"The comfortable concentration camp": the significance of Nazi imagery in Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963).
Scholars have since castigated Friedan for her inaccuracy and insensitivity in developing the concept of the "comfortable concentration camp." Feminist scholar bell hooks, for example, has charged Friedan with "narcissism, insensitivity, sentimentality, and self-indulgence." (2) Historian Daniel Horowitz called Friedan's comparison "problematic," "trivializing," "careless and exaggerated." (3) And Friedan herself has backed away from her imagery, saying in her recent memoir, "I am ashamed of that analogy.... The American suburb was no concentration camp." (4) Indeed, in a 2001 interview, Friedan refused to discuss her camp analogy in any detail, repeating several times that she had made an error in judgment. (5)
There is no question that Betty Friedan's analogy was an exaggerated and flawed one, as she herself now recognizes. The Nazi regime publicly confined, starved and tortured its victims in camps, and selected Jewish victims for mass extermination. This psychological and physical destruction was obviously wholly different from, and much more extreme than, the psychological devastation that was wreaked by suburban homes, which privately confined and socially marginalized middle class women.
Nonetheless, it is intellectually unsatisfying to dismiss this powerful analogy merely as inaccurate or sensational, or to accept Friedan's disavowal of the analogy without probing further. Friedan's analogy offers historians an important window into the impact of the Holocaust on American Jewish thinkers, as well as the impact of the Holocaust in larger American culture. By comparing Nazi concentration camps to American suburban homes in 1963, Friedan demonstrated that American Jewish intellectuals were not only conscious of the devastation of the Holocaust earlier than most historians have recognized, but that these intellectuals were also vocal about the Holocaust, using it to shape American public opinion in ways that most historians have thus far overlooked.
In describing the impact of the Holocaust on American Jews and especially on Jewish intellectuals, historians have typically emphasized Jewish reticence in discussing the Holocaust before the Six Day War in 1967, as well as the Holocaust's strong impact on American Jewish identity and support for Israel after 1967. (6) Historians have only recently begun to describe as significant discourse surrounding the Holocaust before 1967, or the variety of ways in which American Jews have interpreted and used the Holocaust to address non-Jewish subjects. (7)
Friedan's analogy demonstrates that most historians have neglected to examine a distinct period of Holocaust consciousness in the late 1950s and early to mid-1960s, a time when some American Jewish thinkers who had come of age during the Nazi era publicly emphasized the evils of Nazi concentration camps, not as an expression of their personal Jewish identity or a justification of Israeli military policy, but instead, as a means of expressing prevalent intellectual concerns with bureaucracy, alienation, and conformity and criticizing American society from a liberal perspective. (8) Within this earlier period of Holocaust consciousness, and during an era in American history shaped by a spirit of social commitment and cultural transgression, American readers--both Jews and non-Jews--were inspired and engaged by such uses of Nazi concentration camps, not repelled or insulted. Indeed, during this era, in part because of works like The Feminine Mystique, Nazi concentration camps became, for many liberal readers in the United States, appropriate and valuable symbols for exploring inhumanity on an American landscape.
Issues of language have made this earlier era of Holocaust consciousness difficult to explore. The term, "the Holocaust," as well as the narrative that we currently understand the term to describe--the persecution and extermination of six million Jews--did not develop in the United States until the late 1960s. Americans were, to be sure, familiar with the mass murder of Jews in Nazi Europe; newspapers, magazines and newsreels had reported this extermination both during and after the war, and books like The Diary of Anne Frank and William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich had kept news of Jewish extermination present in American media during the 1950s. (9) Nonetheless, mainstream American scholars and journalists had not yet labeled the persecution and extermination of Jews as a discrete narrative with a name. (10) The study of Holocaust consciousness before 1967 has been hampered by emphasis upon the word "Holocaust," and by the assumption that Americans' current understandings of the event were shared by Americans in earlier generations. In order to clarify the significance of language in Holocaust consciousness, this article will generally avoid the word "Holocaust" when discussing 1960s thought and culture, relying instead upon the language that was used at the time of The Feminine Mystique, and using the term, "the Holocaust," to refer only to historians' more recent understandings of the event.
The study of Holocaust consciousness before 1967 has also been hampered by scholarly tensions surrounding definitions of Jewish identity. Since historians have emphasized to such a strong degree the connections between Jewish identity and consciousness of the Holocaust, they have overlooked different ways in which Jews might be conscious of European Jewish destruction, without that consciousness necessarily being the expression of Jewish identity that scholars anticipate finding. Scholars have typically relied upon sociological models to understand Jewish identity as an expression of ritual behavior and social networks that can be quantified and evaluated. (11) By contrast, recent theoretical work encourages scholars to understand Jewish identity as a more fluid, less well-defined entity that individuals continually construct in relationship to history, power, and culture. (12) However, Betty Friedan's decision to develop her concentration camp analogy fits neither of these models perfectly, and suggests that historians who study non-practicing, unaffiliated Jews in the United States may need to search for a new way to understand the Jewish identities of their subjects. Friedan, a non-practicing, unaffiliated Jew, did not engage in most of the ritual behavior that sociologists use to determine Jewish identity, nor did she consciously construct her Jewish identity as she developed the idea of the "comfortable concentration camp." Nonetheless, she did use her personal experiences and intellectual understandings of antisemitism, shaped during the Nazi era, to explore the oppression of women in America.
To understand the origins and significance of Friedan's concentration camp analogy, it is first important to understand the analogy in more detail, as well as its context within the larger work. Friedan's central argument in The Feminine Mystique was that, after World War II, American cultural outlets--women's magazines, colleges, and the advertising industry--had exalted the "feminine mystique," a glorified image of women as mothers and housewives in the home. This mystique, she argued, silently stifled women's growth and denied women's humanity by limiting them to their suburban homes and to a life of domesticity. Only by resisting the mystique and breaking away from domesticity by finding productive work could American women grow as human beings.
In one of her final chapters, entitled, "Progressive Dehumanization: The Comfortable Concentration Camp," Friedan brought to a horrifying conclusion her argument that domesticity denied women's humanity: she developed a five-page analogy between suburban homes and Nazi concentration camps. To do so, she relied exclusively on Bruno Bettelheim's 1960 book, The Informed Heart. Bettelheim, a Jewish survivor of Dachau and Buchenwald, emphasized the psychological dehumanization of inmates in concentration camps, arguing that even more important than the Nazis' physical violence was their psychological violence. Bettelheim claimed that one of the SS's major goals in the concentration camps was to "break the prisoners as individuals, and to change them into a docile mass from which no ... act of resistance could arise." (13) To this end, the SS purposely "destroy[ed] all personal autonomy," by forcing inmates to become obedient children, who performed useless labor and even needed permission to use the toilet. (14) As their personalities disintegrated, Bettelheim argued, prisoners actually did regress to childhood, lying, boasting, and even becoming inordinately interested in defecation and urination. (15) In the "final adjustment" to the camps, he said, these childlike inmates began to "identify with the enemy," to adopt the values of the SS themselves by terrorizing new prisoners and enforcing SS rules. (16) "The ultimate realization" of SS goals, Bettelheim suggested, was the extermination camp, where prisoners, deprived of all human dignity, chose to commit "suicide" by "walking to the gas chamber." (17)
Intellectuals and politicians had considered Bettelheim one of the preeminent experts on the concentration camps in the United States since i943, and his work influenced such writers as James T. Farrell and Dwight Macdonald. (18) Betty Friedan followed in this tradition, and liberally borrowed Bettelheim's language and analysis to argue that suburban housewives, like concentration camp prisoners, were dehumanized by their pointless work. Just like Bettelheim's camp inmates, Friedan claimed, suburban women "have become dependent, passive, childlike; they have given up their adult frame of reference to live at the lower human level of food and things. The work they do does not require adult capabilities; it is endless, monotonous, unrewarding." (19) Moreover, suburban women, just like concentration camp inmates, assisted in the destruction of their own humanity. By adjusting to the life of a housewife, "a woman stunts her intelligence to become childlike, turns away from individual identity to become an anonymous biological robot in a docile mass." (20) In the final stages of docility, Friedan argued, a dependent woman became parasitic, "preyed upon by outside pressures, and herself preying upon husband and children." (21) Just as dehumanized concentration camp inmates internalized the SS guards' values and began to attack other prisoners, American women internalized their inferiority, and they turned their aggression against their loved ones, and against themselves. (22)
It is perhaps surprising for the current reader to realize that Betty Friedan's striking analogy between women and concentration camp inmates did not refer at all to Jews. Friedan never actually mentioned the destruction of European Jewry in The Feminine Mystique. Although she at times conflated "gas chambers" with "concentration camps," referred to prisoners who were "exterminated," and at one point called the destruction of women "genocide," she never mentioned Jews in her discussion of any of these. (23) Moreover, Friedan did not identify herself as Jewish anywhere in her book. The Feminine Mystique included only a few passing references to Jews throughout its 365 pages, and none suggested the author's background. (24) Indeed, Friedan had considered herself an unaffiliated, even "agnostic" Jew for years when she published The Feminine Mystique, and she did not openly address her Jewish background in her activism and writing until the 1970s. (23)
Given all this, is it accurate, fair, or appropriate to consider Friedan's book an American Jewish intellectual's response to the Holocaust? There were certainly other Jewish intellectuals more identified with the Jewish community who addressed the camps through a Jewish lens during the early 1960s. (26) Moreover, shouldn't Friedan's silence about her Jewish background in this book be respected as a signal that she did not consider The Feminine Mystique shaped by her ethnic identity?
