8 Things You Might Not Know About Betty Friedan

Peter Kramer, Getty Images
Peter Kramer, Getty Images

Only a handful of authors can be credited with changing the very fabric of 20th century culture. Betty Friedan is among them. The writer and feminist (1921-2006) lambasted gender inequality in her landmark 1963 work The Feminine Mystique, launching a national conversation about the disproportionate rights afforded to men and women. Friedan also faced similar battles in her personal life. Check out some facts about her past, her work, and how she stood up to the Supreme Court.

1. FROM A YOUNG AGE, SHE KNEW WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE MARGINALIZED.

Born in Peoria, Illinois in Feburary 1921, Bettye Goldstein—she later dropped the extraneous “e” from her name—got a glimpse of the uphill battle women faced when she would catch her mother, Miriam, expressing frustration that she had given up her job as a newspaper editor in order to marry and raise a family. Why, she wondered, couldn’t her mother have had both? As a graduate student in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, Friedan had an experience of her own, feeling pressured into giving up higher education in order to marry. The idea of a woman forced to prioritize domestic life over other achievements would later provide a spark for her career focus.

2. SHE WAS ONCE FIRED FOR BEING PREGNANT.

After marrying ad executive Carl Friedan in 1947, Friedan took a job at UE News, a labor trade newspaper. There, Friedan got another glimpse of the harsh climate endured by women in the workforce. When she gave birth to her first child, Friedan was able to take maternity leave for one year. When she got pregnant a second time, there was no leave—instead, she was fired, with her employees anticipating she’d be asking for more time off.

3. HER LANDMARK WORK BEGAN AS A SURVEY.

At the 15th anniversary reunion of her Smith College class in 1957, Friedan decided to poll her female former classmates about how satisfied they were with the balance between their work and their personal lives. Friedan had landed freelance magazine work, felt contented, and assumed others would report a similar outcome. But they didn’t. Their lives seemed to be filled with laundry, chores, and child-rearing, while their dreams were relegated to the back burner. This phenomenon, which Friedan detected in follow-up interviews with other women, was intended to be the subject of magazine articles. When editors backed away from such a controversial topic, it became the premise for The Feminine Mystique.

4. HER BOOK WAS AFFECTED BY A NEWSPAPER STRIKE.

It’s a testament to the power of The Feminine Mystique that it had the impact it did, despite an unfortunate bit of timing. When the book was released in 1963, newspapers in New York City were going through a four-month worker’s strike, cutting off the opportunities for publicity that would normally be afforded major publishing titles. (The papers would run reviews or ads to raise awareness.) In spite of that, Friedan’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed. The book was excerpted in women’s magazines, and publisher W.W. Norton arranged one of the earliest examples of a book tour. The paperback sold 1.4 million copies and ignited a national conversation over women's rights.

5. SHE ENDURED PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL CRITICISM.

Not everyone reacted positively to Friedan’s examination of a deeply-rooted dissatisfaction in gender roles. Some newspaper reviews dismissed the book as hysterical and Friedan as overly analytical; others insulted her personally, mocking her appearance. As late as 1995, a Washington Post reporter described Friedan as having a “magnificent kind of ugliness.”

6. SHE CO-FOUNDED THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN (NOW).

Three years after publishing The Feminine Mystique, Friedan realized the conversation she had sparked showed no signs of abating. In order to support the women voicing their preference for equal rights, she wrote three letters on a napkin—NOW—and teamed up with representatives from the Third National Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women to formalize a new advocacy group. NOW named Friedan as their first president and began a series of public gatherings to protest discrimination in culture. In 1967, for example, they criticized gender-segregated help wanted employment ads.

7. SHE HELPED LEAD A NATIONAL WOMEN’S STRIKE.

Friedan took on one of her most audacious projects yet in 1970: organizing a nationwide strike of women demanding attention be drawn to the unequal distribution of labor in both domestic and business environments. During the Women’s Strike for Equality March, 50,000 women took to the New York City streets waving signs and capturing their concentrated frustration. Some reporters observed it was the largest movement since women’s suffrage protests decades prior. The effort effected real change: In 1972, Title IX was passed, giving women equal rights in educational programs that received federal assistance. NOW membership also grew by 50 percent following the strike.

8. SHE FACED OFF AGAINST A SUPREME COURT NOMINEE—AND WON.

In 1970, Friedan was informed that recent Supreme Court nominee Judge Harrold Carswell had a history of sexual discrimination, including a ruling in favor of an employer who refused to hire a woman because she was a mother. Friedan, who believed having an all-male Supreme Court was problematic enough, decided to testify during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Friedan also rallied NOW supporters to lobby their local senators to block Carswell’s nomination. The efforts were successful: Carswell was never appointed to the Court.

