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.

9 Handy Facts About the History of Handwriting

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iStock

While today we can get machines to write for us, for most of human history, writing was a manual endeavor. And there are people who are super passionate about keeping it that way. Some schools are building handwriting requirements into their curriculums, although even the positive research results on the benefits of handwriting over typing aren’t big enough to be super conclusive, and some studies find that cursive, in particular, probably isn’t any better than other methods of putting words to paper. But handwriting has a long and storied tradition in human history, and if only for that reason, it’s not going away anytime soon. In honor of National Handwriting Day, here are some facts about handwriting through the ages, courtesy of Anne Trubek’s recently published book The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting.

1. The world's first writing system was tiny.

Cuneiform, the Sumerian writing system that emerged from Mesopotamia 5000 years ago, was usually etched into clay tablets that were often only a few inches wide. Trubek describes most of the Cuneiform tablets she handled at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York as being only half the size of her iPhone. "Find the second portrait of Lincoln on the penny," a Morgan Library curator told her. "You know, the one of his statue inside the Lincoln Memorial on the obverse? That’s how small the script can be."

2. Medieval writing was regional.


A 12th century Austrian manuscript

After the fall of the Roman Empire, different scripts developed regionally as writers embellished and tweaked existing systems to create their own styles. However, this made books a little hard to read for those not educated in that exact script. All books were written in Latin, but the letters were so different that many scribes couldn’t read writing from other regions.

3. There is an entire filed devoted to reading handwriting.

Don’t feel bad if you can’t decipher other people’s writing easily. "The truth is, most of us already cannot read 99 percent of the historic record," Trubek writes. Paleographers study for years to specialize in particular scripts used in a certain time and certain context, such as medieval book scripts or 18th century legal documents. "In other words," Trubek points out, "even someone whose life work is dedicated to reading cursive cannot read most cursive."

4. Charlemagne was a stickler for handwriting.

The emperor—who was largely illiterate himself—decreed in the 9th century that the same script be used across the Holy Roman Empire, an area that covered most of Western Europe. Called Carolingian minuscule, the uniform script dominated writing in France, Germany, Northern Italy, and England until the 11th century. The Gothic script we associate with medieval times today is a derivation of Carolingian minuscule that popped up during the 12th century. It was later revived in the 15th century, and became the basis for Western typography.

5. Monks were not fans of printing presses.


Reading a first proof-sheet from a printing press in Westminster Abbey, March 1474.
Getty Images

The 15th century monk Johannes Trithemius defended the need for handwriting in his essay "In Praise of Scribes." He claimed that while scripture could last 1000 years, the printed book was "thing of paper and in a short time will decay entirely." Printing would make books unsightly and introduce spelling errors, and he predicted that history would judge "the manuscript book superior to the printed book." It had nothing to do with him losing his once-steady job to a machine, no. Indeed, Martin Luther complained of books much like people today complain about the quality of writing online, saying "the multitude of books is a great evil. There is no measure or limit to this form of writing."

6. The first font was very script-like.

The first printed books were designed to look a whole lot like the manuscripts of that day, so as not to shock people with newfangled design. Johannes Gutenberg and his hired craftsmen hand-carved an elaborate Gothic script into 290 unique characters for the printing press, allowing the printer to recreate every letter in upper- and lowercase, as well as punctuation, so that the type looked just like what a scribe would make. The first letters of every section were even red, just like manuscript style dictated.

7. Historically, handwriting professionals were quite upwardly mobile.


Circa 1450, a medieval master writing with quill and parchment in his study.
Getty Images

When printing put scribes out of work, they instead became teachers, tutoring and writing books on penmanship. These writing masters became wealthy professionals in a way that they had never been as simple scribes. When businesses and governments began hiring secretaries for the first time, who would take dictation and have a working knowledge of several different scripts, it became an unusually effective way to rise up the class ranks in medieval Europe. The papal secretary was the highest position a commoner could occupy in society.

8. In the 17th century, handwriting was personally revealing.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, different scripts became more than just a sign of where you learned. Specific scripts were established for classes and professions, and even for gender. Wealthy Europeans would use one script for their personal correspondence and another for their legal and business correspondence. A whole host of scripts in England were developed just for court use, making many documents completely illegible to anyone not trained in that specific style of writing.

9. Punctuation was rare until the 18th century.

Before literacy became widespread, spelling varied widely from person to person, and nothing was standardized. It became uniform over time, and the first dictionaries weren’t published until the 17th century. Even then, standardized spelling didn’t become regular for another century. Punctuation was even worse, remaining "largely nonexistent or nonstandardized," according to Trubek, until the 18th century.

