‘There was one thing without which even the most frustrated seldom found the way out of the trap. And regardless of childhood experience, regardless of luck in marriage, there was one thing that produced frustration in all women of this time who tried to adjust to the housewife image. There was one thing shared by all I encountered who finally found their own way. THE KEY TO THE TRAP IS, OF COURSE, EDUCATION. The feminine mystique has made higher education for women seem suspect, unnecessary and even dangerous. BUT I THINK THAT EDUCATION, AND ONLY EDUCATION, HAS SAVED , AND CAN CONTINUE TO SAVE, AMERICAN WOMEN FROM THE GREATER DANGERS OF THE FEMINIE MYSTIQUE.’

 Friedan, Betty.  “A new life plan for women”. The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973: 344.


These magic words written by Friedan are so clear that it reflects the essence of this paper and the point I want to reach. It means that education is the only path to see true knowledge, to overthrow nonsenses told and imposed by the patriarchy during so many years and the most important one, to show society how women are able to take part in public sphere (work, politics) if they can receive a good education, an education based on rational thinking, not in lies:


‘It meant that I and every other woman I knew HAD BEEN LIVING A LIE, and all the doctors who treated us and the experts who studied us were perpetuating that lie, and our homes and schools and churches and politics and professions were built around that lie.’

Friedan, Betty“Introduction to the tenth anniversary edition. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:4.


‘It is essential, above all, for education themselves to say “no” to the feminine mystique and face the fact that the only point in educating women is to educate them to the limit of their ability. Women do not need courses in “marriage and the family” to marry and raise families; they do not need courses in homemaking to make homes. But they must study science –to discover in science, study the thought of the past- to create new thought; study society- to pioneer in society. Educators must also give up the “one thing at a time “compromises”.’

Friedan, Betty.  “A new life plan for women. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company,1973:354.


Betty Friedan, through her interviews to different American women, could see women suffered a strange frustration in their lives. At the beginning it was an unknown problem but by the end, Friedan was able to prove that this frustration was due to a fault of education and a fault of participation in pubic sphere (work, politics, etc.). So the solution to it was an education based on equality, meaning women can participate in public arena. If it can be carried on, women do not feel frustrate and it will able them to develop better their role in society as citizens, mothers, wives, etc:


‘Among the women I interviewed, education was the key to the problem that has no name only when it was part of a new life plan, and meant for serious use in society-amateur or professional. They were able to find such education only in the regualr colleges and universities.’

Friedan, Betty“A new life plan for women. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:349.

‘The more they are encouraged to make that new life plan…the less conflicts and unnecessary frustrations they will feel as wives and mothers, and the less their daughters will make mistakes choices for lack of a full image of woman’s society’

Friedan, Betty“A new life plan for women. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:355.


So Friedan believed that the crucial issue was to reveal to women the possibilities of freedom and fulfilment outside the family and the artificial nature of the restrictions that currently confined them. She saw education as the key to widening women’s horizons but she rejected any attack on conventional morality and family life. I thought she took this position for not being too much radical and to encourage all those women, so blinded by the patriarchal thoughts, to change; so the “hook” or the attraction to them would be talking about how they improved in motherhood:

‘Not long ago Dr. Spock confessed, a bit uneasily, that Russian children, whose mothers usually have some purpose in their lives besides motherhood- they work in medecine, science, education, industry, government, art-seemed somehow more stable, adjusted, mature, than American children, whose full-time mothers do nothing but worry about them. Could it be that Russian women are somehow better mothers because they have a serious purpose in their own lives? At least, said the good Dr. Spock, these mothers are more sure of themselves as mothers.’

Friedan, Betty“The mistaken choice. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:188-189.


‘She must creat, out of her own needs and abilities, a new life plan, fitting in the love and children and home that have defined femininity in the past with the work toward a greater purpose that shapes the future.’

Friedan, Betty“A new life plan for women. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:326.

So Friedan with the help of maternity leave and workplace nurseries she believed that women could combine long-term career plans with their family responsibilities. And what is more, he says clearly that educated women are better mothers.


Virgina Woolf also saw education for women and men as the key, but in this case mainly to prevent war because she had to give an answer to it:

‘If we are to help you to prevent war we must try to penetrate deeper beneath the skin. Let us then look in another direction- in a direction natural to educated men’s daughters, in the direction of education itself…We can say to her, “You must educate the young to hate war. You must teach them to feel the inhumanity, the beastliness, the insupportability of war.” But what kind of education shall we bargain for? What sort of education will teach the young to hate war? That is a question that is difficult enough in itself; and may well seem unanswerable by those who are of Mary Kingsley’s persuasion- those who have had no direct experience of university education themselves. Yet the part that education plays in human life is so important, and the part that it might play in answering your question is so considerable that to shirk any attempt to see how we can influence the young through education against war would be craven.’

