The book highlighted Friedan's view of a coercive and post-World War II ideology of female domesticity that stifled middle-class women's opportunities to be anything but homemakers.
A survey she conducted of her Smith College classmates indicated that many felt depressed even though they supposedly enjoyed ideal lives with husbands, homes, and children. Enlargin her inquiry, Friedan found what she called "the problem that has no name" was common among women far beyond the educated East Coast elite. ... She showed how women's magazine's, advertising, Freudian psychologists, and educators reflected and perpetuated a domestic ideal that left many women deeply unhappy. In suppressing women's personal growth, Friedan argued, society lost a vast reservoir of human potential.
Friedan's book is credited with sparking second-save feminism (see note) by directing women's attention to the broad social basis of their problems, stirring many to political and social activism.
Note: "Second-wave feminism" is defined in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as the period in the late 1960s and early 1970s "when feminists pushed beyond the early quest for political rights to fight for greater equality across the board, e.g., in education, the workplace, and at home."
Photo from Corbis Images, dated October 1963; caption reads, "Betty Friedan attends to Abraham Lincoln bust in her home."
* 50th-anniversary edition: @
* New York Times review (April 1963): @