WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today marks what would have been the 100th birthday of National Organization for Women (NOW) co-founder Betty Friedan. Her groundbreaking work as the “mother” of the modern women’s rights movement includes her seminal book, The Feminine Mystique, and her election as NOW’s first president.
An author, journalist, educator, and activist, Friedan launched NOW on June 30, 1966 while at the Third National Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women. Many women at the conference were frustrated by the lack of true inclusion of women’s voices and realized they needed a platform of their own. Betty Friedan wrote three letters on a paper napkin: N O W. Then, co-founder Catherine Conroy put a five-dollar bill onto the table and said, “Put your money down and sign your name.” In that moment, NOW was born.
NOW’s founders, inspired by the Civil Rights movement, sought a parallel effort to demand equal treatment of both sexes. Early efforts included plans to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on sex, race, color, nationality, and religion. One of NOW’s first victories was ending the segregation of “women’s” and “men’s” help wanted ads in newspapers. Friedan co-organized the Women’s Strike for Equality, published six books, taught at New York University and the University of Southern California, and lectured widely at women’s conferences around the world.
NOW continues Friedan’s tireless commitment to her ideals, and we build on her vision with an intersectional feminist movement that addresses marginalized and under-resourced populations, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and LGBTQIA+ communities. Her legacy continues to inspire us as we work on these vital issues every day.
To honor Friedan’s legacy NOW President Christian F. Nunes is speaking at tonight’s Veteran Feminists of America’s celebration: “Betty Friedan’s 100th Birthday: Moving the Legacy Forward.” Join her, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer, Gloria Steinem, and many more amazing feminists, at 7:00 p.m. eastern. You can register for the event here.