Woolf, Virginia (1938:23).

‘Let us consider how we can help you to prevent war by protecting culture and intellectual liberty, since you assure us that there is a connection between those rather abstract words and these very positive photographs- the photographs of dead bodies and ruined houses.’

Woolf, Virginia (1938:79).

Virginia bases her argumentations in history and she says that the only way to access to public sphere is through education:

‘THE VALUE OF EDUCATION IS AMONG THE GREATEST OF ALL HUMAN VALUES. Biography proves this in two ways. First, there is the fact that the great majority of the men who have ruled England for the past 500 years, who are now ruling England in Parliament and the Civil Service, have received a university education. Second, there is the fact which is even more impressive if you consider what toil, what privation it implies- and of this, too, there is ample proof in biography- the fact of the immense sum of money that has been spent upon education in the past 500 years.’

Woolf, Virginia (1938:24-25).




All books we are dealing with in this paper are pursuing equality, not superiority of one sex over the other, and I think that it shows the great intelligence a woman has because only to take revenge on men these women could have said that women were superior to men but it did not occur:


‘Educators at every women’s college, at every university, junior college, and community college, must see to it that women make a lifetime commitment…to a field of thought, to work of serious importance to society. THEY MUST EXPECT THE GIRL AS WELL AS THE BOY TO TAKE SOME FIELD SERIOUSLY ENOUGH TO WANT TO PURSUE IT FOR LIFE. ‘     

Friedan, Betty“A new life plan for women. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:353.


Friedan, Betty“A new life plan for women. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:355.


‘If I am right, the sex-role revolution will liberate these energies from the service of death and will make it really possible for men and women to “make love, not war.’

Friedan, Betty“Epilogue. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:380.


Virgina Woolf at the beginning of her essay-epistle is astonished because never women’s opinions were demanded, so she begins exposing that equality between men and women do not exist and it is essential. Women must earn their livings by reading and writing:


‘But one does not like to leave so remarkable a letter as yours- a letter perhaps unique in the history of human correspondence, since WHEN BEFORE HAS AN EDUCATED MAN ASKED A WOMAN HOW IN HER OPINION WAR CAN BE PREVENTED?- UNANSWERED. Therefore let us make the attempt; even if it is doomed to failure.’

Woolf, Virginia (1938:3).


‘We cannot debar women from the use of libraries; or forbid them to buy ink and paper; or rule that metaphors shall only be used by one sex, as the male only in art schools was allowed to study from the nude; or rule that rhyme shall be used by one sex only as the male only in Academies of music was allowed to play in orchestras.’

Woolf, Virginia (1938:83).


‘…men and women, here and now, are able to exert their wills; they are not pawns and puppets dancing on a string held by invisible hands. They can act, and THINK FOR THEMSELVES.’

Woolf, Virginia (1938:6).


In this last extract the capacity of reasoning so present in Wollstonecraft is repeated here.

Moreover, Virginia talks in her work about the Arthur’s Education Fund based on the sexual inequality between men and women because in families the priority to study is given to men. The Church is also another important institution which promotes men and forbids women. The same happen with Press; having women no option to participate:


‘The less direct but still effective weapons which our brothers, as educated men, possess in the diplomatic service, in the Church, are also denied to us. We cannot preach sermons or negotiate treatises. Then again although it is true that we can write articles or send letters to the Press, the control of the Press- the decision what to print, what not to print- is entirely in the hands of your sex.’

Woolf, Virginia (1938:11).

‘Our class is the weakiest af all the classes in the state. We have no weapon with which to enforce our will.’


‘Though we see the same world, we see it through different eyes.’

Woolf, Virginia (1938:16).

‘There are many inner and secret chambres that we cannot enter. What real influence can bring to bear upon law or business, religion or politics- we to whom many doors are still locked, or at best ajar, we who have neither capital nor force behind us?’

Woolf, Virginia (1938:21).

Virginia Woolf, like Betty Friedan and Wollstonecraft, talks about other feminists to explain that what she and many other women are pursuing is equality with the only difference that here we have a war’s background:

‘ “Our claim was no claim of women’s rights only;”- it is Josephine Butler who speaks –“ it was larger and deeper; it was a claim for the rights of all- all men and women- to the respect in their persons of the great principles of Justice and Equality and Liberty.”…The daughters of educated men who were called, to their resentment, “feminists” were in fact the advance guard of your own movement. They were fighting the same enemy that you are fighting and for the same reasons. They were fighting the tyranny of the Fascist state.’