To be sure, to argue that ethnic identity was the determinative factor in The Feminine Mystique's concentration camp analogy would be overly simplistic and reductive. Many other factors in Friedan's life and work obviously led to her development of the concentration camp analogy, and certainly to The Feminine Mystique. But it would also be reductive to assume, simply because Friedan did not openly engage the concepts of Holocaust or Jewish identity in the ways we are most accustomed to seeing them expressed, that her position as a Jew coming of age during the era of the Holocaust had nothing to do with her peculiar analogy. Friedan's personal experiences, intellectual influences, and academic peer group suggest that her background as a Jew during the era marked by the rise of Nazism in Germany, played a role in the development of the "comfortable concentration camp." Understanding how Friedan's Jewish roots contributed to her analogy can help us to understand how non-practicing, non-affiliated Jewish thinkers conceptualized their Jewish identity in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, and how the destruction of European Jews affected that identity.
In interviews, speeches, and memoirs, Betty Friedan has emphasized her personal experiences with antisemitism growing up as a Jewish girl in the Midwest in the 1920s and 1930s. Born in Peoria, Illinois, in 1921 as Bettye Naomi Goldstein, Friedan was the eldest child of Harry Goldstein, a Russian Jewish immigrant who owned a successful jewelry store, and Miriam Horwitz Goldstein, a second-generation American Jew whose father had been a doctor and a substantial member of the Peoria Jewish community.
Peoria's Jewish population was small, and the Goldsteins faced significant social discrimination. Harry Goldstein told his daughter that Christian business associates avoided speaking to him or seeing him socially once the workday had finished. Concurrently, with the appearance of institutionalized antisemitism in United States in the 1920s, the Peoria Country Club restricted Jews like the Goldsteins from joining, and the high school sorority that dominated the adolescent social scene in Peoria rejected Friedan's bid to become a member. (27)
Miriam Goldstein heightened her daughter's anxiety over the antisemitism the family faced in Peoria. As a second-generation Jew from a socially prominent family, Goldstein saw herself as a local leader in style and fashion. She was ashamed of her husband's accent and immigrant status and dissatisfied by her daughter's looks, in part because she believed Friedan had inherited Harry's prominent "Jewish" nose. She urged her daughter, unsuccessfully, to get a nose job, and insisted that Friedan's rejection from the sorority was not related to her Jewishness, thereby intensifying her daughter's feelings of exclusion. (28)
Growing public manifestations of antisemitism in the United States, bolstered by those in Nazi Germany, where anti-Jewish legislation, boycotts, and violence spiraled after 1933, must have strengthened Friedan's feelings of isolation. Political discussions at the Goldstein dinner table emphasized Hitler's persecution of the Jews. "You knew you had to take care of fellow Jews; no one else wanted them. When Hitler was rampant, there were strong discussions," her brother Harry Junior has remembered. (29) While Friedan was a freshman student at Smith College in 1938, the college president, William Allen Neilson, urged students to sign a petition calling for the federal government to relax its immigration quotas and opening Smith's doors to persecuted college-age Jewish girls; Friedan has remembered that, during the debates in her dormitory, most students argued against the petition. (30) National and international images of Jews increasingly isolated and under attack throughout the 1930s formed a crucial backdrop to Bettye Goldstein's personal experiences of discrimination.
While in college, Friedan, under the influence of the famous social psychologist Kurt Lewin, developed a political and psychological language to help her to interpret the isolation she felt in Peoria. Friedan was a talented psychology student whose professors, including the renowned Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka, encouraged her to work with Kurt Lewin at the University of Iowa during the summer of 1940. (31) Lewin, who began his work as a member of the Gestalt school in Germany, was famous for his work on group dynamics, which pushed psychologists to consider the group environments in which individuals' psyches formed and operated. (32)
A Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, Lewin feared for friends and family still in Europe and made repeated efforts to help them emigrate throughout the 1930s. His work was shaped by his experiences with antisemitism in Germany, his anger at Nazism, and his support for a Jewish state in Palestine. (33) In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the period when Friedan went to work with him, Lewin devoted a series of papers to understanding Jewish group dynamics, Jewish education, and what he called "Jewish self-hatred."
Lewin's theory of group dynamics emphasized that individuals needed to feel secure in their group memberships. Jews in particular, he believed, had difficulty establishing this security, since the group itself had no stable meaning: even Jews' definition as a race, a religion, or a nation was unclear. Moreover, Jews were a minority group, scattered throughout the Diaspora and receiving mixed messages of acceptance from dominant nationalities. While some Jews at times were treated virtually the same as members of the dominant group, Lewin argued, this position was unstable; Christians could and would, when it was convenient for them, use Jews as scapegoats for their own troubles. (34)
This dependence on the dominant group, and confusion within the minority group, led many Jews to become insecure and to wish to enter the dominant group. Such Jews consequently became "marginal men," who "sought to move as far away from the center of Jewish life as the outside majority permits." (38) "Marginal men," Lewin continued, became frustrated because they could never enter the dominant group. That frustration, he theorized, led to a "generalized tendency to aggression," which could not be directed against the powerful majority, and was thus instead "turned against one's own group or against one's self." (36) Thus self-hating Jews urged their children not to act or look Jewish, and sought to silence any conversation about antisemitism, for fear of insulting Christians.
Lewin's ideas seem to have affected Betty Friedan quite deeply. In an autobiographical paper written in college, she wrote that, at Iowa, she had "learned about life." (37) In an interview much later, Friedan stated that her work with Lewin helped her begin to understand "the dynamics of the anti-Semitic Jew." (38) In the same interview, she claimed that working with Lewin made her "very strong about Jewish identity." (39) And Friedan told several interviewers that she began to understand herself and her mother as antisemitic Jews because of Lewin's ideas. (40)
After her summer working with Lewin in 1940, Friedan returned frequently to the themes of the scapegoat and aggression against one's own group in her work. In 1941, she began to write a short story about antisemitism among Jews entitled "The Scapegoat," which she later published in the Smith College literary magazine. The story described a group of college girls, including two assimilated Jewish girls, who isolate and ultimately destroy another Jewish girl. Told from the perspective of one of the assimilated Jewish girls, the story ends with the girl's chilling fear that she herself could become the scapegoat. (41) Clearly, Jewish antisemitism had become an important theme in Friedan's thought during her college years.
After college, Lewin's ideas about Jewish self-hatred continued to shape Friedan's work. After graduation from Smith, for example, she gave a talk at her hometown synagogue on Jewish antisemitism and on Nazism entitled "On Affirming One's Jewishness." (42) Short stories that she wrote after college continued to explore the theme of Jews who rejected their own Jewish backgrounds, or who attacked other Jews who seemed "too Jewish." (43) In "A Good Woman Driver," for example, narrator Ruthie describes her mother Blanche as a perfectionist, who hated when someone talked too loudly or served chopped liver, and who blamed the family's exclusion from the country club on "Daddy's accent and 'Jewish' ways." (44) Friedan clearly seems to have drawn upon Kurt Lewin's ideas as she grappled with her own family and community as a young adult.
