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The Feminine Mystique at Fifty

I read The Feminine Mystique fifty years ago.   Betty Freidan wrote her game-changing book after interviewing her Smith College classmates for their fifteenth college reunion.  She called the widespread unhappiness that they reported "the problem that has no name”.

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Freidan’s book, PBS produced MAKERS:  Women Who Make America, and thanks to the suggestion by 70-something.com reader Judy Uhl, I’ve had a look at it.

People like Gloria Steinem, Letty Pogrobin, Ruth Simmons, Judy Blume, Sandra Day O’Connor and Patricia Shroeder, all women who broke the mold, make an appearance.  They looked like me in the clips from fifty years ago and they look like me now as they reflect upon that time.  Jowls and wrinkles and ridges between their brows, but still a spirit and energy that belies their age. 

The Makers reminds us that flight attendants (then called stewardesses) used to be required to retire at age thirty-two and that want ads had separate columns for Help Wanted-Men and Help Wanted-Women.

We see the women leaders who inspired us to march for women’s rights and freedom from violence.  Who backed Anita Hill, the brave young woman who accused Clarence Thomas of harassment.  Who ran for Congress.  We see a younger Hilary Clinton saying maybe she should have stayed home to bake chocolate chip cookies and as she is today, our accomplished former Secretary of State. 

And The Makers also shows us a new generation of role models, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO who caused a stir last week by ordering Yahoo’s telecommuters back to the office.

The Makers reminds us that we are not done yet.  Women still do not get equal pay for equal work. And we have to remain vigilant because there are those who would take away rights that women have fought for.

The Makers honors those who got us this far, and reminds us that we still have a long way to go.

Watch excerpts at http://www.pbs.org/makers/home/




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