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Betty Friedan Tribute

Our Vision

To preserve the past and inspire the future of her story: Betty Friedan, a Sister Peorian.

Our Mission

Betty Friedan, a sister Peorian, provided a visionary grassroots movement to inspire women, once thought a damaged and weaker gender, to promote themselves and bring the issue of gender inequality to the forefront. This led to a profound cultural paradigm shift in how we view gender roles of women and men.

Our mission, with your help, is to preserve, promote, educate, and continually update the contributions of Betty Friedan through this tribute website to our generation and generations to come.  Help us by filling out and submitting the Did It Change Your Life Testimony.

Historical Journal Publishes Native Peorian’s Take on Betty Friedan

 An article by Gwen Jordan entitled “How The Feminine Mystique Played in Peoria: Who Is Betty Friedan?” appears in the most recent issue of History of Women in the Americas, a scholarly journal published in Great Britain.  It is based on interviews conducted over the last couple of years with several Peoria women, including some members of the Betty Friedan Tribute Committee.

Jordan’s article explores why Friedan’s “groundbreaking work … was not celebrated in her hometown of Peoria, Illinois until its fiftieth anniversary,” referring to the event the Tribute Committee organized in February of 2013 at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.  It further explores why many of Friedan’s “Peoria contemporaries – white, educated, married, middle- and upper-middle-class women, like the women featured in her book – rejected her thesis that their lives as women without careers … were dissatisfying.” The reason, says Jordan, is that they “found fulfillment and satisfaction as professional volunteers.” She argues that these women were mischaracterized in The Feminine Mystique  and “their contributions to producing a civil society have been undervalued.” While their roles now as workforce members may be personally fulfilling, their absence from volunteer work poses problems for organizations and communities that need citizen leadership.

Jordan was born and raised in Peoria, herself the daughter of active volunteers, Ed and Judy Hoerr. She is Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Chair of the Legal Studies Department at the University of Illinois at Springfield. She specializes in women’s legal history and feminist-critical race studies. She is also a staff attorney with the Illinois Innocence Project. She says she wrote the article because, having grown up in Peoria in the 1960s and 1970s, she wanted “to understand the relationship between the women Betty Friedan wrote about in The Feminine Mystique and the women I knew in Friedan’s (and my) hometown.” She mentions such stellar volunteers as Sally Page, Harriet Vance Parkhurst and Esther Cohen. Jordan first presented the paper at a conference marking fifty years of The Feminine Mystique held at the Royal Holloway University of London in November of 2013.  

Jordan’s article follows, along with links to five other articles from Volume Three of History of Women in the Americas, a journal that publishes “cutting-edge scholarship on women’s and gender history in all parts of the Americas.”  Volume 3 of the journal is entirely devoted to articles related to The Feminine Mystique. The volume is entitled Women as Wives & Workers: Marking Fifty Years of The Feminine Mystique. All of the articles may be found at http://journals.sas.ac.uk/hwa/issue or click HERE for a pdf of Gwen's article.

Peoria Riverfront Museum To Honor Betty Friedan with Display, Speech

Betty Friedan – the Peoria native who changed history – is about to make her mark at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Beginning October 17 and running through next January 17, Friedan memorabilia will occupy the glass case on the museum’s main floor.  At 2 p.m.  October 25, Barb Drake, former Journal Star Editorial Page Editor and a member of the Betty Friedan Tribute Committee, will give a lecture entitled “Betty Friedan’s Mark on History – and Peoria’s Mark on Her.” There is no charge for the Sunday event, which will be held at the Giant Screen Theater Stage.

The lecture and display are timed to coincide with a new display of work produced by Illinois women artists in the 1940s and 1950s that Peorian Channy Lyons has curated. Like most American women, many artists who’d been successful, creative and independent during the war years found themselves sent back to the kitchen post-war – and just as unhappy with the stifling domesticity expected of them as were the women whose stories Friedan told in “The Feminine Mystique.”

