Life So Far: A Memoir share button
Betty Friedan
Genre Biography
Format Paperback
Dimensions 5.50 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 1.00 (d)
Pages 400
Publisher Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Publication Date August 2006
ISBN 9780743299862
Book ISBN 10 0743299868
About Book

It was Betty Freidan herself, in Life So Far, who spoke about her life and career and told us what it was all like from the inside. With the unsparing frankness that made The Feminine Mystique one of the most influential books of the century, Friedan looked back and told us what it took, and what it cost, to change the world. She took us on an intimate journey through her life, from her lonely childhood to the founding of NOW and her brilliant, contentious, and brave leadership of the Movement.

Life So Far chronicles the secret underground of women in Washington in the early sixties who drafted Friedan to spearhead an "NAACP" for women, and the daring of many who spoke out against discrimination. Friedan recounts the political infighting and dirty tricks that occurred within the Movement as well as the forces that tried to destroy it and how hard she fought to keep the Movement practical and free of extremism, including "man-hating." Friedan is equally frank about her twenty-two-year marriage to an advertising entrepreneur, which deteriorated into physical abuse. They later reconciled as friends.

Life So Far is forthright, full of stories and larger-than-life characters, and it is the scope of Friedan's vision and achievements that makes her memoir so important and compelling.


From the Publisher

"Fascinating...Friedan's firsthand tales will transport readers to the glory days of the women's movement."

— Boston Herald

"[Friedan] takes us behind her public façade to a woman who began her remarkable adult life as 'just a housewife,' who wrote a book...that reaped the whirlwind, and found herself contending...with the awesome responsibilities and contradictions that the book thrust upon her.... An immensely touching, beguiling and engaging book."

— The Washington Post

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly

Sisterhood may be powerful, but it's always nice to have the last word--or at least to try. Viewed by many as the logical leader of the women's movement ushered in by the publication of her bestseller The Feminine Mystique, Friedan became a controversial figure as her often conservative positions led to clashes with other feminists. Her impetus for penning her memoirs is to "correct" the "mistakes" of two biographies that were published last year (Judith Hennessee's Betty Friedan: Her Life and Daniel Horowitz's Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminine Mystique). Writing in a chatty style that rambles all over the place (she is apt to detail room decor in less focused moments), she is sometimes insightful, as when explaining her early attraction to Marxism in Freudian and Jewish theological terms. Unfortunately, Friedan is fighting old battles in much of the memoir, occasionally sounding bitter or paranoid: in her view, the discussions of lesbianism at the 1977 NOW conference in Houston were promoted and funded by "enemies of the women's movement"; La Leche is a fringe group that makes a "fetish of breast-feeding"; the FBI and CIA may have been behind moves to replace Friedan as president of NOW; and Kate Millett's feminist classic Sexual Politics "has a lot of warped stuff" in it. Friedan also minimizes or ignores her biographers' criticisms of her personal life or style, including criticism of her views on race, her drinking habit and what some contend is a tendency toward character assassination of other feminists. While it's important to hear Friedan's version of her history, readers will be well aware that hers is a one-sided view of the women's movement. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

Library Journal

Now in her late 70s, Friedan reminisces over a life of social activism that has included helping to found the National Organization for Women, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, and the National Women's Political Caucus, as well as writing the pivotal The Feminine Mystique. She chronicles the successes of the women's movement but also the extremism and divisiveness within the movement that she feels took attention away from mainstream basic issues like childcare and equal pay for work of comparable value. Of her reputation for being ill-tempered and feisty, she claims that she has mellowed, though she concedes that this may be a lapse of memory on her part. Friedan's frank memoir complements two recent studies: Judith Hennessee's Betty Friedan, Her Life (LJ 3/15/99) and Daniel Horowitz's Betty Friedan and the Making of "The Feminine Mystique" (Univ. of Massachusetts, 1998). Her book belongs in every women's studies and academic collection as well as most public libraries. [For an interview with Friedan, see p. 112.--Ed.]--Patricia A. Beaber, Coll. of New Jersey, Ewing Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\

Kirkus Reviews

Betty Friedan tells her side of the story, in an autobiography so amiable that friends and enemies alike will wonder what happened to the confrontational woman who was the intellectual tsunami in the second-wave struggle for women's rights. Friedan (The Fountain of Age, 1993) sticks with the basic outline of earlier (unauthorized) profiles. Growing up "different" in Peoria, Illinois, Friedan felt out of step. Mainstream society (or her vision of it) shaped her thinking: change comes from the middle class, as she said later. Smith College disciplined her mind but did little to relieve the social pressures (in support of marriage and childrearing) that she felt she could not measure up to. Reflections on her children ("I never had problems with my kids"), her marriage (divorce only after years of black eyes), her lovers, and her travels are interesting enough, but they pale beside the recapitulation of her thoughts as she shapes The Feminine Mystique. With due credit to the then-anonymous women who urged her on, Friedan recounts the founding of the National Organization for Women. She walks us through the controversies that were engendered within the movement by a growing opposition to her belief that men are not the enemy, and although she admits disarmingly that her opinions have changed on some issues—especially her feelings towards lesbians—she still maintains that male vs. female separatism is a mistake. As the separatists gained power, she dropped out (or was maneuvered out) of feminist centers of power and moved on to preach independently about "second-stage" feminism. With a million-dollar Ford Foundation grant now behind her, Friedannowcontinues her research and writes on the "new paradigm" of social organization (emphasizing such practical supports for working families as childcare). Although friends say she has mellowed, Friedan declares bluntly that "I've always been a bad-tempered bitch." On the personal side, a best-case scenario; on the political side, a brilliant thinker sets the adrenaline flowing all over again.