Friedan panel talks women’s liberation

March 17, 2014

Anna Huffman ‘17

Bradley University’s year long civil rights celebration continued March 12 with a female panel discussing “The Feminine Mystique,” written by Peoria native Betty Friedan.

“This past year, Bradley University has commemorated inclusive and diverse minorities and their fights for civil rights,” Dr. Stacey Robertson said. “We, as a University, are reflecting on the progression of civil rights and further advancement of these liberties.”

Interim Dean of Bradley’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Dr. Stacey Robertson and historians Stacy Cordery of Monmouth College, Tina Stewart Brakebill of Illinois State University, and Holly Kent of the University of Springfield comprised the panel.

Cordery’s presentation centered on Betty Friedan’s youth, highlighting the prejudice she experienced as a young, intelligent female. She explicated Betty’s vast intellectual capabilities and radical beliefs.

“Betty’s father conversed with her about world affairs,” Cordery said. “She embraced feminism, anti-fascism, and unions.”

She detailed Friedan’s domestic struggles after marrying anti-feminist Carl Friedan. Friedan observed the confinement of middle class and Caucasian women and began working on her book “The Feminine Mystique.

“Betty understood the potential for a suburban, working woman and illustrated female confinement,” Cordery said.

“It is because of women like Betty Friedan and the ensuing feministic awakening that I am able to speak at this podium tonight,” Brakebill said. “Women were repeatedly told to cater to their husbands, and their personal fulfillment was unnecessary. A woman’s destiny was to ‘know her place.’ Women began to feel confined domestically, leading to psychological disturbances.”

Cordery emphasized the importance of Friedan’s writing because it advocated women seeking validation outside of the home. Prof. Brakebill ended her lecture by explaining, “After my mom read ‘The Feminine Mystique’, she prioritized sending me to college.  Eventually, she too sought higher education.”

Dr. Kent uses the “The Feminine Mystique” in classes and warns too little devotion to the text oversimplifies the controversial messages about women’s rights.

“This book transformed the manner which I observed women,” she said. “Women are primarily people, then daughters, sisters, mothers, and wives.”

She credited Friedan’s efforts for building modern feminism.

“Numerous feminists stand on the shoulders of Betty Friedan because of ‘The Feminine Mystique,’” she said. “Females need to rethink what activism is and create social change for our own gender.”