raise a family, Friedan continued during the 1950s to write and work on behalf of a wide range of progressive social causes. By resituating Friedan within a broader cultural context, and by offering a fresh reading of The Feminine Mystique against that background, Horowitz not only overturns conventional ideas about "second wave" feminism but also reveals long submerged links to its past.

Editorial Reviews


Betty Friedan and the Making of "The Feminine Mystique" is ... intelligently ambitious but so tendentious you want to throw it across the room. -- The New York Times Book Review, Judith Shulevitz

About the Author

Daniel Horowitz is Sylvia Dlugasch Bauman Professor of American Studies and director of the American studies program at Smith College. He is author of Vance Packard and American Social Criticism.

Product Details

  • Series: Culture, Politics, and the Cold War
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press (November 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558491686
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558491687
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,781,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explores the "missing past" for Betty Friedan January 24, 1999
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In this very readable book, Daniel Horowitz examines Betty Friedan's political and intellectual origins and finds good reason to question the widely held understanding that The Feminine Mystique was written out of the perspective and consciousness of a typical surburban housewife.
Professor Horowitz explores the life and thought of the young Bettye Goldstein as an undergraduate at Smith, and then as a labor journalist in the early and mid 1940's, and reveals her origins as a committed social critic and advocate with labor-left origins.
Professor Horowitz treats his subject gently and with respect. Betty Friedan disagrees with Horowitz's analysis, and this tension adds to the fun.
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19 of 30 people found the following review helpful
In a clear-eyed yet obviously compassionate examination of Betty Friedan, the "mother" of modern American feminism,Horowitz reveals that his subject was far more worldly and politically concious than she indicated in her 1963 ground breaker.
Although some of today's generation-- whether feminists or not--may scratch heads and wonder why an intellegent articulate woman would intentionally disguise so much of her being while urging other women not to do the same, Friedan had no choice. In a nation somewhat tempered by fresh reccollection of the horrors of McCarthyism, red-baiting and subsequent discreditation of those tarred with the label still ran rampant.
Understanding that her grim findings would never receive the light of day in a culture still gushy-eyed over the assumption that every housewife was automatically happy or that option was the only choice for women, she had to employ crafty PR strategies to make the book appealing for original publication and promotion. Her "new idenity" made her a far more appealing media source than a "radical labor activist" since it allowed her to avoid being blamed for her own stigmatization as one of those supposedly unnatural career women whose unhappiness must be self-inflicted.
As a member of third-wave feminism, I profess to having little initial interest in Friedan or her methodology. Because I lived in a world where with comparatively many more choices/rights, was aware of her own internal predjuduces towards intra-feminist movement diversity and antagonism towards Gloria Steinem, I usually wrote off Friedan as an anachronism who although important, was somebody I could not relate to directly. Since I was not married and was childless, I could not see myself in the pages.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jewish Communist Exposed January 31, 2013
"Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminine Mystique" is the definitive proof that "Mommie Was a Commie". Most American women would not care to admit that they were brainwashed by a Jewish Mamma who was a devotee of Joseph Stalin - but the fact is that they were. Horowitz himself admits in his introduction that he was hesitant to disclose the results of his research. The right wing would pounce on it, Joseph McCarthy style, to proclaim: "Women's lib is a Communist plot!" He need not have worried. The American right has moved so far leftward that his disclosues have prompted not the slightest rethinking by women.

Had Friedan's Communist background been divulged when the book first appeared it might have had a devastating impact. Today, it elicits as much a response as telling the reader of mystery novels that Rex Stout, the author, was the the editor and part owner of the Communist "New Masses" newspaper.That Friedan was a Communist is self-evident. She was a member of the Congress of American Women, the chief Communist legal front for females (acronymn: COW). She was also a writer for the United Electrical, Radio and Machinists Union, the chief Communist union in the U.S. Betty would not even tell poor Mr. Horowitz the true extent of her Communist collaboration, even though he was deeply sympathetic.

Ah, well. One can only document the subversion of America, not reverse it.Enjoy, Dear Reader, and learn, once again, how you have been conned.
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4 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Betty the Bolshie? April 18, 2008
Founding mother of the Women's Liberation Movement, Betty Friedan, author of the Feminine Mystique, was a long-time CPUSA apparatchik and never the typical suburban bourgeois housewife she posed as.
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