“The only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own. There is no other way.”
~Betty Friedan (1921 – 2006)
This week, From the Vault features two recordings of feminist author and icon Betty Friedan, Betty Friedan vs. the Third World (1975) and It Changed My Life (1976). Former KPFK Los Angeles program director and current From the Vault producer Lucia Chappelle, in crafting this elegant and moving tribute to Friedan, traveled down memory lane during the production process, sharing her personal thoughts and experiences:
Who didn’t read “The Feminine Mystique?” It was the book that broke the water in the birth of the second wave of feminism, but by the mid-1970’s both it and its author, NOW co-founder Betty Friedan, were starting to seem kind of passe “especially to women coming up in the movement who were younger and more radical, or who were not white, or who were lesbian,” and I was all of those!
When we pulled these two programs out of the Archives, “Betty Friedan vs. the Third World” and “It Changed My Life,” it all came rushing back. I remember how the fireworks at Friedan’s press conference during the 1975 International Women’s Year Conference in Mexico City echoed on a global scale the tensions that were tearing U.S. feminists apart. That came back first. But it was not until I heard the interview with Friedan recorded about a year later that my frustration with her came back into balance with the admiration she deserves. Fortunately, the memory of those fascinating and complicated times is preserved in the Pacifica Radio Archives with a lot less baggage that I carried in my own head.
The first world conference on the status of women was called by the United Nations General Assembly in an effort to open an international dialogue on gender equality. 133 Member State delegations came to Mexico City in the summer of 1975, and a parallel NGO Forum involved about 4,000 participants. At a gathering like this one, you can be sure that a lot of people came seeking advice from Betty Friedan, and almost as many came to challenge her.
Just about a year after the International Women’s Year Conference in Mexico City, a co-worker at Pacifica station KPFK Los Angeles came into my office with an evil grin and said, “Guess what Betty Friedan’s new book is called?!” She clasped her hands under her chin, battered her eyes at the ceiling and sighed, “It Changed My Life!” Well, we both dissolved into laughter, and I think I said something like, “Yeah, but not near enough!” and she said something like, “Yeah, it made me rich!” But after engaging in some good old feminist trash-talk for a couple of minutes, even we had to concede, “Well, but she is Betty Friedan, and if it weren’t for her we might not have movement to dish about!”
A couple of months later, Friedan came to the station for an interview with Barbara Cady, the reporter who had recorded her tempestuous Mexico City press conference. By the time she arrived, even the most hard-boiled critics among the women on staff were pretty excited to meet her. Yes, she had participated in the purges of lesbians from NOW, and yes, there was still mistrust between the movement she helped start and women of color, and yes, she was Betty Friedan.
~Lucia Chappelle, From the Vault producer.
From the Vault is presented as part of the Pacifica Radio Archives Preservation and Access Project.
ORIGINAL SOURCE RECORDINGS:
BC2377 Betty Friedan vs. the Third World MORE INFO / PURCHASE CD
BC3051 It Changed My Life / Betty Friedan MORE INFO / PURCHASE CD
Click here to purchase a copy of this program or learn more about and purchase copies of the historic archival recordings used within this episode. To purchase a CD copy of this program by phone, please call Pacifica Radio Archives at 800.735.0230 x 262.
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