As one of the most prominent members of the American feminist movement, Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, left an indelible mark on society and on the fight for equality between men and women. The second wave of feminism is said to have originated with the aforementioned book and its identification of “the problem that has no name” – that of the general sense of unhappiness and lack of fulfillment that countless American women felt in the late-1950s and early-1960s when faced with the prospect of defining their adult lives strictly by their status as wife and mother. The argument that women lost themselves trying to conform to the culturally reinforced ideal of the domestic goddess would serve as an awakening of sorts for many women, encouraging them to challenge this status quo and work to forge their own path.
To help focus this reaction among women, Friedan and others founded the National Organization for Women in 1966; she would become the first president of the organization. While the first target of the organization was discrimination in employment, the group would go on to tackle all manners of elements of social, economic, political, and legal inequality for women. One of the more controversial aspects of Freidan’s involvement with the organization, though, was her outright refusal to address the causes of lesbians; she even refused lesbians membership in the organization, calling them a “lavender menace.” When Friedan stepped down as president in 1969, she would continue her political activism in a number of ways: she organized the Women’s Strike for Equality in 1970, she founded the National Abortion Rights Action League and the National Women’s Political Caucus, and was an ardent supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.