Woolf, Virginia (1938:94).


I like specially Virginia Woolf when she demands equality not only between sexes, but also between the different social classes. She insists on removing the perpetrated traditions and to achieve a society where freedom predominates. And of course, to reach it, we have to consider essential the role of education. Being everybody eduated in the true knowledge and not in marriage, war would not exist:


‘If newspapers were written by people whose sole object in writing was to tell the truth about politics and the truth about art we should not believe in war, and we should believe in art. Hence there is a very clear CONNECTION BETWEEN CULTURE AND INTELLECTUAL LIBERTY AND THOSE PHOTOGRAPHS OF DEAD BODIES AND RUINED HOUSES.’

Woolf, Virginia (1938:89-90).


‘There are two good reasons why we must try to analyse both our fear and your anger; first, because such fear and anger prevent real freedom in the private house; second, because such fear and anger may prevent real freedom in the public world; they may have a positive share in causing war.’

Woolf, Virginia (1938:119).



Finally, I would like to include here this extract from Mary Wollstonecraft because talking about equality I reckon that is the best to express this idea of egalitarianism:


‘To carry the remark still further, if fear in girls, instead of being cherished, perhaps, created, were treated in the same manner as cowardice in boys, we should quickly see women with more dignified aspects. It is true, they could not then with equal propriety be termed the sweet flowers that smile in the walk of man, but they would be more respectable members of society, and discharge the important duties of life by the light of their own reason. ‘Educate women like men,’ says Rousseau, ‘and the more they resemble our sex the less power will they have over us.’ This is the very point I aim at. I DO NOT WISH THEM TO HAVE POWER OVER MEN; BUT OVER THEMSELVES.’

Chapter IV. “Observations on the state of degradation to which woman is reduced by various causes”.






Betty Friedan was the only one of these three authors who talked about sexual relations, women’s beauty and women as a vehicle to sell some products. In short, women have been used as merchandise, the patriarchal system has brutally dehumanized them using all possible means. First of all, through media and advertisements:


‘The only way that the young housewife was supposed to express herself, and not feel guilty about it, was in buying products for the home-and –family.’

Friedan, Betty“The sexual sell. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:212-213.

‘A full-page ad in the New York Times, June 10, 1962, was “Dedicated to the woman who spends a lifetime living up to her potential!” Under the picture of a beautiful woman, adorned y evening dress and jewels and two handsome children, it said: “The only totally integrated program of nutrient make-up and skin care-designed to lift a woman’s good looks to their absolute peak. The woman who uses ‘Ultima’ feels a deep sense of fulfillment. A new kind of pride. For this luxurious Cosmetic Collection in the ultimate…beyond it there is nothing.’

Friedan, Betty“The sexual sell. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:220.


This advertisment says to women that their potential is their beauty, not their minds, education, etc. and it says that nothing is beyond beauty, sacrificing women to the so-called ‘feminine mystique’. So, it is degrading, humiliating, from my point of view it is a devaluation of human progress; but even nowadays it occurs.

Referring to sex, Friedan also gave her opinions and exposed that women who followed the feminine mystique did not reach the peak of their sexuality:

‘For the woman who lives according to the feminine mystique, there is no road to achievement of sexual conquest, status as a desirable sex object, identity as a sexually successful wife and mother…A woman who is herself only a sexual object, lives finally in a world of objects, unable to touch in others the individual identity she lacks herself.’

Friedan, Betty“The sexual sell. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:225.


On the contrary, educated women would be able to enjoy to the fullest; as well as men:

‘Contrary to the feminine mystique, the kinsey figures showed that the more educated the woman, the more likely she was to enjoy full sexual orgasm more often, and the less likely to be frigid.’

Friedan, Betty“The forfeited self. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:316.


‘As the early feminists foresaw, women’s rights did indeed promote greater sexual fulfillment, for men and woman.’

Friedan, Betty“The forfeited self. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:318.


