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A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Carolyn Offers Tribute to Author Betty Friedan

The pen is mightier than the burning bra.

     The world knows that Betty Friedan (1921-2006) is dead--dead but not gone.

    As a writer who saw the world around her clearly -- differently -- she changed the emotional and political landscapes of America. Whether one ascribes to every detail of her philosophy or not, it turns out that by being true to herself and by using the power of the word to change what she thought needed to be changed, women -- and men -- lead fuller lives today. The one approach that worked best, however, is when she took up the pen when many were taking off their brassieres.

     Of course, from time immemorial, the grand gesture has played a part in change. Think of the scene so beautifully depicted in Les Miserables of the turning point in the French Revolution. Though few have the patience and perseverance of Gandhi, it may be that writing is more effective and lasting (witness our Constitution based on many of the French Revolution's ideals).

     In her book The Feminine Mystique Friedan did what all good writers do. She observed her surroundings, saw her own truth and wrote about it. By doing so she found that her individual observations were part of a greater whole, that universal truth that we have heard for eons from the mouths of good storytellers. She says, "I could speak my truth as a woman and it was the truth of every woman."

    Whether or not you agree may depend on whether you lived through the 40s and 50s. I feel this way for I know I would not have resumed my education at what was then considered a ripe age of 31--and finished. With Friedan paving the way, many women went back to school, began to practice their arts, returned to professions they had given up, got jobs that had called to them for some time.

That Friedan is a generation older than I, that her writer/researchers eye was able to see what others did not (or could not, because prejudices can stalk us on padded, silent feet until someone trips them up) makes her even more amazing. My mother, still alive and a scant two years older than Friedan, still believes that it is the duty of the woman at any amount of sacrifice to do for her family members that which they can and would benefit from doing for themselves.

    Dead at 85, Friedan also wrote The Fountain of Age in which she dissected the politics and prejudices that surround age as she had done decades before for gender. Ageism -- one of my other favorite causes--is a topic for another column.

     By the feminist standards of the 60s and 70s, Friedan was a moderate. By the standards of the 50s, she was a radical. That she achieved what she did by writing will assure her a firmer place in history -- regardless of how you see her today. For the pen -- if not longer lasting -- is mightier than the burning bra or the burning flag.

Tips and Tidbits

Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a writing or promotion tidbit that will help authors and a tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.

Writers' Tidbits: Writers and learn more about their craft, technology associated with their chosen careers or promotion by listening to audios produced by Carolyn and fellow Authors* Coalition members, Allyn Evans, Joyce Faulkner, Kathe Gogolewski and Marilyn Peake. They have produced available in MP3 or CDRom that are available at
Learn more about the instructors and find a list of the coming classes at or go to the Authors* Coalition site

Get a free sample class called "Radio: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Promoting Easy and Cheap!" on the Double Dragon Publishing (DDP) website.

Listen to a mini podcast of one of the audio classes here:

Brief excerpts from the "Website Optimization: Don't Overlook a Crucial and Fairly Inexpensive Marketing Tool." is available at ,
and one from the "Visualization: How to Train Yourself to 'See' the World You Want to Create" class is at

An excerpt from the "The Advantages of Group Promotion: Extend Your Reach and Have More Fun!" class is at:

Readers' Tip: is now offering what they call "Shorts." Give this feature more time and you'll be able to download articles, essays and more from most of your favorite authors in very inexpensive little bits and pieces. No longer will there be a need to purchase or borrow a whole book to sample a new author's style. I can't imagine that writers (or their publishers) will let this opportunity to communicate better with their readers pass them by.

2006 Past Columns

Carolyn Offers Tribute to Author Betty Friedan
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