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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
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The Feminine Mystique

This piece is all about how I met Betty Friedan, the author of The Feminine Mystique. Now, some of my readers may be too young to remember Betty Friedan. She was a very unique person and a leader in developing today’s modern woman.

After graduating from Smith College in 1942, Betty started a career in journalism and then married Carl Friedan in 1947. They had three children, and in those days, the career for a woman would be over. But, Betty Friedan kept writing feeling unfulfilled as a wife and mother.

Then, in 1957, she wrote to her college classmates asking a series of questions about their lives. Over 200 replied and most were not satisfied with their roles as stay-at-home moms. Betty then put together an article and submitted it to magazines where she had previously been published. She was totally rejected.

Being stubborn, Betty refused to accept the “no” and decided to do more research and wrote a book. The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963. The book became a best seller immediately, selling over three million copies. The book basically said that being born a woman did not mean a limited future. Also, remember that her book was published only forty three years after women were given the right to vote through the 19th Amendment; and came out before the Supreme Court ruled in 1971 that employers could not refuse to hire women with pre-school children.

With that background, now to my first meeting with Betty Friedan. It was in 1972, and I had responsibilities at Avon Products, Inc. the cosmetic company, for Administration of the Corporate Headquarters and Human Resources when the Department was called “Personnel.” One morning, the CEO of the Company called and asked me to come to his office right away.

When I arrived he showed me an invitation to a reception at a nearby hotel to be hosted by Betty Friedan. He told me that he could not attend, but I should go in his place. The name “Betty Friedan” hit me. I could remember a book my wife had purchased.

As soon as I got home that evening, I found the book. Wow, my wife had underlined portions and had even made margin notes.

The reception was in one of the hotel suites, and it turned out that only Avon and AT&T had accepted Betty Friedan’s invitation. Including her staff and a few friends, there were around 10 people present. We had a pleasant discussion for around an hour, and knew it was time to leave. Betty Friedan escorted me to the elevator, and I will never forget her parting comments to me. “Remember – I am not like some of these feminists, because if you had a face like mine, you would use anything you could to make improvements.”

Finally, let me remind my readers that the above experience in 1972 was at a time when women stayed at home. Things, today, have changed, and there is no doubt that Betty Friedan made a big difference.

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