Wollstonecraft do not mention the word ‘beauty’ but she refers to it by ‘false refinement’ or ‘sensibility’:


‘Into this error men have, probably, been led by viewing education in a false light; not considering it as the first step to form a being advancing gradually towards perfection; but only as a preparation for life. On this sensual error, for I must call it so, has the false system of female manners been reared, which robs the whole sex of its dignity, and classes the brown and fair with the smiling flowers that only adorn the land. This has ever been the language of men, and the fear of departing from a supposed sexual character, has made even women of superior sense adopt the same sentiments.  Thus understanding, strictly speaking, has been denied to woman; and instinct, sublimated into wit and cunning, for the purposes of life, has been substituted in its stead. […] Civilized women are, therefore, so weakened by false refinement, that, respecting morals, their condition is much below what it would be were they left in a state nearer to nature. Ever restless and anxious, their over exercised sensibility not only renders them uncomfortable themselves, but troublesome, to use a soft phrase, to others. All their thoughts turn on things calculated to excite emotion; and feeling, when they should reason, their conduct is unstable, and their opinions are wavering – not the wavering produced by deliberation or progressive views, but by contradictory emotions.’

Chapter IV. “Observations on the state of degradation to which woman is reduced by various causes.”






‘One famous women’s college adopted in defense the slogan, “we are not educating women to be scholars;  we are educating them to be wives and mothers” (the girls themselves finally got so tired of repeating this slogan in full that they abbreviated it to “WAM”)’

Friedan, Betty“The sex-directed educators. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:150.

‘Clergyman interrupted women’s rights conventions, waving Bibles and quoting from the Scriptures: “Saint Paul said…and the head of every woman is man”…”Let your women be silent in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak”… “And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home; for it is a shame for women to speak in the church”… “But I suffer not a woman to teach, not to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence; for Adam was first formed, then Eve”… “Saint Peter said: likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands”…’

Friedan, Betty“The passionate journey. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:79.


‘The sex-directed educator cites approvingly Cardinal Tisserant’s saying, “women should be educated so that they can argue with their husbands.” Let us stop altogether professional training for women, he insists; all women must be educated to be housewives. Even home economics and domestic science, as they are now thought at college, are masculine because “they have been pitched at the level of professional training.’

Friedan, Betty“The sex-directed educators. ” The Feminine Mystique. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1973:152.


In Three Guineas, Woolf also criticises the Church because it did not allow women being educated:


‘When we consider the ruling of the Church on this subject, a ruling which we learn from biography was in force only a few years ago-“… I was told that desire for learning in women was against the will of God…’

Woolf, Virginia (1938:25).


Woolf, Virginia (1938:26).


Moreover, as Betty Friedan, Woolf talks about how women have been educated only to the aim of marriage:

‘And what was the great end and aim of these years, of that education? Marriage, of course. “…it was not a question of whether we should marry, but simply of whom we should marry,” says one of them. It was with a view to marriage that her mind was taught. It was with a view to marriage that she tinkled on the piano, but was not allowed to join an orchestra; sketched innocent domestic scenes, but was not allowed to study from the nude; read this book, but was not allowed to read that, charmed, and talked. It was with a view to marriage that her body was educated; a maid was provided for her; that the streets were shut to her; that solitude was denied her- all this was enforced upon her in order that she might preserve her body intact for her husband. In short, the thought of marriage influenced what she said, what she thought, what she did. How could it be otherwise? Marriage was the only profession open to her.’

Woolf, Virginia (1938:36-37).

Contrary to it, Virginia is all the time asserting that women are rational human beings and that they must THINK, meaning this that they must enter in universities and professions (to this destiny was her second guinea); places relegated by tradition only for their brothers, fathers, men. She considers herself and other women ‘daughters of educated men’ and behind them lies the patriarchal system, the private sphere with its nullity, immorality, hypocrisy, etc. She is a defender of culture and liberty, but

‘Culture has been prostituted and intellectual liberty sold into captivity’.

Woolf, Virginia (1938:87).


Virginia Woolf in her work talks about newspapers and how they do not tell the truth and I would like to stress mass media are part of the group which I have called ‘educators’ because it appeals to people and their mission is to tell the facts as they are. And during many years, before and after World Wars, they have been incredibly biased, favouring always men.


Obviously this point of reasoning and thinking is so present in Wollstonecraft that I would like to show an extract, too. For Wollstonecraft, every opinion is the result of thinking and reasoning:


‘By individual education, I mean, for the sense of the word is not precisely defined, such an attention to a child as will slowly sharpen the senses, form the temper, regulate the passions as they begin to ferment, and set the understanding to work before the body arrives at maturity; so that the man may only have to proceed, not to begin, the important task of learning to think and reason.’

Chapter II: “The prevailing opinion of a sexual character discussed.”





Leave a Reply

¡IMPORTANTE! Responde a la pregunta: ¿Cuál es el valor de 8 5 ?