NEW YORK – Betty Friedan, who championed the once-radical assertion that women needed more than husbands and children to find fulfillment, was eulogized Monday as a feminist pioneer and loving mother — if not always an easy one to live with.
"I truly believe that Betty Friedan was the most influential woman, not only of the 20th century but of the second millennium," said Muriel Fox, one of the co-founders with Friedan of the National Organization for Women.
Colleagues from the women's movement as well as her three children and their families were among more than 300 mourners at the funeral for Friedan, who died of congestive heart failure Saturday on her 85th birthday.
Friedan's son Jonathan remembered his mother hard at work writing "The Feminine Mystique" — the 1963 manifesto that shattered the cozy Ozzie-and-Harriet ideal of the prosperous postwar era — while her three children bounced around their New York City apartment.
"Betty was not the perfect mother," he said. "Emily, Daniel and I ate TV dinners growing up way beyond the recommended limit." But when tens of thousands of people cheered his mother at a rally when he was 17, "my heart, despite its adolescent shell, burst with pride."
Friedan's daughter, Dr. Emily Friedan, called her mother "a mass of contradictions."
"She made so many connections and yet was exquisitely lonely," she said. "Maybe the ultimate contradiction was that Betty just didn't fit into this world. That was her curse, and yet she started a revolution."
Former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman said she struggled to keep up with Friedan at women's rights marches because Friedan "had enough energy for all of us."
"Betty liberated our minds, and the gift of freedom is one of the most important things that we can have," Holtzman said.
Several speakers remembered Friedan as a loving person who could also be feisty and difficult.
"She was always very sweet and loving to me but when it came to other people she just didn't take any (expletive) from anyone," said her 23-year-old grandson, Raphael Friedan. "She was definitely the coolest grandmother that a young guy like me could ask for."
He recalled how his grandmother took him to Cuba and let him throw big parties at her summer house in Sag Harbor on Long Island.
Six of Friedan's nine grandchildren accompanied her plain wooden coffin out of Riverside Memorial Chapel after the service. She was to be buried in Sag Harbor.