This story originally ran in 2016.

30 Fun Food Holidays to Celebrate This Year

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iStock.com/neirfy

Whether your dietary tastes stick to the old standards like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or a liquid diet of absinthe and wine, there's a food and drink holiday for you. Here are 30 of them that you still have time to celebrate in 2019.

1. January 23: National Pie Day

Take today to enjoy a classic apple or pecan, or try something new.

2. January 25: Burns Night

Burns Night, named for Scottish poet Robert Burns, celebrates Scottish culture, literature, and cuisine. Break out the haggis!

3. February 2: National Tater Tot Day

A pile of golden brown tater tots
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Take National Tater Tot Day to reconsider what might be the finest form of fried potatoes.

4. February 9: National Pizza Day

You already crave it every day, so take February 9 to treat yourself to your favorite slice (and learn some of the history, too!).

5. March 5: National Absinthe Day

There's a lot of talk about absinthe's history and the myths therein. Luckily, we've got those covered—and debunked.

6. March 7: National Cereal Day

Cereal first, then milk. Learn your history.

7. March 17: National Corn Dog Day

This March, celebrate with one portable, fried, meaty treat. But first, learn about the anatomy of a corndog.

8. April 2: National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a plate atop a blue and white checked tablecloth
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Who doesn't love this classic childhood snack? Eat one today, and then get the answer to something you've wondered since childhood: What's the difference between jelly and jam?

9. April 7: National Beer Day

Be sure to correct your misconceptions about beer before having too many on April 7 (or even the night before on New Beer's Eve).

10. April 19: National Garlic Day

We all know it's supposed to keep a vampire away, but did you know these 11 facts about garlic?

11. May 11: National Eat What You Want Day

Woman picks out a dessert in a bakery
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Though it's definitely not healthy, this is a food holiday that we want to celebrate more than once a year.

12. May 16: National Mimosa Day

A staple of any brunch menu. Celebrate with a glass ... or two.

13. May 25: National Wine Day

As you're enjoying a glass of cab sav or chardonnay with friends this National Wine Day, drop a few of these wine-related facts.

14. June 1: National Doughnut Day

A woman eating a pink frosted donut
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One of two National Doughnut Days celebrated every year. Why are there two, you ask? We've got you covered.

15. June 4: National Cheese Day

There are so many different types of cheese to celebrate. Here's a quick refresher on how two dozen of them got their names.

16. June 21: National Smoothie Day

Put all your favorites together, blend them up, and check out some of the best smoothie art we can find!

17. July 6: National Fried Chicken Day

Not all fried chicken is created equal. Before finding the best in your state, learn about how it used to be made.

18. July 14: National Mac and Cheese Day

Man eating a bowl of macaroni and cheese
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You can thank none other than Thomas Jefferson for popularizing this delightful dish.

19. July 15: National Ice Cream Day

Our third president also had a hand in making ice cream a thing—in fact, according to the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, "he can be credited with the first known recipe [for ice cream] recorded by an American," and it probably stems from his time in France.

20. August 3: National Watermelon Day

They're 92 percent water, and 100 percent delicious—and you can eat the whole thing, which you should definitely do on National Watermelon Day.

21. August 24: National Waffle Day

Would it be a surprise if we told you that Jefferson loved these delicious discs so much he brought back four waffle irons from France? He liked to serve them with (duh) ice cream.

22. September 20: National Queso Day

Not just cheese dip, queso (or chili con queso) is a Tex-Mex dip served with tortilla chips. It's been called "the world's most perfect food," and we can't disagree.

23. September 25: National Lobster Day

Grilling lobsters on the barbecue
iStock.com/Instants

On the day celebrating this brightly colored crustacean, consider these fun facts about the clawed creature.

24. September 29: National Coffee Day

Make the most of this National Coffee Day with some of our favorite coffee hacks.

25. October 14: National Dessert Day

Treat yourself.

26. October 17: National Pasta Day

Young boy eats a plate of spaghetti
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There are myriad ways to celebrate National Pasta Day, so why not consider some of these unique pasta shapes?

27. October 26: National Chicken Fried Steak Day

This delicious dish is a delicacy across the American South, and certainly worth taking a day to celebrate.

28. November 21: National Stuffing Day

If you're worried about celebrating the right food, make sure you know the difference between stuffing and dressing. 

29. December 8: National Brownie Day

Whether you prefer the middle piece or an edge piece, celebrate National Brownie Day by learning about its origins.

30. December 30: National Bacon Day

Sizzling hot bacon cooking in a cast iron skillet
iStock.com/VeselovaElena

End every year with a generous helping of the internet's favorite food.

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