Helen Berry Andelin, founder of the Fascinating Womanhood seminars based on her 1963 book of the same name, died June 7 in Pierce City, Mo.
Teaching that women should embrace their roles as mothers and domestic caretakers in order to fortify their marriages, Andelin rose to prominence in the late 1960s and 1970s when rising sentiments of feminism and the women's rights movement prompted a national debate.
A Mormon mother of eight married to a dentist in Fresno, Calif., Andelin prayed, fasted and read The Bible and The Book of Mormon in hopes that God would reveal to her the elements of a strong marriage, said Julie Neuffer, a history instructor at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. Soon after, Andelin, who was raised in Mesa, Ariz., before attending Brigham Young University and the University of Utah in the late 1930s, wrote her book.
"She really felt that if she could save marriages she could save families and save America," said Neuffer, who hopes to turn her academic dissertation on Andelin's work into a biography. "Hers was a religious patriotic movement. You can find a lot of Andelin's philosophy in Doctor Laura Schlessinger, Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus , and The Rules . They don't quote Andelin, but she was the beginning of an entire movement. That movement is still going strong."
Brian Andelin said his mother's book emphasizing traditional gender roles was not a reaction to the women's movement. Instead, it written as a caring message to women who wanted to learn how to salvage their marriages. He remembers his mother selling 5,000 books out of the family garage, followed by half a million more in sales, before Fascinating Womanhood was published by Bantam. The publishing company released an updated edition in 2007.
Although she belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Andelin, a self-taught writer, shared her philosophy with women of all faiths, teaching seminars in Catholic churches and synagogues. Brian Andelin said his mother received scores of letters over the years from thankful readers, and continued answering e-mails as recently as two months ago, when she suffered a fall that later put her in a coma.
"My mother was a sweet, guileless woman who got up every morning at 4 a.m. to work hard," Brian Andelin said. "Some of the young girls in my family say, 'I don't like that book,' and she stirred controversy, but her message was the spiritual view on the difference between men and women."
In 1970s, Andelin appeared on television and was interviewed by Phil Donahue, Larry King and Barbara Walters. Comic Roseanne Barr, who grew up in Salt Lake City when many women were talking about the concepts of Fascinating Womanhood , borrowed from the book when she adopted the moniker of "domestic goddess" in her stand-up routine. Andelin once received a call from Barr saying she didn't mean any offense by adopting the title, Neuffer said.
Andelin was married to Aubrey Andelin, who died in 1999. In addition to eight children, she is survived by 61 grandchildren and 101 great-grandchildren. A funeral will be held June 18 in Monett, Mo.