10 Wireless Chargers Designed to Make Life Easier

La Lucia/Moshi
La Lucia/Moshi

While our smart devices and gadgets are necessary in our everyday life, the worst part is the clumsy collection of cords and chargers that go along with them. Thankfully, there are more streamlined ways to keep your phone, AirPods, Apple Watch, and other electronics powered-up. Check out these 10 wireless chargers that are designed to make your life convenient and connected.

1. Otto Q Wireless Fast Charging Pad; $40

Otto Q Wireless Fast Charging Pad
Moshi

Touted as one of the world's fastest chargers, this wireless model from Moshi is ideal for anyone looking to power-up their phone or AirPods in a hurry. It sports a soft, cushioned design and features a proprietary Q-coil module that allows it to charge through a case as thick as 5mm.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

2. Gotek Wireless Charging Music Station; $57

Gotek Wireless Charging Music Station
Rego Tech

Consolidate your bedside table with this clock, Bluetooth 5.0 speaker, and wireless charger, all in one. It comes with a built-in radio and glossy LED display with three levels of brightness to suit your style.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

3. BentoStack PowerHub 5000; $100 (37 percent off)

BentoStack PowerHub 5000
Function101

This compact Apple accessory organizer will wirelessly charge, port, and store your device accessories in one compact hub. It stacks to look neat and keep you from losing another small piece of equipment.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

4. Porto Q 5K Portable Battery with Built-in Wireless Charger; $85

Porto Q 5K Portable Battery with Built-in Wireless Charger
Moshi

This wireless charger doubles as a portable battery, so when your charge dies, the backup battery will double your device’s life. Your friends will love being able to borrow a charge, too, with the easy, non-slip hook-up.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

5. 4-in-1 Versatile Wireless Charger; $41 (31 percent off)

4-in-1 Versatile Wireless Charger
La Lucia

Put all of those tangled cords to rest with this single, temperature-controlled charging stand that can work on four devices at once. It even has a built-in safeguard to protect against overcharging.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

6. GRAVITIS™ Wireless Car Charger; $20 (31 percent off)

GRAVITIS™ Wireless Car Charger
Origaudio

If you need to charge your phone while also using it as a GPS, this wireless device hooks right into the car’s air vent for safe visibility. Your device will be fully charged within two to three hours, making it perfect for road trips.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

7. Futura X Wireless 15W Fast Charging Pad; $35 (30 percent off)

Futura X Wireless 15W Fast Charging Pad
Bezalel

This incredibly thin, tiny charger is designed for anyone looking to declutter their desk or nightstand. Using a USB-C cord for a power source, this wireless charger features a built-in cooling system and is simple to set up—once plugged in, you just have to rest your phone on top to get it working.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

8. Apple Watch Wireless Charger Keychain; $20 (59 percent off)

Apple Watch Wireless Charger Keychain
Go Gadgets

This Apple Watch charger is all about convenience on the go. Simply attach the charger to your keys or backpack and wrap your Apple Watch around its magnetic center ring. The whole thing is small enough to be easily carried with you wherever you're traveling, whether you're commuting or out on a day trip.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

9. Wireless Charger with 30W Power Delivery & 18W Fast Charger Ports; $55 (38 percent off)

Wireless Charger from TechSmarter
TechSmarter

Fuel up to three devices at once, including a laptop, with this single unit. It can wirelessly charge or hook up to USB and USB-C to consolidate your charging station.

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10. FurniQi Bamboo Wireless Charging Side Table; $150 (24 percent off)

FurniQi Bamboo Wireless Charging Side Table
FoneSalesman

This bamboo table is actually a wireless charger—all you have to do is set your device down on the designated charging spot and you're good to go. Easy to construct and completely discreet, this is a novel way to charge your device while entertaining guests or just enjoying your morning coffee.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

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12 Facts About Richard Simmons

Getty
Getty

Richard Simmons was everywhere during the 1980s and 1990s. From talk show appearances to Sweatin' to the Oldies video tapes, Simmons was the world's most memorable exercise advocate ... until he dropped out of sight.

In 2017, Simmons became the subject of the Missing Richard Simmons podcast, which took the central conceit of Serial and dropped it into a group fitness class. The podcast recounted filmmaker Dan Taberski’s attempts to coerce Simmons out of an apparently self-imposed three-year exile, but still left plenty of Simmons lore to pore over. Check out 12 things that may help you better understand the man behind the sequined tank tops, who was born on July 12, 1948.

1. Richard Simmons was almost Father Simmons.

Born in 1948, Simmons was raised in a very religious household in the French Quarter of New Orleans. After graduating from high school, he entered a Dominican seminary in Iowa and stayed for nearly two years before leaving. “It just wasn’t for me,” he said, citing his 240-pound frame that had been engorged on food addiction from an early age and his “loud” persona as being less than fitting for the job. Simmons also tried getting into medicine but found that “dead bodies [and] blood” were unnerving. He also had stints as a cosmetics executive and fashion illustrator before finding his niche in the fitness industry, opening the Anatomy Asylum exercise studio in 1975.