Later interviews, speeches, and autobiographical writings in the 1970s and 1980s similarly suggest that, even much later in life, Friedan continued to interpret her own history as a Jew through Lewin's concept of self-hatred. In one speech, Friedan described Peoria as a place "where you were very marginal as a Jew," and where people "changed their names and did something to their noses." In a 1988 interview, she said she had grown up in "an assimilated, almost anti-Jewish community." (45) In interviews and memoirs, Friedan continually contrasted her own decision in 1938 to sign President Neilson's petition allowing European Jewish girls into Smith with the stark silence of four wealthy Jewish girls in her house, who never signed the petition: "They were the type that spoke in whispery voices and became utterly anemic because they did not want to be known as Jews." (46) And in her 2000 memoir, Life So Far, Friedan explained that her story, "The Scapegoat," had been based upon her own willingness to watch her housemates at Smith ridicule and exclude another Jewish girl in her class. Writing the story, Friedan believed, exposed her own self-hatred, while it also "freed [her] ... from being an anti-Semitic Jew." (47) Lewin thus offered Friedan a powerful and lasting method of interpreting Jewish antisemitism as a significant force in her own life.
However, Lewin did not simply offer Friedan a way of understanding antisemitism. He offered her a set of ideas about oppression that she eventually used to understand sexism, as well as antisemitism. One of the most striking examples of Lewin's impact is found in this raw passage from a rough draft of The Feminine Mystique:
Mothers, women are such a safe scapegoat, in America.... Does anyone know who makes a good scapegoat, when? The Jews made a good scapegoat in Germany because there weren't very many, and they were "different," and enough were rich and brilliant to blame them for your troubles. You could pretend you were solving everything by burning them in furnaces, and getting rid of all that helpless anger, and feel important again. And life could go on anyhow, because there weren't that many Jews, after all. Mothers made better scapegoats in America ... but Americans wouldn't do anything as mean as furnaces. What did it hurt to write those nasty words about the women? (48)
Friedan's reference to Jews who were isolated because they were "different," "rich," and "brilliant," echoes precisely her descriptions of her own marginalization in Peoria. Even more significantly, this passage demonstrates how Friedan used one of Kurt Lewin's key concepts, "scapegoat," to link the oppression of Jews and women.
Although this particularly brutal passage was left out of The Feminine Mystique, the book still offers clear evidence that Friedan made other links between the oppression of Jews and women using Lewin's ideas. Friedan's understanding of Jewish self-hatred echoed strongly throughout her description of women's self-destruction in Chapter 12, "Progressive Dehumanization." Throughout that chapter, particularly in the pages that describe the concentration camp analogy, Friedan described women who had internalized the passivity and dependence expected of them by the feminine mystique. This passivity and dependence paradoxically made them bossy and domineering; they attacked those to whom they were closest, "devour[ing]," beating, or "liv[ing] vicariously" through their children because, as women, they had no personal identities of their own: "The aggressive energy she should be using in the world becomes instead the terrible anger that she dare not turn against her husband, is ashamed of turning against her children, and finally turns against herself until it is as if she does not exist." (49)
This description is similar to Lewin's analysis of the frustrated marginal Jew who has internalized the negative attitudes toward Jews in the dominant society, and then "turned against [his] own group or against [him]self" because he could not improve his status in society, nor fight the dominant group. (50) The similarity between the domineering mother and the self-hating Jew is even more apparent when it becomes clear that Friedan's model for both of these categories was the same person: her mother, Miriam Goldstein. In Friedan's descriptions, Miriam's frustration with her second-class status in Peoria because of her Jewish background closely resembled her frustration at being forced to quit her job as the Peoria newspaper women's page editor when she married Harry Goldstein. (51) Powerless to improve her status, Miriam instead responded with disdain for her husband's accent and immigrant background, as well as with "impotent rage" at his business abilities as his store faced economic trouble in the Depression. (52) The image of Miriam Goldstein encompassed both the self-hating Jew and the domineering mother, suggesting that Friedan used Lewin's concept of the self-hating Jew to analyze the internalized sexism of women. (53)
In a 1988 interview, Friedan acknowledged the connections between Lewin's ideas and The Feminine Mystique, agreeing with a reporter who wondered whether her understanding of internalized antisemitism had helped her to understand internalized sexism: "Yes. I think that in a certain sense, my experience as a Jew informed, though unconsciously, a lot of the insights that I applied to women, and the passion that I applied to the situation of women," she replied. (54) Although it may not have been conscious, Friedan's understanding of self-hating Jews, sparked by Kurt Lewin's work, helped her to analyze both herself and her mother, and to make significant links between the oppression of Jews and that of women in The Feminine Mystique.
Thus, evidence suggests that Friedan's personal experiences as a Midwestern Jew growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, as a student of psychology in the 1940s, and as a housewife in the 1950s, in combination with the intellectual influence of Kurt Lewin's and Bruno Bettelheim's works on Jews during the Nazi era, helped to shape her concentration camp analogy. In addition to these personal experiences and intellectual influences, there is further evidence to suggest that Friedan's background as a Jew was significant in her decision to develop the concentration camp analogy. This evidence concerns Friedan's peer group.
Betty Friedan was not the only Jewish thinker at the time to develop extended analogies between Nazi Germany and American society while remaining silent on the subject of Jews. Between 1959 and 1967, a significant cohort of American-born Jewish writers, academics, and artists--at least eight men and women--used Hitler, Nazis, and concentration camps as analogues for American society in their popular and influential works, while making virtually no mention of Jews, or their own Jewish background. Historian Stanley Elkins, for example, compared Nazi concentration camps to American slave plantations in his book Slavery (1959), while psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton linked the suffering of survivors of Hiroshima with those of concentration camps in Death in Life (1967). Psychologist Stanley Milgram's obedience experiments compared ordinary Americans in a laboratory experiment to Nazi concentration camp guards, and Mel Brooks's The Producers (1967) turned Broadway chorus girls into marching SS troopers and a flower child high on drugs into Hitler himself. (55)
Images of Nazi Germany or concentration camps have been pervasive throughout post-World War II American history. Americans have used metaphors of Nazi Germany fairly continuously since at least 1945, when a letter to Newsweek magazine called on fellow readers to "storm" the "concentration camp" of a Jersey City dominated by machine politics. (56) The vast majority of these metaphors, however, have been brief and rhetorical; few of the speakers or writers have carefully delineated the similarities between the American phenomena they described and the Nazi imagery they employed, and few have sustained the metaphor for more than one or perhaps two sentences. The comparisons constructed by people like Betty Friedan, Stanley Milgram, and Robert Jay Lifton, on the other hand, were thoroughly developed and extended throughout at least one full chapter of a book. These sorts of sustained analogies have been more unusual in American writing.
Even more significant, all the members of this early 1960s cohort examined Nazi concentration camps as metaphors for individual destruction in a mass society. Although Americans now are most likely to compare the Third Reich's murderous antisemitism with America's ugly and brutal history of racism, none of the people in this cohort addressed the issue of antisemitism or Jews in Nazi Germany in their famous works during this era. None even addressed the issue of race. (57) Only one mentioned his own Jewish background. Rather than exploring questions of Jewishness or race, these American Jewish thinkers in the late 1950s and early to mid 1960s were most concerned with understanding the impact of bureaucracy, conformity, and government power upon individual personality.
The development of these fairly rare concentration camp analogies at the same time in very similar ways among a group of otherwise unconnected people suggests that some American Jewish thinkers in the 1950s and 1960s began to view Nazi Germany, Hitler, and concentration camps as important components of their understanding of the world. Men and women like Friedan and Elkins did not necessarily view their analogies as a variety of "Jewish" thought; in fact, quite the opposite. Yet, their silence on Jews in their influential Nazi analogies formed a striking pattern among these Jewish authors, which was not found among Gentiles during the same era: non-Jews in the late 1950s and early to mid 1960s who compared the crimes of Nazism to American life tended to address the fact that Jews were victims of the Nazis. This distinction is well illustrated by contrasting Betty Friedan's concentration camp analogy with the work of a non-Jew who developed her own Nazi imagery during the same time period, the poet Sylvia Plath.
