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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $16.5
  • December 2012
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-93465-6
  • 5.2 × 8.4 in / 560 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide including Canada, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

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The Feminine Mystique

Norton Critical Editions


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Betty Friedan (Author), Kirsten Fermaglich (Editor, Michigan State University), Lisa Fine (Editor, Michigan State University)


The first student edition of Betty Friedan’s national best seller published in honor of its fiftieth anniversary. The Feminine Mystique forever changed America’s consciousness by defining “the problem that has no name.”

The Feminine Mystique (1963) is a powerful critique of women’s roles in contemporary American society. Drawing on new scholarship in the social sciences, Betty Friedan attacked a wide range of institutions—among them women’s magazines, women’s colleges, and advertisers—for promoting a one-dimensional image of women as happy housewives. This image, Friedan suggested, created a “feminine mystique,” a belief that “fulfillment as a woman had only one definition for American women after 1949—the housewife-mother.” The book soon became a national best seller, with over a million copies sold.

This Norton Critical Edition of Friedan’s phenomenal book traces its cultural and historical significance over its first fifty years. The text of The Feminine Mystique is accompanied by an introduction and is fully annotated.

Friedan’s book is the product of her early life as an activist, a student, and an intellectual while also drawing on her own experiences as a wife and mother. “Origins and Influences” includes writings that helped shape the author’s ideas about women and society. These works are topically organized: “Childhood World,” “Intellectual Influences,” “Domesticity and ‘Momism’ during the Cold War,” “Popular-Front Feminism,” “The Power of the Feminine Mystique on Betty Friedan?,” and finally, “Female Labor Force Participation Trends in the Twentieth Century.” Among the authors included are Robert S. and Helen Merrell Lynd, Friedrich Engels, Margaret Mead, Amram Scheinfeld, and Simone de Beauvoir.

The 1960s was a time of great upheaval in America with sweeping changes throughout society including women’s rights, civil rights, peace movements, environmental movements, student activism, and the sexual revolution. It was also a time when a number of American Jewish intellectuals, including Friedan, made comparisons between American life and Nazi destruction. “The Turn of the Sixties: Political, Intellectual, and Cultural Ferment” provides readers with an understanding of The Feminine Mystique’s contemporary context through relevant U.S. government documents and through the voices of, among others, Eleanor Roosevelt, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Helen Gurley Brown, and Bruno Bettelheim.

More impressive than even The Feminine Mystique’s best-seller status and the debate it sparked in the national press is its broader cultural significance. Hundreds of women wrote to Friedan about how the book affected them personally. “Impact” includes a selection of these letters from the Betty Friedan Papers, along with feminist writings from the second (Pauli Murray, Robin Morgan, Bella Abzug) and third (Rebecca Walker, Naomi Wolf, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards) waves of feminism, and the backlash against the movement and The Feminine Mystique (Phyllis Schlafly).

The book also includes a section on the scholarship on The Feminine Mystique, with excerpts from scholars such as Daniel Horowitz, Joanne Meyerowitz, Ruth Rosen, and Stephanie Coontz. Analyses of Betty Friedan as a historian, the evolution of her ideas, and the legacy of The Feminine Mystique on its fiftieth anniversary are included.

A Chronology of Betty Friedan’s life and work and a Selected Bibliography are also included.



    The Text of The Feminine Mystique


    Origins and Influences

    Childhood World
    Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd • From Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture

    Intellectual Influences
    Kurt Lewin • From When Facing Danger
    Bettye Goldstein • The Scapegoat
    Friedrich Engels • From The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State
    Smith College Associated News • From Labor Education Described by Smith Summer Workers
    Bettye Goldstein • From The Right to Organize

    Domesticity and “Momism” during the Cold War
    Margaret Mead • From She Has Strength Based on a Pioneer Past
    Ferdinand Lundberg and Marynia R. Farnham, M.D. • From Modern Woman: The Lost Sex
    Amram Scheinfeld • From Are American Moms a Menace?

