Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique hit shelves February 19, 1963. It became a sensational bestseller, helped bring simmering discontent among American women to a furious boil, and—rightly or wrongly—quickly became the media’s byword for a large and complicated movement.

There’s been an impossible amount written about the text, with another round of reexamination as recently as 2013, on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary. Decades of fascination means that the book has been reprinted a million times, with a plethora of different covers, and it’s fascinating to watch how the packaging has shifted over the years.

The original was a searing, aggressive shade of red with an in-your-face font.

This early paperback is very much in keeping with the midcentury tradition of using Very Serious Work framing to hint that the contents are in fact shocking as all hell. A similar Dell edition proclaimed it “THE YEAR’S MOST CONTROVERSIAL BESTSELLER.”

This circa 1965 Penguin edition manages to include both a boob and a TV set, which is a pretty good sign the cultural upheaval was well underway.

Here’s a 1971 paperback, touting that women’s lib cred. Note the militant font.

Shortly thereafter it got a tenth anniversary edition.

Perhaps you recognize this 1984 mass-market paperback from 10 Things I Hate About You? With those soothing shades and the flower, it’s basically the diametric opposite of the original 1963 hardcover.

From 1997, this cover might as well shout “Hey, you’ve been assigned me for one of your college classes!”

Ditto:

Parker Posey was the narrator of this 2009 audio version.

What’s going on with this 2010 Penguin Classics cover?

Nowadays there’s an outright Norton Critical Edition for students, with additional readings.

Currently we’re on the fiftieth anniversary edition, from 2013. Notable features include a cover blurb from Arianna Huffington.


Contact the author at kelly@jezebel.com.

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Lead photo via AP Images. Covers via GoodReads, Abebooks.