Sunday, February 24, 2013


When I met Betty Friedan, we discussed marriage, divorce, and child rearing, although I had planned to discuss her book The Feminine Mystique. We had some similar experiences as I, too, had been married for 20 years and was separated from my husband. Whereas she had three children, I had only one daughter, and she said to me, "don't say 'only' one--you have one wonderful daughter." I felt encouraged, and, paraphrasing Wordsworth, in a feminine mode, I said, "the child is Mother of the woman, and I shall wish my days to be bound each to each in natural piety." She closed her eyes for a moment, as if she were savoring that thought, and then she said, "that's right," and nodded. Some people then came to talk to her, and she continued smiling. During the rest of the reception, we often caught each other's glances, and whenever our eyes met, she had a glimmer in it, which was so warm and it was like she was saying "yes, yes" and following my train of thought. She had a smile of understanding. I felt very close to her after this meeting. 

Best regards,

Jenny Batlay, PhD 

I met Betty Friedan in 1970 the night before the March for Women's Equality down 5th Avenue. Since that day our paths crossed many times.  I found her to be a brave woman who had a sense that her book "The Feminine Mystique"  was having a profound world-wide impact on the lives of women.  At that time we did not know the extent of her input but knew something was happening and that women were going forward, not to return to the way it was. 
Betty was constantly under attack, both from the right and the, left and from governments nationally or internationally.  She was one of the few women who fundamentally changed women's lives in  modern times.  I remember the time in Mexico City when I attended the International Women's Year Conference  along with Betty and Jacqui Ceballos.  The environment was very unfriendly to feminists especially, American feminists.  Betty was threatened by various government and political groups to the point that she was warned that her life was in danger by both the Mexican and American government representatives.  We set up a separate speak-out called "East meets West" after one the daily conferences to show that American feminists were for women and not controlled by the government.  It was attended by women from different parts of the world.  At the end women started sharing their concerns and hardships a nd not the dogma given to them by their governments.  Later we heard  that it was written about in various countries, even in China.  Betty's book "It Changed my Life' gives the details in her chapter "Scary doings in Mexico City" of the unbelievable events that took place.
Another moment of her life when she had to keep up the fight was when she ran for a delegate slot to the Democratic Convention in New York in 1974.  I was her campaign manager and booked speaking engagements with senior citizen centers and various non-political  places on the West Side of Manhattan, since we didn't have the political power to be invited to speak at the usual places.  She placed second, over elected political officials.  The Board of Elections said she didn't win.  In the end we were proven right and off to the convention she went.
I supported Betty when I was a board member on the NOW National Board.  There was a split in the movement on the direction it should take and Betty was again fighting for what she believed was the right way the movement should go.  It hurt her deeply when certain people disagreed with her.
My last memory of Betty was in Washington, DC for the "March for Women's Lives".  Betty was eighty-three years old: it was two years before her death and she was not feeling well.  She sat quietly at the bus window looking out. People lining the streets saw it was her and called out her name and cheered.  The bus stopped along the way so Betty could speak to the people and wave.   It brought a sparkle to her eyes and she became the Betty we knew from the past.  When we arrived at the mall I rode in a cart crossing crossing the Washington Mall, with Betty up front and myself and Sandy Zwerling in the back.  Women filled the mall.  As they separated to allow the cart to pass they started yelling "that's Betty Friedan, that's Betty  Friedan". Cheers filled the air.  Betty sat up smiling and waved.
She was our leader. 
Carole De Saram, VFA Board  Member, President NY NOW 1974, Board Member National Board NOW 1974.


I met Betty just after she published "Feminine Mystique," when she was about to write a piece about working mothers (still a new idea) for the then NY Herald Tribune. I had three kids under five years old, and also a job as Special Features editor for Harper's Bazaar--for which I also wrote a monthly column about social issues, called Needles and Pins. She then lived at the Dakota on the Upper West Side and I lived nearby at the Century. A mutual friend introduced us, and Betty invited me to come by for an interview about the joys and travails of working-motherhood.

We had an immediate meeting of minds and recognized each other as kindred spirits. Her hearty, raucous laugh enchanted me. Later, after we both divorced, we moved into the same building. At One Lincoln Plaza, off Central Park, we were closer neighbors than ever. Betty was more of a gadabout than I, but she always checked in when she came home at night. We shared many a midnight supper together, and gossiped like kids over cold chicken and glasses of wine about everything and everyone.

Betty signed the books she wrote: "Evolve! Enjoy!" To the end of her legendary life, she took her own advice. She evolved. She enjoyed.
I loved her. I still do. 
Natalie Gittelson Lachman


Mary Eastwood, Esq. remembers:

I first met Betty Friedan in the late fall of 1965.  Pauli Murray had given a speech to a national women's organization in New York (National Council of Women?) in which she stated "I hope that women do not have to march on Washington like the 1963 march for jobs and freedom  in order to get title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 enforced." or words to that effect.  She was quoted in the New York Times which Betty read. 

At the time Betty was planning to write another book basically on what the Lyndon Johnson Administration was doing on women.  Pres. Johnson had previously announced he would appoint 50 women to high federal positions.  Betty called Pauli and asked who she could talk to in Washington, DC and Pauli told her Catherine East and me.  Pauli knew us from working with the President's Commission on the Status of Women in 1962 and 63, and Pauli and I had just finished writing a law review article (Jane Crow and the Law) awaiting publication in the George Washington Law Review.

Betty first met Catherine and me separately, then together every couple of weeks after that. It was at these dinner meetings we encouraged Betty to initiate an organization outside the government to pressure the government to enforce the nondiscrimination in employment law for women.  At first Betty resisted saying she was not an organization type person. 

It was the next summer (1966) at the meeting of the State Commissions on the Status of Women, that NOW was started.  Catherine provided most of the names of women to be invited to Betty's hotel room


The only personal contact I had with Betty was in 1999  when she was honored by the VFA -- I had a photo taken of the two of us, which I proudly display with other feminist icons.  At that event, I asked her if I could get her something from the  bar -- She said - "Yes, get me a Scotch" -- and as I turned to do so -- she said "...and make it a double!"

GRACE WELCH,  VFA board member and   President Emerita, National Organization for Women - Mid-Suffolk chapter, Yoga Teacher


I wrote a paper about The Feminine Mystique 
when I was in my first year of college. I still have it 
Linda Joplin

1 comment:

Paula Cullison said...

As a young woman in NYC during the '60s, I realized that I was not going to 'buy into' the prescribed traditional roles for women. At that time, Betty's book hit the scene and confirmed my thoughts. No way - no how - would I marry and move to the suburbs (i.e. Long Island). I treasured my independence and small apartment in Greenwich Village. It wasn't until many years later that I met Betty here in Phoenix. I create a huge project in 1985 - The Year for All Arizona Women. Betty was the featured speaker at an event sponsored by the Maricopa Community Colleges. She enter the event carrying a shopping bag filled with her books.
True to form, she was her gutsy New York self. That's what I admired most about her...a kindred spirit from NYC. She signed the 'Celebrate Women' event poster which I see every morning, as it hangs on the wall by my computer. I saw Betty again that year - at the United Nations Conference on Women in Nairobi (NGO Forum '85)where I gave a presentation entitled: Creating a Year for All Women in Your Country. Betty held court each day under one of the trees, so she could share her wisdom. How clever!
Paula (Giangreco) Cullison