Between September and December 1962, several months before she killed herself on February 16 1963, Hath wrote "Mary's Song," "Lady Lazarus," and "Daddy," the three poems now referred to as her "Holocaust poems." In these poems, Hath used the imagery of Nazis, of gas chambers and ovens, and of concentration camps, to describe her personal pain as a woman. For example, in "Daddy," Plath's protagonist described her brutal father, who may also have been her lover, as a Nazi. Responding to the obscenity of his language and brutality, she imagined,
An engine, an engine Chuffing me off like a Jew. A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen. I began to talk like a Jew. I think I may well be a Jew. (58)
There are significant similarities between Plath's poetry and the concentration camp analogy in The Feminine Mystique. Like Friedan, Plath drew connections between the destruction of European Jewry and the violence and brutality that men inflict on women. (59) Like Friedan, too, Plath saw her personal pain and insignificance reflected in the pain of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. And like Friedan, Plath faced opprobrium from later critics, who viewed her Holocaust imagery as insensitive and narcissistic because it compared her personal pain with the historical pain of European Jewry. (60)
Significantly, however, unlike Friedan, who carefully avoided mentioning Jews throughout her discussion of concentration camps, Sylvia Plath constantly referred to Jews as victims. (61) Even more striking, while Friedan presented herself as an "everywoman," with no ethnic identity, never mentioning her Jewish background, Sylvia Plath, who was not of Jewish origin, actually took on the identity of a Jew sent to the gas chambers. To be sure, Plath never clearly identified herself with the protagonist of "Daddy," and, at any rate, the protagonist's identity as a "Jew" was temporary, hesitant, and incomplete: she talks "like a Jew," she "may well be a Jew." (62) Nonetheless, Plath's poetry strongly suggested that she wanted the reader to imagine her as a Jew, while Friedan, in The Feminine Mystique, seems to have been seeking the very opposite reaction: she wanted to discourage the reader from imagining the author as a Jew. This crucial difference between Plath and Friedan suggests that Friedan's silence about her Jewish background and about the Jewish victims of Nazi camps in The Feminine Mystique may, ironically, be a strong clue to the significance of her Jewish background in developing her elaborate analogy. Pointing out Friedan's silence about Jews is not intended to criticize her, but instead to place her within a larger historical tradition of Jewish intellectuals who in their work have identified with other marginal groups while remaining quiet on the subject of Jews. (63)
The existence of a cohort of American Jewish thinkers who used Nazi Germany to explore American social problems in the 1950s and 1960s, without emphasizing the murder of European Jewry, helps contemporary historians to examine the impact of the Holocaust on American Jews in a new way. This group of men and women offers evidence that American Jews have not used the imagery of Nazi Germany only to define their ethnic or religious identity or to support Israel, as scholars like Peter Novick have suggested. Instead, Betty Friedan, Stanley Elkins, Robert Lifton, and other members of their cohort used Nazi concentration camps to criticize American society from a liberal perspective in the early 1960s.
In the early 1960s, liberals were probably best identified by their quiet dissent from the Cold War consensus. In the immediate post-World War II era, liberals participated in a national consensus that glorified American democracy in its struggle against the Soviet Union. By the late 1950s, however, this consensus began to crack. Sit-ins at segregated lunch counters and public protests against civil defense programs vividly demonstrated the possibility of political alternatives to the Cold War consensus. Liberals supported the dissent of the growing civil rights and peace movements in the early 1960s, though they generally did not engage in civil disobedience or suggest significant restructuring of the American political system. Friedan's stance against sexism clearly fit this mold; in The Feminine Mystique, Friedan dissented from the Cold War consensus that glorified women's domesticity as a means of battling the Soviet Union, while she offered a quiet solution to sexism that proposed no civil disobedience, nor any fundamental restructuring of the American system. (64)
Friedan's use of Nazi imagery suggests an additional way in which she, along with other members of her cohort, quietly dissented from the dominant Cold War consensus. During the Cold War, intellectuals and politicians popularized the term "totalitarianism" as a way of linking the extreme left in the Soviet Union with the far right of Nazism, thereby delegitimizing the left. (65) By finding compelling similarities between Nazi Germany and the United States, not the Soviet Union, liberals like Lifton, Elkins, and Milgram began quietly to reject, or at least to question, the concept of totalitarianism.
Friedan's "comfortable concentration camp" thus offers a window into the ways that American Jewish thinkers in the late 1950s and early 1960s used the destruction of European Jewry in order to offer a liberal perspective on American politics, while at the same time representing themselves as American intellectuals, without any special provincial interests in Jews.
Reactions to Betty Friedan's image of the "comfortable concentration camp" illustrate the significance of this liberal use of concentration camp imagery in American political discourse. These reactions also demonstrate how Americans' understanding of the destruction of European Jewry has changed over time.
Published in February 1963, The Feminine Mystique became a bestseller within a few months. Excerpted in newspapers and magazines throughout the country, selected as a book-of-the-month by the Book Find Club, and promoted through a nationwide publicity tour that was unusual for its time, the book became a small phenomenon. (66) Friedan's appearances on television and radio talk shows helped to spark a grassroots storm of controversy throughout 1963 and 1964, as "cocktail parties turned into debate teams," and local civic and religious groups sponsored heated panel discussions. (67)
Reviewers and readers were sharply divided over Friedan's work because they were divided over the place of women in American society. Friedan's image of the "comfortable concentration camp" appeared frequently in Americans' debates about the book, but virtually never as a subject to be debated in its own right. Instead, reviewers and readers focused on the status of women in America, and debated whether women were oppressed in American society.
Most newspaper and magazine critics responded positively to The Feminine Mystique, calling it "brilliant and original," "disturbing and challenging," "stimulating," "insightful," and "devastating." (68) Many of these reviewers readily accepted Friedan's description of women as "victims of the feminine mystique." (69) They recognized and agreed with Friedan's argument that society treated women as "functionaries whose jobs are predestined by nature," rather than as real human beings, and they loudly cheered Friedan's insistence that "women are people; therefore individuals." (70)
Critics who liked Friedan's book generally approved of her concentration camp analogy. Several quoted the phrase "comfortable concentration camp," and still more repeated her warning that America was committing "genocide" by "burying women alive." (71) Cynthia Seton "[took] exception to the blanketing overstatement of [the] proposition," that suburban homes might produce effects similar to Dachau and Buchenwald, but declared "I believe there is more truth than poetry in it." (72) No writers who liked Friedan's work took issue with her concentration camp analogy; they were comfortable with her image of women as a victimized group.
A sizable number of critics, however, rejected Friedan's description of women as oppressed. Reflecting many contemporary observers' misogynist claims about women in the 1950s, some reviewers scoffed outright at the notion that women were victims, and not victimizers, of men. (73) Other reviewers, who did not believe that women were victimizers, nonetheless believed that American women "never had it so good." (74) If women were unhappy or unfulfilled, it was their own fault. "The fault, dear Mrs. Friedan, is not in our culture, but in ourselves," Lucy Freeman chided in the New York Times Book Review. (75) As befitted the consumerist culture of the United States in the 1950s, these critics insisted that middle class women lived easy lives in a society full of comfort and freedom. (76)
Understandably, these critics accorded very little respect to Friedan's concentration camp analogy. One reviewer simply repeated the analogy, with an exclamation point at the end, implying that the comparison was so ridiculous that it was beneath discussion. (77) Others assumed that Friedan was exaggerating to make her point, calling it a "wildly provocative statement" designed to "divert attention" from an argument she felt she could not defend. (78) One reviewer insisted that "no matter how stifling or limiting of individual expression the life of suburbia, it ought not to be compared to Hitler's extermination camps!" (79) This reviewer was the only one to suggest that the extermination camps themselves were beyond comparison, but she believed that Friedan should not have compared women to African Americans either.
These reviewers were not disturbed by Friedan's analogy because they believed the destruction of European Jews was unique. Even among the Jewish newspapers and rabbis who criticized The Feminine Mystique, none stated that the camps could not be used as points of comparison. (80) Neither the Index to Jewish Periodicals nor the American Jewish Yearbook suggests the existence of any published or organized Jewish opposition to Friedan's book in 1963. (81) Indeed, Rabbi Julius Nodel of Temple Shaare Emeth in St. Louis refuted Friedan's argument by instead worrying about the man "confined in his 'concentration camp' of business, factory, office, store or salesman's route." (82) What these reviewers found disturbing was that Friedan believed that American women, who were at the time supposedly the most pampered of all creatures, might be seen as disadvantaged at all.
Like professional reviewers, ordinary readers divided sharply over Friedan's concentration camp analogy. The public at large was exposed to The Feminine Mystique through women's magazines, local newspapers, radio and television programs, as well as by word of mouth. Her ideas evoked extreme reactions, both positive and negative. While most reviewers had approached Friedan's arguments abstractly, most men and women who wrote to Friedan reacted emotionally and personally, believing she had captured in words their own frustrations and fears.
