Betty Friedan was born Elizabeth Naomi Goldstein on Feb. 4, 1921, oldest child of a jeweler and a newspaper writer. Her father, Harry Goldstein, had emigrated from Russia as a teen and made his way to Peoria, where he peddled buttons from a street corner stand. He did well enough to open his jewelry store.
Her mother, Miriam Horowitz Goldstein, was the daughter of Peoria’s first public health commissioner. She graduated from Bradley Polytechnic Institute and wrote society news for a local newspaper. She quit work when she married. Betty said her mother was unhappy about that, and that unhappiness formed part of the background to The Feminine Mystique.
Betty, sister Amy and brother Harry were raised in a house on Farmington Road that looked out upon Bradley Park and was just a few blocks from what would become Bradley University. After graduating from high school, she left Peoria for Smith College, eventually settling in New York. In 1947 Betty married Carl Friedan, a theatrical producer; they divorced in 1969. Their children are Daniel, Emily and Jonathan Friedan.
Throughout her life Betty maintained strong Peoria friendships, often coming home to visit. While here, her brother said she “tested her thoughts on her friends of a lifetime – about a dozen or so bright and articulate men and women. These gatherings and the thoughts and responses expressed undoubtedly impacted her thinking as she was working on a book or a lecture.”
Prominent among those friends were Bob Easton and John and Harriet Parkhurst, lifelong Peorians. When Mrs. Parkhurst died in 1996, Betty spoke at her funeral. She said Harriet “made me proud to be from Peoria.”
Brother Harry remained in the city most of his adult life, then moved to California. He said he’d always known his sister had “marched to a tune that others had not yet heard.”
Betty and Dr. Robert S. Easton, Peoria Pediatrician, at a class reunion.