Betty Friedan changed the world. Every "movement" needs someone to channel feelings of outrage, strum common chords of discontent and frustration and outline an agenda for what should inspire a brighter future. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did this for the civil rights movement and President Ronald Reagan did it for less-government conservatives.
Friedan, who died on her 85th birthday Saturday, wasn't alone at the front of the so-called women's movement starting in the mid-'60s -- a reincarnation in educated outrage of the women's suffrage efforts decades earlier -- but she did write its manifesto in 1963.
"The Feminine Mystique," now a seemingly quaint view of the world, framed the debate. Her argument seems obvious today, but at the time the idea that women could find fulfillment beyond their husband's needs took some societal getting used to. The book gave women the ability to point and say, "that's me," and decide they'd had enough. Her advocacy of women expressing their individual talents, independent of husband and children, evoked an epochal reaction from legions of women. Friedan's book became a beacon for women lost in the post-World War II regimens of child-rearing, cleaning, sewing, chauffeuring and husband-worshipping. Her antidote was simple: Men and women are equal. The revolution it began showed just how jealous of their prerogatives men had become.
An honors Smith graduate who attended grad school at Berkeley, Friedan was fired from her job when she became pregnant with her second child. She went on to help found the National Organization for Women and pushed for the Equal Rights Amendment. The ideal of gender-equality the mainstream takes for granted today -- as the third and fourth generations of women since Friedan's book come of age -- was a stunning transformation and call to sense when women needed it most. The productivity and creativity it unleashed form her legacy.