Perhaps the most interesting of these personal responses were the responses of three people who identified themselves to Friedan as survivors of the Nazi destruction. None attacked Friedan for desecrating the memory of victims, or for appropriating their tragedy for her personal purposes in her analogy. One male survivor from Itasca, Illinois, did angrily tell Friedan that if she "had ever lived through more than three years of concentration camps--as this man has--you would be even happy to sweep your floor with a broom, so long as it is your own floor!" This accusation suggested that Friedan lacked credibility to speak about the concentration camps, but the writer's emphasis was actually upon Friedan's lack of gratitude for "how fortunate you American women are." The rest of his letter encouraged unhappy women to go to war with one another: "Pretty soon the world would void of dissatisfied females and peace would finally return." (83) This survivor was less concerned that Friedan had used the concentration camps improperly, and more angry with her for vocalizing the unhappiness of women in domesticity.
The other two survivors, both female, were far more positive about Friedan's book, and they wrote to Friedan to help her in her work, as did many other women. One survivor from Indianapolis described the details of her life, hoping that she might assist Friedan, and thanked the author for letting her know that "my neighbor-housewives also have problems, as I do." "In spite of my different background," she wrote, "I feel the problem very strongly. " (84) The other female survivor, a housewife from Larchmont, New York, called Friedan's theories "fascinating," but she wanted to help Friedan with her "incomplete, not to say incorrect" portrait of passive and destructive camp inmates. During her three years in German concentration camps, including Auschwitz, this woman told Friedan, prisoners had discussed philosophy and religion and protected one another from danger: "We may have looked like subhuman beings but at no time lost our human dignity," she explained. (85) Although she found problems with Friedan's analogy, this survivor engaged the author's ideas seriously.
Thus, only a few survivors responded to Friedan's concentration camp analogy, and their responses were different from the ones we might imagine she would receive today. None insisted that the concentration camp was an inviolable or sacred subject, and two out of three found Friedan's ideas interesting and worthwhile and hoped they could help her further.
No other Jewish readers, moreover, suggested that Friedan should not have invoked the memory of the camps, or that any comparison using them was inappropriate. (86) Indications from Friedan's appearances before Jewish audiences suggest no controversy over her "comfortable concentration camp" imagery. (87) Instead, Friedan's readers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, all focused entirely on how well her image of Nazi camps fit American women's circumstances.
Many women eagerly embraced Friedan's ideas, and believed that her image of dehumanized victims perfectly depicted their personal lives. "My entire case history appears on your pages," wrote one housewife. (88) These women often repeated her description of housewives as "victims," or described themselves as "trapped" or "servile." (89) Many readers, moreover, saw Friedan's book as a tool for liberation, urging that it be required reading and buying copies to lend to friends: "Many, many thanks for saying all you did," wrote one housewife, "I must now rush off to lend it to my fellow prisoners." (90)
A number of women specifically adopted Friedan's concentration camp imagery to describe themselves as victims. "Glory be, I got myself out of it," wrote one Brooklyn mother of her life as a housewife, "and can only shudder when I think of those 'concentration camp' days." (91) Another woman from Los Angeles testified, "Your poignant analogy of the subtle plight of women and the open dehumanization of Nazi victims in concentration camps made me weep, for it surely points slowly or more quickly to the death of human spirit." (92) Friedan's fans thus were clearly persuaded of her description of housewives as victims, and a good number accepted even its most extreme manifestation: the concentration camp analogy. (93)
But not all of Friedan's readers warmed to the image of themselves as victims. McCall's and Ladies" Home Journal received extraordinary numbers of letters from women attacking their published excerpts from The Feminine Mystique. Writers pronounced themselves "completely appalled" and "thoroughly disgusted" by Friedan's portrait of women as brainwashed, dependent, even destructive and parasitic victims. (94) Many ridiculed the charge that they were psychologically suffering: "Strange, I don't feel the brick wall or the devastating shackles of my frustration," commented one housewife. (95) If they were victimized, these women argued, it was by Betty Friedan, who made "the average housewife and mother feel that she is inadequate, useless, and very uninteresting." (96) To protest against this portrait, these women's letters went into great detail portraying themselves as successful, mature, heroes of their families. "Mrs. Friedan should save her pity for those who really need it," wrote one woman, who listed in great detail her accomplishments over twenty-three years of marriage. (97)
For these women, the "comfortable concentration camp" was the most ridiculous of Friedan's claims. "Sizing it all up I say, 'Thank you Lord, for my comfortable, warm concentration camp,'" wrote one homemaker ironically; another signed her letter, "A Parasite, who has been happily and efficiently running her concentration camp for twenty five years." (98) The "comfortable concentration camp" was also the most painful of Friedan's charges. "The 'concentration camp,'" said one New Jersey housewife, "could one degrade the home more shamefully than Mrs. Friedan did?" (99) Surprisingly, however, even angry housewives often gave credence to Friedan's camp analogy, admitting that women not as heroic as they in fact might be living in concentration camps: "The woman who has allowed her mind and spirit to be limited to the confines of status symbols, material possessions and drudgery is, indeed ... living in a concentration camp," wrote one Los Angeles woman, "But it is really a prison built of her own narrow desires and self-pity." (100) Thus, even women who were deeply insulted by Friedan's analysis were still willing to employ her symbol of the concentration camp.
The fact that so many housewives engaged with Friedan's concentration camp analogy signifies that, in part because of her work, Nazi imagery became a part of American political discourse in the early 1960s in a different way than scholars usually describe. Historians have typically argued that the Eichmann trial of 1961 catalyzed Americans' newfound understanding of the destruction of European Jewry in the 1960s, and historical analyses have centered on the trial's impact on Jewish identity and Jewish comfort in addressing the issue of Nazi destruction of Jews. (101) By comparing concentration camp inmates with American housewives, however, Friedan inspired very different political discussions, pushing at least some Americans to see themselves and their own society through the lens of Nazi Germany.
A good number of ordinary readers, as well as professional reviewers, thus found Friedan's portrait of "comfortable concentration camps" an acceptable, even an impressive, description of American women's lives. Even women or reviewers who disagreed with Friedan's perspective, felt forced to engage her portrait: to ridicule it, to attack it, or to accept its partial truth. Friedan's analogy thus pushed the ordinary readers of McCall's and the Book Find Club to consider Nazi concentration camps a significant reference for understanding American life, not simply the grotesque relics of a distant totalitarian state in an earlier era.
The story of Betty Friedan's "comfortable concentration camp" demands greater attention from historians. Friedan's analogy was not simply an example of narcissism, carelessness, or exaggeration. Instead, the "comfortable concentration camp" was the product of significant historical forces and personal influences in Friedan's life, and the analogy had some impact upon American political discussion. A closer look at Friedan's imagery thus offers scholars a valuable way of examining American history in the postwar era.
For one thing, the "comfortable concentration camp" allows scholars to explore seriously a period in American culture before the Holocaust became "the Holocaust," thus engaging historical actors on their own terms, rather than criticizing them through frameworks that did not exist in an earlier era. Friedan developed, and readers accepted without protest, her Nazi analogy because the narrative of the Holocaust had not yet been constructed as something distinct and unique, incomprehensible and beyond comparison. Without that understanding of the event, many Americans instead readily accepted the concentration camp analogy, and, indeed, engaged with Friedan's ideas, rather than rejecting them as inappropriate.
For some American women, moreover, their engagement with Friedan's concentration camp analogy was powerful and influential. For these women, the "comfortable concentration camp" was entirely appropriate, for the analogy confirmed their understandings of their own experiences. For other women, the concentration camp analogy was degrading and despicable, not because it trivialized the experiences of camp inmates, but because it portrayed housewives as passive and destructive victims. Crucially, Friedan's use of the concentration camps came from a politically liberal perspective, and it thus encouraged both political liberalism and conservative reaction in the 190s. Unlike later uses of the Holocaust that have encouraged Jews to support Israel and to strengthen their Jewish identity, Friedan used the concentration camps to reflect and bolster an American liberalism that was increasingly questioning Cold War dogma and criticizing the inequality of American society.
