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.

5 Wild Facts About Mall Madness

Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The mall, home of fashion brands, bookstores, and anchor locations like Sears, was a must-visit location for Americans in the 1980s and 1990s—and especially for teenagers. Teens also played Mall Madness, a board game from Milton Bradley introduced in 1988 that tried to capture the excitement of soft pretzels and high-interest credit card shopping in one convenient tabletop game. Navigating a two-story shopping mall, the player who successfully spends all of their disposable income to acquire six items from the shopping list and return to the parking lot wins.

If you’re nostalgic for this simulated spending spree, you're in luck: Hasbro will be bringing Mall Madness back in fall 2020. Until then, check out some facts about the game’s origins.

1. Mall Madness was the subject of a little controversy.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Milton Bradley put a focus on the tween demographic. Their Dream Phone tasked young players with finding the boy of their dreams; Mall Madness, which began as an analog game but quickly added an electronic voice component, served to portray tweens as frenzied shoppers. As a result, the game drew some criticism upon release for its objective—to spend as much money as possible—and for ostensibly portraying the tweens playing as “bargain-crazy, credit-happy fashion plates,” according to Adweek. Milton Bradley public relations manager Mark Morris argued that the game taught players “how to judiciously spend their money.”

2. The original Mall Madness may not be the same one you remember.

The electronic version of Mall Madness remains the most well-known version of the game, but Milton Bradley introduced a miniature version in 1988 that was portable and took the form of an audio cassette. With the game board folded in the case, it looks like a music tape. Opened, the tri-fold board resembles the original without the three-dimensional plastic mall pieces. It was one of six games the company promoted in the cassette packaging that year.

3. Mall Madness was not the only shopping game on the market.

At the same time Mall Madness was gaining in popularity, consumers could choose from two other shopping-themed board games: Let’s Go Shopping from the Pressman Toy Corporation and Meet Me At the Mall from Tyco. Let’s Go Shopping tasks girls with completing a fashion outfit, while Meet Me At the Mall rewards the player who amasses the most items before the mall closes.

4. There was a Hannah Montana version of Mall Madness.

In the midst of Hannah Montana madness in 2008, Hasbro—which acquired Milton Bradley—released a Miley Cyrus-themed version of the game. Players control fictional Disney Channel singing sensation Hannah Montana as she shops for items. There was also A Littlest Pet Shop version of the game, with the tokens reimagined as animals.

5. Mall Madness is a collector’s item.

Because, for the moment, Hasbro no longer produces Mall Madness, a jolt of nostalgia will cost you a few dollars. The game, which originally sold for $30, can fetch $70 or more on eBay and other secondhand sites.

10 'Nuts' That Aren't Actually Nuts

None of these "nuts" are truly nuts.
None of these "nuts" are truly nuts.
margouillatphotos/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Who doesn’t love a pedantic houseguest? Next time you’re at a dinner party and someone breaks out the mixed nuts, seize the moment and let everyone know that a lot of the tasty treats we call nuts don’t actually merit the title. Botanists define a “nut” as a dry, one-seeded fruit encased in a hardened ovary wall (called a pericarp). Genuine nuts are fused to their shells and won’t naturally break open upon reaching maturity. Hazelnuts fit the criteria. So do chestnuts. But these ever-popular snack foods sure don’t.

1. Peanuts

The star ingredient of America's favorite nut butter isn't actually a nut. Instead, peanuts are considered legumes, along with soybeans, lentils, and chickpeas. Unlike nuts, most legumes come in self-opening pods—which may or may not grow underground, depending on the species. 

2. Almonds

A group of almonds in wood bowl atop a rustic table
These almonds formed inside a fleshy fruit.
onairjiw/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Almonds are seeds found within the fleshy, peach-like fruits of the Asian Prunus dulcis tree. They’ve earned a spot on our list because actual nuts don’t come wrapped up in softened fruit matter. So how do botanists classify almonds? As drupe seeds. Briefly stated, a drupe is a soft fruit with a hard inner shell. (Think peach pits.)

3. Cashews

Like almonds, cashews are drupe seeds pulled from soft fruit packages. The trail mix staples poke out of red, yellow, or green “cashew apples” that grow on South American trees. Cashew seeds are naturally protected by a toxin-coated outer shell that's roasted to neutralize the acid. In spite of this defense mechanism, the yummy snacks were soon embraced by Portuguese explorers and distributed across the globe.

4. Walnuts

A squirrel eating walnuts in a park
The walnuts this squirrel is noshing on are drupes, not nuts.
Serhii Ivashchuk/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Hey look, it’s another member of the drupe clan! Walnuts inhabit green fruit on temperate trees in the genus Juglans. Most of the seeds that end up on American dining room tables come from the English walnut tree, Juglans regia [PDF]. Even if you don’t eat the drupes, you can probably find a use for them: Walnut shells have been incorporated into everything from cosmetic products to kitty litter.

5. Pine nuts

About 20 pine tree species—including the Italian stone pine—produce big seeds that get harvested en masse. Those seeds are removed from cones in a meticulous process, which accounts for their high selling prices.

5. Brazil Nuts

You’ll encounter Brazil nuts all over the Amazon rainforest, in such countries as Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and (of course) Brazil. They come from a hardened 4-to-6-pound pod containing up to two dozen seeds that might become trees someday. The pods are so hefty, getting bonked on the head by a falling one is enough to stun or even kill you.  Surprisingly, Brazil Nuts can also be fairly radioactive thanks to the trees' roots, which grow deep within radium-rich soil.

7. Macadamia Nuts

Rows of trees at an Australian Macadamia orchard
An Australian macadamia orchard filled with the country's native drupe.
oxime/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Gympie, Queensland, has an odd claim to fame: Approximately 70 percent of all the macadamia nuts on Earth are descended from trees grown in the Australian town. Macadamias are an ecological staple in Queensland and New South Wales. But—stop us if this sounds familiar—their so-called “nuts” are drupes.

8. Pistachios

Not only are pistachios drupes, but they’ve got shells that automatically open with a literal popping noise once the contents reach a certain size. When all’s said and done, though, at least pistachios are Frank Drebin-approved.

9. Pecans

The Algonquian term for “nut that requires a stone to crack” gave us the English word pecan. Wild pecans can be gathered in Mexico and the United States—they’re true North American treasures. Name origin aside, they can’t accurately be called nuts. Botanists usually refer to them as drupes, but because of their tough shells, the label “drupaceous nuts” might be more appropriate. Either way, pecans aren’t true nuts. They make for great pies, though.

10. Coconuts

A monkey sticks out its tongue while eating a coconut
This cheeky monkey seems to be enjoying its delicious drupe.
Volga2012/iStock via Getty Images Plus

A drupe of unusual size, the coconut is a fibrous juggernaut that bears a single seed. The whitish fleshy interior can be immersed in hot water and then rung out through a cloth to produce coconut milk. Meanwhile, the outer shells are responsible for some of the most delightfully bizarre Guinness World Records categories, such as “most green coconuts smashed with the head in one minute.” (You can see other unusual Guinness World Record categories here.)

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