Memoriam: Betty Friedan, Class of 1942
The Smith College community joins people near and far in celebrating
the life and legacy of pioneering feminist Betty Friedan,
who died Saturday, February 4, at the age of 85.
When I talk to
prospective students today, I often note that Smith develops
within its students the capacity to be independent thinkers
and trailblazers, and to make a difference throughout the
rest of their lives, in their communities and in the world.
There are few people who have had as much impact as Friedan.
Young women today
would hardly recognize the world that Freidan entered after
graduating from Smith summa cum laude in 1942. In her groundbreaking
work The Feminine Mystique, Friedan examined the
life of the typical college-aged woman in the 1950s, whose
future promised limited career options and focused primarily
on traditional family life and domesticity. With her book,
Friedan ignited the women’s movement, which asked for,
demanded, so much more. More than 3 million copies and counting,
The Feminine Mystique has made a lasting mark around
Friedan was instrumental
in founding the National Organization for Women, the National
Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws -- now known as
Naral Pro-Choice America -- and the National Women’s
Political Caucus. But, she did not rest there. Her work continued.
At the commencement ceremony for 670 members of the Class
of 1981, Friedan spoke about the “next stage”
of the women’s movement, a time when coming to terms
with family would be critical. She believed men should be
allies, not enemies.
life, Friedan came to be well recognized as an American icon
and a leading thinker of the 20th century.
And although it
is impossible to see the future and to know how the women
who graduate from Smith today will change the world, at least
they can ask the question that Friedan urged women everywhere
to ask: "A woman has got to be able to say, and not feel
guilty, 'Who am I, and what do I want out of life?' She mustn't
feel selfish and neurotic if she wants goals of her own, outside
of husband and children.”
Carol T. Christ