Finally, Friedan's analogy offers important insight into American Jewish thought, particularly the thought of unaffiliated, non-practicing American Jews. Friedan certainly did not write The Feminine Mystique as an expression of her Judaism, but her personal background as a Jewish woman, and several key intellectual influences--Jewish psychologists Kurt Lewin and Bruno Bettelheim--seem clearly to have shaped her concentration camp analogy. Unaffiliated Jews like Betty Friedan who grew up in the 1930s and 1940s were still much affected by anti-semitism at home and Jewish destruction abroad, even if they did not express their feelings about these subjects openly as components of their Jewish identity. Experiencing antisemitism and reading the works of refugees like Lewin and Bettelheim powerfully shaped the way Friedan understood herself and understood the destruction of European Jewry. The fact, moreover, that Friedan was not alone, that other American Jews of her era developed similar analogies, suggests that American Jewish responses to the Holocaust have been more varied than historians have previously recognized.
(1.) Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (New York, 1964), 294. The book was originally published in i963.
(2.) bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (Boston, 1984), 2-3.
(3.) Daniel Horowitz, Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminine Mystique: The American Left, the Cold War, and Modern Feminism (Amherst, 1998), 205. Horowitz does, however, note that the analogy was effective in "dramatically conveying" its message. He describes the analogy as an outgrowth of Friedau's "youthful anti-fascism," and analyzes the analogy in relation to Friedan's Jewish background, but he does not closely examine the origins of the analogy in Friedan's Jewish roots. Although I do not wholly agree with Horowitz's evaluation of Friedan's concentration camp analogy, I am nonetheless deeply indebted to his work, which pays serious attention to Friedan's Jewish roots, seeing in them the origins of her left-wing politics.
(4.) Betty Friedan, Life So Far (New York, 2000), 132.
(5.) Author's interview with Betty Friedan, Washington, D.C., May 15, 2001.
(6.) See, for example, Stephen Whitfield, "The Holocaust and the American Jewish Intellectual," Judaism 28, no. 4 (1979): 391-407, and In Search of American Jewish Culture (Hanover, 1999), 168-96; Leon A. Jick, "The Holocaust: Its Use and Abuse Within the American Public," Yad Vashem Studies 14 (1981): 303-18; Edward S. Shapiro, A Time For Healing; American Jewry Since World War II (Baltimore, 1992), 212-17; Deborah Lipstadt, "America and the Memory of the Holocaust, 1950-1965," Modern Judaism 16, no. 3 (October 1996): 195-214; Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life (Boston, 1999); and Alan Mintz, Popular Culture and the Shaping of Holocaust Memory in America (Seattle, 2001).
(7.) Jeffrey Shandler, While America Watches: Televising the Holocaust (New York, 1999); Michael Staub, "'Negroes Are Not Jews:' Race, Holocaust Consciousness, and the Rise of Jewish Neoconservatism," Radical History Review 75 (Fall 1999): 3-27; Eli Lederhendler, New York Jews and the Decline of Urban Ethnicity, 1950-1970 (Syracuse, 2001), esp. 36-62; and Lawrence Baron, "The Holocaust and American Public Memory, 1945-1960," Holocaust and Genocide Studies 17, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 62-88.
(8.) Recent scholars have briefly addressed political and intellectual uses of the Holocaust in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Michael Staub, for example, describes liberal uses of Nazi camps to support the civil rights movement; see Staub, "'Negroes Are Not Jews,'" 6-9. Lawrence Baron notes that literature on Nazi destruction sparked Americans' interest in the psychology of dehumanization and in civil rights. See Baron, "The Holocaust and American Public Memory," 69-71. And Alan Mintz suggests the existence of, but does not explore, an earlier phase of Holocaust consciousness shaped by social and political commitment. See Mintz, Popular Culture, 208.
(9.) See, for reports during the war, Deborah Lipstadt, Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust, 1933-1945 (New York, 1986); for reports after the war, see, for example, Shaudler, While America Watches, 5-22; for its presence in the media in the 1950s and 1960s, see Lipstadt, "America and the Memory of the Holocaust," Baron, "The Holocaust and American Public Memory," and Gavriel Rosenfeld, "The Reception of William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in the United States and West Germany, 1960-1962," Journal of Contemporary History 29, no. 1 (1994): 95-128.
(10.) For the point that "the Holocaust" did not exist either as a phrase or as a distinct historical narrative, see Shandler, While America Watches, 23. The term "Holocaust" was first introduced to American audiences as a translation for the Hebrew word "shoah" during the Eichmann trial. The term "holocaust," spelled with a lower-case h, appeared in American usage throughout the early and middle 1960s. It was not until the late 1960s that the term "the Holocaust," spelled with an upper-case H, became standard. See Shandler, While America Watches, 83; Novick, Holocaust in American Life, 133-34.
(11.) The sociological literature on the subject of American Jewish identity is too immense to list exhaustively. For some prominent examples, see Charles Liebman, The Ambivalent American Jew (Philadelphia, 1973); Marshall Sklare and Joseph Greenblum, Jewish Identity on the Suburban Frontier: A Study of Group Survival in the Open Society (New York, 1967); Sklare, America's Jews (New York, 1971); and Steven M. Cohen, American Modernity and Jewish Identity (New York, 1983).
(12.) See, for example, Laurence Silberstein, Mapping Jewish Identities (New York, 2000); Laurence J. Silberstein and Robert L. Cohn, eds., The Other in Jewish Thought and History (New York, 1994); David Theo Goldberg and Michael Krausz, eds., Jewish Identity (Philadelphia, 1993).
(13.) Bruno Bettelheim, The Informed Heart: Autonomy in a Mass Age (New York, 1960), 109.
(14.) Ibid., 130.
(15.) Ibid., 131-34, 168-69.
(16.) Ibid., 169-75.
(17.) Ibid., 250-51.
(18.) Richard Pollak, The Creation of Dr. B. (New York, 1997), 124-25. By the end of the 1970s, Bettelheim's negative portrait of concentration camp inmates had been criticized by some psychologists and survivors; by the 1990s, his scholarship had been almost wholly repudiated. See Terrence Des Pres, The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps (New York, 1976); Paul R. Bartrop, "Bruno Bettelheim and the Extreme Situation: The Debate Over Prisoner Behaviour in Nazi Concentration Camps (1943-1976)," Menorah: An Australian Journal of Jewish Studies 3, no. 2 (December 1989): 32-47; and Paul Marcus and Alan Rosenberg, "Reevaluating Bruno Bettelheim's Work on the Nazi Concentration Camps: The Limits of His Psychoanalytic Approach," Psychoanalytic Review 81, no. 3 (Fall 1994): 538-63.
(19.) Friedan, Feminine Mystique, 295-96.
(20.) Ibid., 296.
(21.) Ibid., 297.
(22.) Ibid., 297.
(23.) See, for the conflation of gas chambers with concentration camps, Friedan, Feminine Mystique, 297, 298; for "exterminated," 295-96; and for "genocide," 351. Concentration camps imprisoned and tortured people of many different ethnic groups, including political prisoners, Jehovah's Witnesses, and homosexuals. Gas chambers in extermination camps were primarily reserved, though not used exclusively, for the extermination of Jews. See Uwe Dietrich Adam, "The Gas Chambers," in Francois Furet, ed., Unanswered Questions: Nazi Germany and the Genocide of the Jews (New York, 1989), 134; Robert S. Wistrich, Hitler and the Holocaust (New York, 2001), 101; Konnilyn Feig, Hitler's Death Camps (New York, 1979), 47, 293-96.
(24.) For Friedan's discussion of Freud's Jewish upbringing and her brief mention of Jews as a restrictive ethnic group that inculcated female passivity, see Friedan, Feminine Mystique, 100, 283, 340.
(25.) For Friedan as "agnostic" Jew, see Jennifer Moses, "She's Changed Our Lives," Present Tense 15, no. 4 (May/June 1988): 30. For Friedan beginning in the 1970s to address her Jewish background in her work, see Joyce Antler, The Journey Home: How Jewish Women Shaped Modern America (New York, 1997), 259, 267.
(26.) See, for example, the cases of Marie Syrkin and Hayim Greenberg in Carnie S. Kessner, ed., The "Other" New York Jewish Intellectuals (New York, 1994)
(27.) See "Jewish Roots: An Interview with Betty Friedan," Tikkun 3, no. 1 (Jan/Feb. 1988): 25; Amy Stone, "Friedan at 55," Lilith 1, no. 1 (Fall 1976): 11-12; Horowitz, Betty Friedan, 19; Friedan, Life So Far, 16, 23-24, 28, 32, 35, 53; Marcia Cohen, interview with Amy Adams, July 13, 1985, 3-4, in Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Marcia Cohen collection, folder "Betty Friedan." See also Horowitz, Betty Friedan, 23; Judith Hennessee, Betty Friedan (New York, 1999), 6, 13; Friedan, Life So Far, 24-25. See Leonard Dinnerstein, Anti-Semitism in America (New York, 1994), 91-92, for discussion of the upsurge in antisemitism in social clubs in the 1920s.
