Betty Friedan’s agent to W.W. Norton editor, October 1962

Hoo boy she's a looker.

Hoo boy she’s a looker.

Hank,

How’s it hangin’? How’s Marjorie and the kids?

Listen now, I want you to stop whatever you’re doing because boy, do I got the book for you! It’s called The Feminine Mystique. Doesn’t that sound like a winner? It’s a sweet book by a real pretty lady. Let me tell ya, she’ll make for a great author photo on the back flap, not like that Virginia Woolf or whoever. Her name’s Betty and she wants to write about kitchens and ladies and what not. College-educated gal, but I don’t think she’ll give you too much trouble with her fee. I haven’t read the whole thing, but I flipped through and I just know the housewife market is going to be going goo-ga for it.

Anyway, take a look or just trust me and publish the dang thing! You won’t regret it.

Best,

Earl

Analysis:

As amazing as the show “Mad Men” is, it’s sometimes important to remember that the 1950s and 60s actually did happen at one point in American history. Scholars place this period, commonly called “the Mad Men Era,” from roughly 1950 to 1969, though estimates vary. The period saw a great deal of social upheaval, including the liberation of women, in which author, advocate, and amateur pheasant hunter Betty Friedan played a vital role, and which was probably referenced on Mad Men at some point.

Of course, female authors in any genre had a hard time getting published in 1962. This was especially true for books about women’s issues. For most of the 1950s, the field was dominated by Dr. Nigel Thorpe’s treatise “The Most Beautiful Scullery Maid,” about the importance of keeping a clean house and cooking for one’s husband, and Jeremiah Lewis’ older work “The Forbidden Garden,” which called the clitoris “the most persistent and destructive myth we see in society today.”

In fact, Ms. Friedan’s book may never have been published if any of the men in charge had actually read it. Her agent’s feelings appear above, while her publisher, Leo F. Franklin, saw the title and immediately assumed it was a “Les-ploitation” pulp novel. He did eventually read the book, but zipped up his pants by chapter 3.

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