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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)

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1558492769
ISBN-10: 1558492763
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Editorial Reviews


"An engaging and often arresting narrative, highly effective in portraying the evolution of Friedan's thinking. This book will certainly change common assumptions about the origins of The Feminine Mystique."―Nancy F. Cott, Yale University

"A book that will be read, enjoyed, pondered, and debated. It is literate, broadly grounded in the intellectual and political currents of the era, reflects meticulous and imaginative sleuthing in archival sources, and is written in graceful and accessible prose."―Dorothy Sue Cobble, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

"A compelling story. The melding of genres―biography, exposé, historical monograph―should make the book useful in classrooms and also enhance its readership outside the university. . . . The book will make a big splash in and out of the historical profession."―Joanne Meyerowitz, editor of Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Postwar America, 1945-1960

"Horowitz's careful reconstruction of Friedan's radical past exposes unexpected continuities between generations of radical thinkers and activists, and forces a reconsideration of the oft-noted class and racial limitations of Friedan's book. His argument―judiciously framed yet bold in its implications―is built upon a meticulous piecing together of sometimes fragmentary evidence, and insures that we will never again see Friedan and the movement she came to stand for in quite the same ways."―Lois Palken Rudnick, author of Utopian Vistas: The Mabel Dodge Luhan House and the American Counterculture

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

"[The Feminine Mystique] now feels both revolutionary and utterly contemporary. . . . Four decades later, millions of individual transformations later, there is still so much to learn from this book. . . . Those who think of it as solely a feminist manifesto ought to revisit its pages to get a sense of the magnitude of the research and reporting Friedan undertook."―Anna Quindlen

"The book that pulled the trigger on history."―Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock

"One of those rare books we are endowed with only once in several decades."―Amitai Etzioni, author of The Spirit of Community: The Reinvention of American Society

"[A] bridge between conservative and radical elements in feminism, an ardent advocate of harmony and human values."―Esquire

About the Author

Daniel Horowitz is Mary Higgins Gamble 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
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press (September 27, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558492763
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558492769
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #729,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Peter W. Sage on 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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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By john thames on January 31, 2013
Format: Paperback
"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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21 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Robin Orlowski on April 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
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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6 of 15 people found the following review helpful By anarchteacher on April 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
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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