(28.) For the nose job, see Hennessee, Betty Friedan, 10. For Miriam's insistence that the sorority rejection was not because she was Jewish, see "Jewish Roots," 25; Friedan, Life So Far, 24. See also Betty Friedan, "A Good Woman Driver," n.d., in Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Betty Friedan papers, M-62 (hereafter BF-S papers), Series III, Box 13, Folder 463.
(29.) Harry Goldstein, interview with Marcia Cohen, n.d., in Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Marcia Cohen collection, cited in Hennessee, Betty Friedan, 9.
(30.) See Horowitz, Betty Friedan, 38-39; Friedan, Life So Far, 36-37.
(31.) Horowitz, Betty Friedan, 48-49.
(32.) See Alfred J. Marrow, The Practical Theorist: The Life and Work of Kurt Lewin (New York, 1969), 12-13, 166-72; and Martin Gold, "A Brief Intellectual Biography," in Gold, ed., The Complete Social Scientist: A Kurt Lewin Reader (Washington, D.C., 1999), 10-11.
(33.) See Marrow, The Practical Theorist, 64-68, 103, 139-40; and Gold, "Brief Intellectual Biography," 12-14.
(34.) Kurt Lewin, "Bringing Up the Jewish Child," in Resolving Social Conflicts: Selected Papers on Group Dynamics (New York, 1948), 182 (originally published in Menorah Journal 28 : 29-45). See also in Resolving Social Conflicts: "When Facing Danger," 159-68 (originally published in Jewish Frontier [September 1939]); and "Psycho-Sociological Problems of a Minority Group," 145-58 (originally published in Character and Personality 3 : 175-87)
(35.) Lewin, "Self-Hatred Among Jews," in Resolving Social Conflicts, 193 (originally published in Contemporary Jewish Record 4 : 219-32). Lewin actually borrowed the concept of the "marginal man" from the influential sociological work of Robert Park and the Chicago School in the 1930s. See Daryl Michael Scott, Contempt and Pity: Social Policy and the Image of the Damaged Black Psyche, 1880-1996 (Chapel Hill, 1997), 22-26.
(36.) Lewin, "Self-Hatred," 193.
(37.) Bettye Goldstein, "B.G.," n.d., BF-S papers, Series 11, Carton 6, Folder 276.
(38.) "Jewish Roots," 26.
(40.) Ibid. See Stone, "Friedan at 55," 12, for Friedan's comment on herself as an antisemitic Jew.
(41.) Bettye Goldstein, "The Scapegoat," October 1, 1941, BF-S papers, Series II, Carton 6, Folder 271. See also Bettye Goldstein, "The Scapegoat," Smith College Monthly (October 1941), 5, 26-30; Bettye Goldstein, "Notes for a Short Story--Lila," 1941, BF-S papers, Series II, Carton 6, Folder 271.
(42.) Stone, "Friedan at 55," 12; Friedan, Life So Far, 52-53.
(43.) See, for example, Friedan, "A Good Woman Driver," and Betty Friedan, "The Swimming Pool," n.d., BF-S papers, Series III, Box 13, Folder 463.
(44.) Betty Friedan, "A Good Woman Driver."
(45.) Betty Friedan, "Women and Jews: The Quest for Selfhood," Congress Monthly 52, no. 2 (February/March 1985): 8; "Jewish Roots," 26.
(46.) Stone, "Friedan at 55," 12. See also Friedan, Life So Far, 36-37; "Jewish Roots," 26.
(47.) Friedan, Life So Far, 39.
(48.) Betty Friedan, unpublished rough draft of Feminine Mystique, n.d., BF-S papers, Series III, Box 17, Folder 454. See also Friedan, unpublished rough draft of Feminine Mystique, n.d., 809-11, BF-S papers Series III, Box 16, Folder 585.
(49.) Friedan, Feminine Mystique, 292, 288, 297.
(50.) Lewin, "Self-Hatred," 193.
(51.) See, for example, Friedan, The Second Stage (New York, 1981), 93.
(52.) For "impotent rage," see Paul Wilkes, "Mother Superior to Women's Lib," New York Times Magazine, November 29, 1970, 29. For Friedan's descriptions of Miriam as a domineering mother, see, for example, Friedan, Second Stage, 93; and Friedan, It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women's Movement (New York, 1985), 6-19.
(53.) Joyce Antler has analyzed the importance of Miriam Goldstein as the model for the domineering-mother image in The Feminine Mystique. Antler focuses on the image of the "Jewish mother" inherent in Friedan's work, rather than the connections between antisemitic Jews and domineering mothers. See Antler, The Journey Home, 266.
(54.) "Jewish Roots," 26.
(55.) Other members of the cohort include Erving Goffman, Arthur Miller, and Lawrence Kohlberg. For more on this cohort, see Kirsten Fermaglich, "Perpetrators, Bystanders, Victims: Jewish Intellectuals and the Holocaust in Postwar America" (Ph.D. diss., New York University, 2001).
(56.) "Letters," Newsweek, April 30, 1945, 8.
(57.) Stanley Elkins might seem like an exception to this statement but, curiously, he is not. Elkins purposely focused on concentration camps because he believed it would allow him to avoid talking about race. See John A. Garraty, Interpreting American History: Conversations With Historians, Part 1 (New York, 1970), 1-198, cited in Fermaglich, "Perpetrators, Bystanders, Victims," 134
(58.) Sylvia Hath, "Daddy," in Ariel (London, 1965), 50.
(59.) At least one literary critic has argued that, with "Daddy," Plath was linking women and Jews together as "victims of institutionalized violence in Western civilization." See Alan Sinfield, Literature, Politics, and Culture in Postwar Britain (Oxford, 1989), 223-26, cited in Claire Brennan, ed., The Poetry of Sylvia Plath (New York, 1999), 94.
(60.) See, for example, Joyce Carol Oates, "The Death Throes of Romanticism: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath," in Edward Butscher, ed., Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work (New York, 1977), 209; Irving Howe, "The Plath Celebration: A Partial Dissent," in Butscher, Sylvia Plath, 231-33; Tim Kendall, Sylvia Plath: A Critical Study (London, 2001), 171. Other critics have defended Plath's work as a reflection of the power of historical memory. See James Edward Young, Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust: Narrative and the Consequences of Interpretation (Bloomington, 1988), 117-33.
(61.) It is worth noting that Plath's association between Jews and victimhood was not limited to these poems, nor to Holocaust imagery alone. See, for example, Marie Ashe, "The Bell Jar and the Ghost of Ethel Rosenberg," in Secret Agents: The Rosenberg Case, McCarthyism, and Fifties America, eds., Marjorie Garber and Rebecca L. Walkowitz (New York, 1995), 215-31, for Plath's emphasis upon the execution of the Rosenbergs in The Bell Jar.
(62.) Anthony Easthope calls attention to the temporary nature of Plath's "Jewish" identity. See Easthope, "Reading the Poetry of Sylvia Plath," English 43, no. 177 (Autumn 1994): 223-35, cited in Brennan, The Poetry of Sylvia Plath, 148.
(63.) My analysis here has been influenced by Naomi Seidman, "Fag-Hags and Bu-Jews: Toward a (Jewish) Politics of Vicarious Identity," in Insider/Outsider: American Jews and Multiculturalism, eds., David Biale, Michael Galchinsky, and Susannah Heschel (Berkeley, 1998), 254-68. See also Ezra Mendelsohn, "Should We Take Notice of Berthe Weil? Reflections on the Domain of Jewish History," Jewish Social Studies (new series) 1, no. (Fall 1994): 22-37; Michael Rogin, Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot (Berkeley, 1996); and Michael Alexander, Jazz Age Jews (Princeton, 2001).
(64.) For discussion of the significance of women's domesticity in the Cold War consensus, see Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound (New York, 1988).
(65.) See Abbott Gleason, Totalitarianism: The Inner History of the Cold War (New York, 1995).
(66.) See, for publicity tour, Hennessee, Betty Friedan, 76-78.
