Bettye Naomi Goldstein was born in 1921 in Illinois to Harry and Miriam Goldstein, whose Jewish families came from Russia and Hungary. Harry owned a jewellery store and Miriam wrote for the society page of a newspaper.
As a young girl, Freidan was active in both Marxist and Jewish circles and felt her passion against injustice originated from her feelings of injustice of Anti-Semitism. She attended the all-female prestigious Smith college and won a scholarship in her first year for outstanding academic performance. She became Editor of the college newspaper and it became more political under her leadership, taking a strong antiwar stance. She then went to Berkeley College where she became more politically active. After leaving Berkeley, she became a journalist for leftist and labour publications. Now married, in 1953 she was dismissed from a union newspaper because she was pregnant with her second child, thus becoming aware firsthand of women’s oppression and exclusion. In 1966 she co-founded NOW (National Organisation for Women) a group which lobbied for equal Pay and equal employment opportunities
In her 15th College reunion in 1957, Bettye surveyed her fellow graduates on their satisfaction with their current lives and received passionate responses from the women experiencing unfulfilled lives, either through divorce or lack of employment opportunities. After reworking this paper, she decided to expand the topic in a book, a worldwide best seller, The Feminine Mystique.
She was a prolific writer right up till he death in 2006 and had three children Daniel, Emily and Jonathan.