    Popular Front Feminism
    Betty Goldstein • From Wartime Living—Women, Take Over
    Betty Millard • From Woman Against Myth
    Betty Goldstein • From UE Drive on Wage, Job Discrimination Wins Cheers from Women Members
    Simone de Beauvoir • From The Second Sex

    The Power of the Feminine Mystique on Betty Friedan?
    Betty Friedan • From The Way We Were—1949

    Female Labor Force Participation Trends in the Twentieth Century
    Labor Force Participation Rate, by Sex and Race: 1850–1990

    The Turn of the Sixties: Political, Intellectual, and Cultural Ferment

    Women’s Rights
    Eleanor Roosevelt • My Day: The Presidential Commission on the Status of Women
    U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission • From The Equal Pay Act of 1963

    Civil Rights
    Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. • I Have a Dream . . .

    Peace, Environmental, and Student Movements
    Women Strike for Peace • Nuclear Tests Cost Lives
    Students for a Democratic Society • From The Port Huron Statement

    Sexual Revolution
    Helen Gurley Brown • From Sex and the Single Girl

    Early Intellectual Engagement with the Holocaust
    Bruno Bettelheim • From The Informed Heart: Autonomy in a Mass Age


    The Personal Is Political
    From Betty Friedan Papers
    Letter to Betty Friedan, July 14, 1963
    Letter to Betty Friedan, June 2, 1964
    Letter to Betty Friedan, March 12, 1964
    Letter to Betty Friedan, March 23, 1964
    Letter to Editor of McCall’s, March 3, 1963
    Letter to Editor of McCall’s, March 3, 1963
    Letter to Editor of McCall’s, February 27, 1963

    From Writer to Activist: NOW, NARAL, NWPC, and Women’s Strike for Equality
    Pauli Murray • From The Autobiography of a Black Activist, Feminist, Lawyer, Priest, and Poet
    National Organization for Women • Bill of Rights
    Robin Morgan • From Sisterhood is Powerful
    Bella Abzug, with Mim Kelber • From Gender Gap: Bella Abzug’s Guide to Political Power for American Women

    Sexual Politics and the Women’s Liberation Movement

    Betty Friedan • Critique of Sexual Politics
    Ginny Berson • From The Furies

    The Women’s Movement Comes of Age

    Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972
    Equal Rights Amendment
    Pat Mainardi • The Politics of Housework
    National Black Feminist Organization • Statement of Purpose
    Consuelo Nieto • From The Chicana and the Women’s Rights Movement
    bell hooks • From Feminist Theory from Margin to Center
    Plan of Action adopted at 1977 National Women’s Conference, Houston, Texas
    Pokey Anderson • From An Idiosyncratic Tour of Houston

    The Backlash against Feminism and The Feminine Mystique
    Phyllis Schlafly • From Feminist Fantasies
    Susan Faludi • From Backlash: The Undeclared War on American Women

    Third Wave Feminism
    Rebecca Walker • Becoming the Third Wave
    Naomi Wolf • From The Beauty Myth
    Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards • From Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future

    The Scholarship on The Feminine Mystique

    Origins and Influences
    Sandra Dijkstra • From Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan: The Politics of Omission
    Joyce Antler • From The Journey Home: How Jewish Women Shaped Modern America
    Daniel Horowitz • From Rethinking Betty Friedan and The Feminine Mystique: Labor Union Radicalism and Feminism in Cold War America
    Ellen Herman • From The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts
    Rebecca Jo Plant • From Mom: The Transformation of Motherhood in Modern America

    The Feminine Mystique: Analyzing Betty Friedan as Historian
    Joanne Meyerowitz • From Beyond The Feminine Mystique: A Reassessment of Postwar Mass Culture, 1946–1958
    Eva Moskowitz • From “It’s Good to Blow Your Top”: Women’s Magazines and a Discourse of Discontent, 1945–1965
    Sylvie Murray • From The Progressive Housewife: Community Activism in Suburban Queens, 1945–1965

    The Moment: The Turn of the 1960's
    Louis Menand • From Books as Bombs: Why the Women’s Movement Needed “The Feminine Mystique”
    Kirsten Fermaglich • From “The Comfortable Concentration Camp”: The Significance of Nazi Imagery in Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963)
    Jennifer Scanlon • From Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown

    The Impact and Legacy of The Feminine Mystique
    Jessica Weiss • From “Fraud of Femininity”: Domesticity, Selfless-ness, and Individualism in Responses to Betty Friedan
    Ruth Rosen • From The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America
    Stephanie Coontz • From A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s

    Betty Friedan: A Chronology
    Selected Bibliography