The Feminine Mystique was published fifty years ago today. About a year later I read the paperback and discussed it with the little book group to which I belonged. Young housewives and mothers, we were not angered by her emphasis on women in the working world. I do not remember the discussion but I think most of us knew we would pursue careers when the time was right. We did. We are all now "retired" -- at least from the job that pays the rent although I feel I'm still working at the writing career I always wanted
Shortly after that book "consciousness raising" discussions, events, books filled our lives. I went to a gathering at which Friedan spoke. She was articulate but I came away thinking -- inappropriately! -- that with that nose and unkempt hair she was probably the ugliest woman I had ever seen. Ugly or not, she had a head full of insight about the lives women were living and the changes that were needed. Someone must always be first, some one must exaggerated the results of the research, someone must take the criticism. We now have several strong women to admire, not just pretty Jackie so beautifully attired. Hilary is one of the most admired women in America and will continue to contribute greatly. There are many others. Last night I watched a video clip of Elizabeth Warren at a hearing (yes, I voted for her) pinpoint the way the big banks are avoiding trials when they are sued, hiding their methods behind settlements. Warren pointed out that federal DAs all over the country are bringing to trial smaller con men, making an example of their dealings in courts so the public will hear how they have cheated others but that no big bank has ever yet gone to trial and revealed even a smidgeon of their manipulations.
We used to say to one another when someone had raised their family and begun a successful career, "You've come a long way, baby." It's true. But yesterday I heard from a woman who had worked years for Wal-Mart, always aiming for a management position, never given it even when she seemed the only good choice, and then was fired for a small accident. The fight is far from won but Betty Friedan fired the shot that still echoes.
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!