Betty Friedan was born in 1921 in Illinois. She attended Smith College, graduating in 1942. After college, she worked as a journalist for leftist and union publications.
In 1947, Friedan married. She and her husband had three children before divorcing in 1969. In 1952, while pregnant with her second child, Friedan lost her job at a union newspaper. She then worked as a freelance journalist, and became interested in women staying at home after conducting a survey about careers of her classmates at her 15th Smith reunion.
The article Friedan wrote about the results of the survey and her classmates' dissatisfaction with their lives was rejected by every magazine to which she submitted it. This gave Friedan the idea to expand it into a book, which she did. The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963.
The book became a best-seller, with millions of women around the world finding themselves in its pages. Friedan went on to co-found the National Organization for Women (NOW) and serve as its first president (1966-1970). She then helped found NARAL in 1969 and the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971.
Friedan also wrote four more books, It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women's Movement (1978), The Second Stage (1981), The Foundation of Age (1993), and her autobiography, Life So Far (2000).
Betty Friedan died in 2006, on her 85th birthday.