2. An anonymous note led to Richard Simmons's body transformation.

A photo of Richard Simmons
Getty Images

According to a 1981 feature in The New York Times, Simmons was working as a “fat model” in Europe in 1968 when he found a handwritten note stuck to his car. “Fat people die young,” the paper read. “Please don’t die. Anonymous.” Rattled by the message, the then-268-pound Simmons developed an eating disorder, surviving on water and lettuce for more than two months. Eventually, he recovered and developed a new philosophy: "Love yourself, move your body and watch your portions."

3. Richard Simmons appeared in two Federico Fellini movies.

Before Simmons slimmed down, he was enjoying the cuisine of Florence, Italy, where he was studying art in the late 1960s. While there, Simmons nabbed parts in two movies by acclaimed Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini: Satyricon and The Clowns. The footage is apparently the only existing evidence of his former frame: Simmons once said he “burned” all other photos prior to his weight loss.

4. Richard Simmons revolutionized the '80s fitness tape craze.

No video store in the 1980s was complete without a section devoted to fitness. Industry stars like Jake Steinfeld and Tony Little shared shelf space with tapes from Jane Fonda and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In almost all of these releases, perfectly-proportioned motivators and models led viewers through rigorous workout routines. When Simmons started his Sweatin’ to the Oldies series in 1988, he elected to populate his stage with regular people who were still struggling with weight loss. Consumers appreciated that Simmons wasn’t holding them up to a fitness magazine ideal, and the Sweatin’ series went on to sell 25 million copies.

5. Richard Simmons has been known to confront overeaters.

Early in his mission to eliminate excess adipose tissue, Simmons admitted to confronting total strangers over some of their dietary choices. “I’ll see an overweight woman eating a butterscotch sundae,” he told People in 1981, “and I’ll sit at her table and say, ‘What is this?’” When he operated a trendy Los Angeles eatery he called Ruffage in 1975, he’d also sit down with his customers and tell them if they needed to lose weight.

6. Richard Simmons once replaced Alex Trebek.

In 1987, syndicated TV distributor Lorimar attempted to capitalize on the home-shopping craze with ValueTelevision, a one-hour show where viewers could place orders via the telephone for featured products. The series was co-hosted by Jeopardy! star Alex Trebek. When the ratings were less than Lorimar anticipated, they fired Trebek and replaced him with Simmons. Nothing seemed to work, and the show was canceled in June.

7. Richard Simmons used to tour shopping malls.

Beginning in 1979, Simmons appeared on the ABC soap opera General Hospital as a fitness instructor. With the cast, he began making personal appearances at shopping malls: Simmons was so impressed by the number of people he could reach this way that he continued even after leaving the show in the early 1980s. “I travel almost 300 days a year,” he said in 1991. “I do mostly shopping malls, because everyone will come to a shopping mall, no matter what they weigh, no matter their economic structure, no matter what they drive. The malls are the meeting places of America. And so that's where I go."

8. Richard Simmons doesn't like sarcasm.

A photo of Richard Simmons
Getty Images

In 2004, Simmons was at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport when a fellow passenger made a caustic remark about his Sweatin’ to the Oldies series of tapes. According to police, the man spotted Simmons and shouted, “Hey, everybody, it’s Richard Simmons. Let’s drop our bags and rock to the ‘50s.” The heckling was unappreciated by Simmons, who reportedly walked over and slapped the man across the face. According to the Bangor Daily News, police cited him with misdemeanor assault. The case was later settled and dropped.

9. David Letterman gave Richard Simmons an asthma attack.

Simmons was a frequent guest on David Letterman’s late-night talk shows, with Letterman often playing the straight man to the hyper antics of Simmons. In 2000, Simmons took a break from the appearances after Letterman playfully sprayed him with a fire extinguisher, prompting the asthmatic Simmons to have so much trouble breathing that paramedics were called. The normally affable Simmons was so upset by the incident that he refused to appear on the show for six years.

10. Richard Simmons doesn't like restaurants.

Speaking with the Denver Post in 2008, Simmons said that he very rarely visits restaurants owing to the fact that people can’t stop craning their necks to see what the diet guru has ordered. To maintain some semblance of privacy, Simmons typically gets room service while traveling. He also avoids grocery stores, citing concerns that people tend to call him over and ask him to read the ingredients label to see if it’s a healthy option.

11. Richard Simmons called his dogs on the phone.

A photo of Richard Simmons
Getty Images

Describing himself as a “loner” who doesn’t have many friends, Simmons once revealed a strong emotional bond with his three Dalmatians he named after characters in Gone with the Wind. When traveling, Simmons said he would call his house and sing to them over the telephone.

12. Richard Simmons foreshadowed his own exit in 1981.

As his fame and success grew, Simmons became a fixture on television and in print. Speaking to People for a profile in November 1981, the fitness expert said he received 25,000 to 30,000 letters every day and tried to meet as many people who requested his help as possible. “The day I don’t love any of this,” he said, “I’ll walk away.”

This story has been updated for 2020.