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Betty Friedan Tribute

Our Vision

To preserve the past and inspire the future of her story: Betty Friedan, a Sister Peorian.

Our Mission

Betty Friedan, a sister Peorian, provided a visionary grassroots movement to inspire women, once thought a damaged and weaker gender, to promote themselves and bring the issue of gender inequality to the forefront. This led to a profound cultural paradigm shift in how we view gender roles of women and men.

Our mission, with your help, is to preserve, promote, educate, and continually update the contributions of Betty Friedan through this tribute website to our generation and generations to come.  Help us by filling out and submitting the Did It Change Your Life Testimony.

Bradley's Friedan website aids junior high school student in history paper competition

March 11, 2014

By Margaret Cipriano ‘15

Bradley University alumna Barbara Drake and eighth-grader Laney Hughes’ connection via Bradley University’s Betty Friedan Hometown Tribute website seemed to be less a chance encounter and more a meeting of minds. When Hughes started her research for D.C. Everest Junior High School’s History Day research competition in Weston, Wisc., her inquiries led her back to Peoria in search of information about women’s advocate Betty Friedan.

Since February 2013, there have been 3,340 hits on the Friedan website page that is hosted and maintained by Bradley to honor Friedan. A native of Peoria, the website’s purpose is to act as a living tribute to Friedan as well as a storehouse of information relating to the women's movement, women's rights and gender equality.  

In hopes of gaining a better understanding of Friedan and her cause, Hughes reached out to the Peoria Historical Society and was put in contact with Drake, a former reporter and editorial writer for the Peoria Journal Star.

“Barb Drake's help was crucial to my project. I cannot thank her enough,” said Hughes. “She sent me lots of papers, speeches, and articles she wrote dealing with Betty Friedan and the women's movement. Each document Barb sent me helped me understand the sheer importance of Betty Friedan's activism.”

Inspired by Friedan’s most well-known book, The Feminine Mystique, Hughes decided to pursue Friedan as the topic of her History Day research paper that was to address “Rights and Responsibilities in History.”

“It was amazing to me that in the 50s and 60s young girls would grow up thinking that the ideal life was one of domesticity,” Hughes said. “But, because of Friedan's bravery and tenacity, girls today can aspire to be anything, and that really inspired me to write my paper about her.”

As a female reporter in a male-dominated industry, Drake also noted the importance of Friedan and her representation on the Bradley website.

“I am so happy that through the website started by the Hometown Tribute group and maintained by Bradley University, that Peoria is rediscovering Betty Friedan,” Drake said. “I’m not sure she’s the most famous Peorian ever, as she claimed, but she really is the most important, most influential person this city has ever produced. She changed my life, and she changed much of the world.”

The Friedan website has played its part in ensuring that this Peoria activist is not forgotten, as Friedan’s influence still endures as an important reminder of equality.  

“I think the most important thing for women today to take away from Betty Friedan's activism is the power that can come from unity,” Hughes said. “Even today, women and girls face some of the same discrimination and adversity that women faced in the 1960s. But, if we come together and follow in Betty Friedan's footsteps, we can all serve as a force for change.”

Read Laney Hughes' 2014 History Day Competition research paper, with introduction by Barb Drake, here.

Peoria's Celebration - The 50th Anniversary Of The Feminine Mystique

The Betty Friedan Hometown Tribute Committee could not let the 50th anniversary of publication of The Feminine Mystique (Feb. 19, 2013) go by without a big celebration in the author’s hometown.  We thought it the perfect opportunity to promote better understanding of the most influential person Peoria has ever produced as well as to explore how Peoria shaped a young Bettye Goldstein. We further decided to use the event to talk about how The Feminine Mystique and the women’s movement that followed changed the lives of Peoria women. Borrowing from the title of Betty Friedan’s third book, “It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women’s Movement,” we called our event “It Changed Us!”

To accomplish all these objectives, we created a program consisting of a keynote speech by Dr. Stacey Robertson, Oglesby Professor of American Heritage at Bradley University, followed by short testimonials about how the events we were celebrating changed the lives of six Peoria-area women of significant accomplishment. We also heard from a Bradley University senior who recognized the opportunities these changes afforded her. All women and men in the audience were invited to submit their own testimonials on the topic “It Changed My Life!” In addition, Betty Friedan (played by local actress Cheri Beever) made an appearance. The night ended with a video showing of Barbara Mantz Drake’s 1999 interview with Mrs. Friedan for The Journal Star and WTVP-TV.

More than 220 Peoria-area folks showed up on a cold and snowy evening to learn about and celebrate Betty Friedan’s life and work. You can see and hear what they heard and saw by clicking on the event video. You can also read the testimonials several local women submitted as well as submit your own. 

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Download Prepared for school distribution by the 

Peoria Chapter of the National Organization for Women.

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