Friedan was part of a broad movement of union supporters who campaigned against racism and supported women's rights during the 1940s and 1950s. She published numerous articles on women's issues while writing for UE News, including “UE Fights for Women Workers” - a pamphlet about discrimination and the double burden of racism and sexism faced by Black women.
The American writer and activist published The Feminine Mystique in 1963, which is often credited for sparking the second wave of feminism that began in the '60s and '70s.
Drawing on her previous training in psychology, as well as history, economics, and sociology, Friedan documented the independence enjoyed by women in the 1920s and 1930s and noted how the 1950s had marked a significant shift away from such self-determination. She described the unhappiness of suburban “housewives,” who felt unrewarded by the tasks of their daily lives and guilty for not feeling more fulfilled. Friedan described the dissatisfaction they endured as “the problem with no name,” and wrote of its terrible toll on the mental health of American women. Thousands of women recognized themselves in the pages of her study and were inspired to join the growing movement for women's rights.
In 1966, Friedan cofounded the National Organization for Women (NOW) to campaign for equality. In 1969, she helped launch the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, later named NARAL Pro-Choice America. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s she was an outspoken advocate for women and a leading figure of the feminist movement.
Friedan served as a delegate to the United Nation's Decade for Women conferences in Mexico City in 1975, in Copenhagen in 1980, and in Nairobi in 1985. She received the Eleanor Roosevelt Leadership Award in 1989 and was awarded honorary degrees by The State University of New York and Columbia University.