(67.) Joan Cook, "'Mystique' View Backed By Many, Author Finds," New York Times, March 12, 1964, in BF-S papers, Series 1, Box 1, Folder 91. For local panel discussions, see, for example, letter to Betty Friedan, St. Louis, MO, January 2, 1964, in BF-S papers, Series IV, Box 32., Folder 1086; "The Masculine Mystique," The Lamplighter (November 1963), 3, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 670. For a list of some of Friedan's television and radio appearances, see "F. Myst," W.W. Norton papers, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Butler Library, Columbia University, Series II, Box 230, Folder "Betty Friedan correspondence 1963."
(68.) Clinical Psychology (Summer 1963), in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 669; Eleanor T. Smith, review of Feminine Mystique in Library Journal 88, no. 1 (January 1, 1963): 114; Anne Scott, review of Feminine Mystique in South Atlantic Quarterly 62 no. 4 (Autumn 1963): 617; A.C. Higgins, review of Feminine Mystique in Social Forces 42, no. 3 (March 1964): 396; Miriam Allen de Ford, "Are Women Human?" The Humanist 23, no. 3 (May/June 1963): 101.
(69.) Review of Feminine Mystique in Kirkus Reviews, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 668.
(70). Review of Feminine Mystique in the Times Literary Supplement, May 31, 1963, 391; Mary Lyons, "The Feminine Rebellion," Brooklyn Heights Press, July 18, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series 1, Box 1, Folder 90.
(71). See, for example, "Anne's Reader Exchange: Hard Sell on a Soft Job?" Washington Post, March 10, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 668; "Speaking of Books," St. Louis Jewish Light, October 16, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 670; "Mrs. America: Buried Alive?" State Tribune (Cheyenne, WY), October 13, 1963, in BFS papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 670; review of Feminine Mystique in Together, June 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 668; Virgilia Peterson, review of Feminine Mystique in Book Find News, Issue no. 307, nd, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 668.
(72). Cynthia Seton, "Skirting the Issue: The Feminine Mystique," Journal Record (Amherst, MA), July 11, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 668.
(73.) For the discourse of misogyny in the 1950s claiming that women victimized men, see Barbara Ehrenreich, The Hearts of Men (New York, 1983); and Jennifer Kalish, "Spouse-Devouring Black Widows and Their Neutered Mates: Postwar Suburbanization--A Battle Over Domestic Space," UCLA Historical Journal 14 (1994): 128-54. For examples of this attitude among Friedan's critics, see Lars Granberg, "Wise Men Never Try," Christianity Today, February 14, 1964, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 668; "The Masculine Mystique," The Lamplighter (November 1963), 3, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 670; and Julius J. Nodel, "Is the Feminine Mystique a Feminine Mistake?" sermon, Temple Shaare Emeth, St. Louis, MO, November 15, 1963, 4-6, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 15, Folder 522.
(74.) Jean Libman Block, "Who Says U.S. Women Are 'Trapped'?" This Week, October 6, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 688.
(75.) Lucy Freeman, review of Feminine Mystique in the New York Times Book Review, April 7, 1963, 46.
(76.) See also Kate Aitken, "Canadian Women Not Deluded," Toronto Globe and Mail, May 2, 1964.
(77.) Review of Feminine Mystique in the Psychiatric Quarterly Supplement, part (1963), in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 668.
(78.) Patricia Krebs, "More Feminine Image Maneuvers," Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, MO), June 2, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 670. See also Louise Lux, "Housewives Raked Over Coals," Bulletin (Philadelphia, PA), February 21, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 668; and Alden Hoag, "To Herd Women By a New Dogma," Herald (Boston, MA), March 11, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 18, Folder 668.
(79.) Mary Engel, "Cherchez L'Homme," Contemporary Psychology 8, no. 11 (November 1963): 424.
(80.) See, for example, Nodel, "Is the Feminine Mystique a Feminine Mistake," and "Speaking of Books," St. Louis Jewish Light, October 16, 1963.
(81). See Index to Jewish Periodicals 1 (June 1963-May 1964); American Jewish Yearbook 65 (1964), eds., Morris Fine and Milton Himmelfarb (New York, 1964).
(82). Nodel, "Is the Feminine Mystique a Feminine Mistake," 5.
(83.) Letter to Betty Friedan, Itasca, IL, May 12, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 686. Letters to Betty Friedan cannot be published with authors' names or initials.
(84.) Letter to Betty Friedan, Indianapolis, IN, June 1, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 686. This woman offers few details of her life during the war, making it unclear whether she was in hiding or interned in concentration camps; she only makes it clear that she is Jewish, that her high school education was interrupted in Europe, "thanks to Hitler and the rest," and that she came to the United States in 1951.
(85.) Letter to Betty Friedan, Larchmont, NY, January 14, 1964, in BF-S papers, Series Box 19, Folder 689.
(86.) See, for example, letter to Betty Friedan, n.d., in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 681; letter to Betty Friedan, Portland, ME, August 11, 1969, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 703.
(87.) See, for example, letter to Betty Friedan, St. Louis, MO, January 2, 1964, in BF-S papers, Series IV, Box 32, Folder 1086; Mildred Young, "Housekeeper--What Else," Dallas Times Herald, October 30, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series I, Box 1, Folder 90; "Author Explodes Feminine Myths," Dallas Morning News, October 30, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series I, Box I, Folder 90; "Women Urged to Find a New Image," Newsday (Long Island, NY), November 20, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series 1, Box 1, Folder 90; "Stop Enslaving Selves," Boston Sunday Globe, December 8, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series I, Box 1, Folder 90.
(88.) Letter to Betty Friedan, Minneapolis, MN, October 5, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 688.
(89.) Letter to Betty Friedan, August 15, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 687; Letter to Betty Friedan, Riverton, WY, June 3, 1964, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 683; letter to Betty Friedan, Ridgewood, NJ, March 13, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 685.
(90.) Letter to Betty Friedan, May 6 [year illegible], in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 680; for recommendations as required reading, see letter to Betty Friedan, Winona, MN, July 24, 1967, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 701; letter to Betty Friedan, Appleton, WI, September 27, 1967, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 701; for lending The Feminine Mystique to friends, see letter to Betty Friedan, April 10, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 685; letter to Betty Friedan, Leicester, MA, April 23, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 685; letter to Betty Friedan, Woodland Hills, CA, November 8, 1963; and letter to Betty Friedan, Durham, NC, September 14 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 688.
(91). Letter to Betty Friedan, Brooklyn, NY, June 2, 1964, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19 Folder 683.
(92). Letter to Betty Friedan, Los Angeles, CA, August 19, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 687.
(93.) For other examples of Friedan's letter writers approving of the concentration camp analogy, see letter to Betty Friedan, Lynchburg, VA, May 5, 1964, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 22, Folder 800; letter to Betty Friedan, Towson, MD, July 30, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 687; letter to Betty Friedan, Los Angeles, CA, August 28, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 695; letter to Betty Friedan, Decatur, GA, November 12, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 681; letter to Betty Friedan, St. Gall, Switzerland, April 22, 1967, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 19, Folder 701. For a letter respecting the concentration camp analogy, but offering criticism of Friedan's logic, see letter to Betty Friedan, New Haven, CT, December 13, 1963, Series III, Box 19, Folder 681.
(94.) Letter to McCall's, Empire, OR, April 1, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 21, Folder 751; letter to McCall's, Dearborn, MI, March 28, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 21, Folder 750.
(95.) Letter to McCall's, Helena, MT, n.d., in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 21, Folder 752.
(96.) Letter to McCall's, Abington, PA, March 12, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 21, Folder 748.
(97.) Letter to McCall's, March 6, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 21, Folder 747.
(98.) Letter to McCall's, March 5, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 21, Folder 746; letter to McCall's, March 1, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 21, Folder 745.
(99.) Letter to McCall's, Newark, NJ, n.d., in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 21, Folder 752.
(100). Letter to McCall's, Los Angeles, CA, February 23, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 21, Folder 742. See, for similar examples, letter to McCall's, Yardley, PA, March 6, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 21, Folder 747; letter to McCall's, Ann Arbor, MI, n.d., in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 21, Folder 752; letter to McCall's, Fort Washington, PA, February 28, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 21, Folder 744; letter to McCall's, Dearborn, MI, March 28, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 21, Folder 750; letter to McCall's, Rocky Mount, VA, April 4, 1963, in BF-S papers, Series III, Box 21, Folder 751.
(101). See, for example, Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature (Chicago, 1980), 205; Mintz, Popular Culture, 11-14; Novick, Holocaust in American Life, 128-45.
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|Publication:||American Jewish History|
|Article Type:||Critical Essay|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2003|
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