Bradley's Friedan website aids elementary 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.

As of 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.”