On December 22, 1962, one month before The Feminine Mystique hit the bookstores, the Saturday Evening Post published a cover article purporting to offer a portrait of the typical American woman. … The Post’s story was based on more than 1,800 interviews and extensive polling by the Gallup organization. According to the author, George Gallup, it was not intended to examine “the extremes” among American women. “Old maids,” divorced women, childless women, and working mothers certainly existed in America, he acknowledged, but they were of concern mainly to sociologists, “because they are unusual” and exist “in a society that is not geared for them.” The article’s aim was to portray how “most” American women lived and thought.
— An excerpt from social historian Stephanie Coontz’s book A Strange Stirring. Coontz appears on Fresh Air today to talk about the enduring legacy of Betty Friedan’s book and what the world was like when it was originally published.