Betty Friedan, founder and first president of NOW, was among the missing in early January at a dinner honoring its past presidents.
"They didn't get around to telling me I was expected until just before Thanksgiving," she says.
Friedan skipped the dinner, but she did show up a few days later for NOW's big 25th birthday party, where she reminded 800 celebrants, "I am here as the mother of you all."
"I feel badly that she feels she was blown off," a NOW spokeswoman says. "I don't think it's that nobody remembered to invite her." With the Clarence Thomas hearings, she explains, "Our schedule got thrown off. I think everybody was invited at the same time."
Friedan's 1963 book, "The Feminine Mystique," launched the sex-role revolution and led to the founding of NOW. But Friedan, who was president from 1966 to 1971, fell from favor with a later generation of feminists. Her 1981 book, "The Second Stage," blamed radical elements of the women's movement for some of the problems American families were having juggling homes, children and jobs.
"The recent leadership (of NOW) did not like my book," she says. "I was right. And I was addressing it at them."
Friedan, who was drafted to organize NOW because she was the only woman at the time who had the national visibility to bring in other women, acknowledges she has been "hurt" by some of the snubs--"I'm human." Still, she was given "a big standing ovation" at the birthday party.
Has she sold out as a feminist, as some have charged?
"Of course I haven't sold out," says Friedan. "I may have been off the barricades for a bit, but feminist thinking is the point of everything I do. I have not retreated in any way."
Over 25 years, her thinking has changed on some issues, and she believes that some of the thinking of the movement leadership should have. "I abhor this politically correct rigidity."
Twenty years ago, she says, "The whole point was to get attention for issues that are now taken for granted. Today, there's a whole new set of problems.
"We've got to move out of the victim stage. We are not victims any longer. Women have learned to blow the whistle and have the legal means to blow the whistle."
The present challenge, Friedan believes, will not be met by "marching in place defending single issues like abortion." NOW, she says, must get on with the whole "domestic agenda"--child care, health care, housing, jobs.
"It's not just women against men anymore. And it is not feminism against the family. We need a new political movement of women and men toward a new society."
The doors have been opened, Friedan says. The challenge is "to keep those doors open and redefine the terms of the mainstream, but not turn your back on it."
If she were president of NOW today, she says, "I would be moving to mobilize the new power of women in all the professions and in industry."
With the recession and sexual backlash, she sees increasing polarization and believes women "are vulnerable to a dangerous new feminine mystique"--a new attempt "to send the women home again."