An autographed copy of that book, judged by historians to be among the most important ever written, will be part of the museum display. So will the five other books Friedan wrote and various magazines placing publication of “The Feminine Mystique” and Friedan herself among the events and individuals who changed history. Peoria-area residents may especially enjoy the hometown memorabilia on display. That includes a Peoria High School yearbook from 1938, the year she graduated; she is pictured among school valedictorians. Other items that provide a home-town feel include a photo of the Farmington Road house she lived in until leaving for college and a copy of the literary magazine she and her high school friends co-founded. It contains her essay entitled “I Am Paper,” which argues that a seemingly insignificant object such as a piece of paper has extraordinary powers because of its potential to frame big ideas and carry important arguments. How far-sighted of her!

Many of the items to be shown, including photographs of memorable moments in Friedan’s life, come from the collection of local historian Peter Couri. Others were gathered by members of the Betty Friedan Hometown Tribute Committee and museum staff.

The work of 55 Illinois women artists will be on display simultaneously. Audio recordings and wall tablets will provide context for them and for their work while delving into the history of the period. The artists on exhibit explored new materials and styles and created highly personal work. Beyond that, they founded women’s cooperatives that provided mutual support and cooperation and were teachers and mentors whose work is still felt today. Among those are Barbara Aubin, who marched in Springfield to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed; Vera Berdich, who founded the etching department at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago; and Ellen Lanyon, a leader in the 1960s feminist movement.

The domesticity demanded of them in the 1950s challenged the gains women had made but did not force these artists to give up their passion. At the same time they raised their children and tended to their families, they continued to concentrate on and produce good art. And they maintained their leadership roles in arts organizations, enabled and inspired by “the power a group wields, which they then applied to the civil rights and feminist movements of the 1960s,” according to Lyons. Of course, this very sort of work meshed nicely with Friedan’s publication of “The Feminine Mystique” in 1963 and the establishment of the National Organization for Women in 1966, during the height of the civil rights movement. As a result, women across the globe benefit from opportunities and aspirations the women artists and Friedan herself did not enjoy.

 For Betty Friedan, all of this began in Peoria, as Drake will note in her lecture. Here in her hometown Friedan experienced discrimination, but here she also became persuaded of the power of the group to change things. “If there was a problem, you could organize the community to deal with the problem,” she told Drake, who interviewed her in 1999 for the Journal Star and WTVP-TV. That’s precisely what Friedan did.


Bettye Goldstein, who would become Betty Friedan, lived with her family at this house on Farmington Road, an easy walk to Bradley University

Peoria High School 1938 yearbook picturing Bettye Goldstein (bottom  right)

Bettye Goldstein and the staff of the Peoria High literary magazine she co-founded. Bettye is in the center in both photos

Peoria's Celebration - The 50th Anniversary Of The Feminine Mystique

The Betty Friedan Hometown Tribute Committee could not let the 50th anniversary of publication of The Feminine Mystique (Feb. 19, 2013) go by without a big celebration in the author’s hometown.  We thought it the perfect opportunity to promote better understanding of the most influential person Peoria has ever produced as well as to explore how Peoria shaped a young Bettye Goldstein. We further decided to use the event to talk about how The Feminine Mystique and the women’s movement that followed changed the lives of Peoria women. Borrowing from the title of Betty Friedan’s third book, “It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women’s Movement,” we called our event “It Changed Us!”

To accomplish all these objectives, we created a program consisting of a keynote speech by Dr. Stacey Robertson, Oglesby Professor of American Heritage at Bradley University, followed by short testimonials about how the events we were celebrating changed the lives of six Peoria-area women of significant accomplishment. We also heard from a Bradley University senior who recognized the opportunities these changes afforded her. All women and men in the audience were invited to submit their own testimonials on the topic “It Changed My Life!” In addition, Betty Friedan (played by local actress Cheri Beever) made an appearance. The night ended with a video showing of Barbara Mantz Drake’s 1999 interview with Mrs. Friedan for The Journal Star and WTVP-TV.

More than 220 Peoria-area folks showed up on a cold and snowy evening to learn about and celebrate Betty Friedan’s life and work. You can see and hear what they heard and saw by clicking on the event video. You can also read the testimonials several local women submitted as well as submit your own. 

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Peoria Chapter of the National Organization for Women.

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