Betty Friedan, a founder of the modern feminist movement in the US, died on Saturday of congestive heart failure, feminist leaders announced. She was 85.
Friedan achieved prominence in 1963 with the publication of her book The Feminine Mystique, which detailed the lives of women who were expected to find fulfillment through the achievements of their husbands and children.
The book sparked a movement for a re-evaluation of women's role in US society and is widely credited with laying the foundation of modern feminism.
She was a founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and a leading advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the US constitution banning sex-based discrimination, women's rights activists said.
"The movement that Friedan's energy sparked continues to grow, and is bigger today than she could ever have dreamed when she helped launch it in the 1960s," Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation and a former president of the National Organization for Women, said in a statement.
Born Betty Naomi Goldstein on Feb, 4, 1921, in Peoria, Illinois, Friedan graduated in 1942 from Smith College with a degree in psychology. After moving to New York City she worked at various jobs until marrying Carl Friedan.
Her own experiences as a suburban housewife and mother, and her personal dissatisfaction, shaped her freelance work for a number of magazines. That led her to work extensively in conducting interviews and questionnaires on women's personal struggles, leading up to her landmark 1963 book The Feminine Mystique.
In 1966 she co-founded NOW, and as NOW president she led campaigns to end sex-classified employment notices, for greater representation of women in government, for child-care centers for working mothers and for legalized abortion and other reforms.
Friedan also was a founding member of the National Women's Political Caucus.