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Elizabeth is a Vancouver-based writer, editor, and author. Her first book “Beyond Black and White” is available now. She is an old soul who's young at heart, a human jukebox, and a corgi lady in training. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @ElizabethThe.

Mad Women of Mad Men

Credit: AMC

Credit: AMC

Set in 1968, with the rising political, racial, and social tensions of the counterculture well under way, Season 6 of Mad Men mirrored the growing unrest in America with its focus on the epic failures of the men of the show, ending with Don Draper having a meltdown that costs him his partnership (temporarily… for now) and Pete Campbell Pete Campbell-ing himself out of a top automobile account.

However, as the men continue to fall behind and find themselves increasingly out of touch with the modern day, the working girls and society ladies are on the rise, taking charge of their domains (be it in their careers, their families, and/or their relationships) and ultimately, of their lives as women of the 1960’s.

Now, let us commemorate some of the accomplishments of these Mad Women, shall we? (WARNING: more Season 6 spoilers ahead!)

At the end of last season, Peggy Olson made a bold career move, switching from SCDP to another agency, CGC. But even with her authority as head copywriter, she still struggled to be treated with respect from her colleagues, who resorted to misogynistic pranks in an attempt to intimidate her. The situation appeared to become even more dire after the merger of SCDP and CGC to SCP (Sterling Cooper and Partners), but Peggy turned what could have been a setback into an opportunity to assert herself to Don, calling out her former boss and his monstrous behavior, telling him to “move forward”, and even using his philosophy of “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation” to win over new clients. By the finale, it seemed like Peggy was completely down in the dumps – ending her relationship with Abe, being used and rejected (“for her own good”) by Ted, and living alone in a new apartment with a cat for company – but that final shot of her sitting behind Don’s vacant desk (in a trouser-suit, no less!) leaves us with optimism for her future prospects. You can bet that Peggy will channel her rage into her work and creative fabulous results. Watch out, fellas!

Joan Harris may be a partner at SCP, but her teammates sure don’t view her as an equal. She has to deal with her co-workers constantly bringing up the horrible circumstances that lead to her promotion, is often not invited to executive meetings, AND is treated as a secretary despite her higher position. It’s frustrating how the men won’t acknowledge Joan as an important player in the agency; she has always been the one holding the office together – without her smarts and responsibility, SCP would be a gigantic, unruly mess! Instead of causing a huge scene about the unfair treatment she receives, Joan takes the hits in stride, and is more determined to work even harder. This season she took a great risk by taking the lead on securing a new account with Avon Cosmetics. Her method of doing business her way and not by protocol was considered scandalous by her male co-workers, resulting in a power struggle at the office. Peggy, who was initially hesitant and disapproving of Joan’s plan, supported her at a crucial moment (and made for an awesome example of sisterhood solidarity!). Another one of my favorite Joan moments was when she called Don out for his lack of consideration for others when he cut ties with Jaguar, as she erupts, “Just once I would like to hear you say the word ‘we’, because we’re all rooting for you from the sidelines, hoping that you’ll decide whatever you think is right for our lives.” At the end of the day, Joan is a mother, trying her best to provide for her son, and she ain’t letting any arrogant jerk tell her what to do!

As Don pursues another woman in the form of his neighbor Sylvia, his wife Megan Draper is pursuing her passion for acting. The budding young soap star balances her work life, her social life, and her family life, with great effort, though the same can’t be said for her husband, who she can sense drifting away from her. The differences between Megan and Don become more apparent: she’s more open, considerate, and forward-thinking, while he is way more distant, self-centered, and conservative (perhaps more than even he is aware of). As patient and understanding as she’s generously been towards Don, Megan declares that she has had enough of her husband’s countless lies and empty promises when he calls off their move to California, since she had just given up her acting role in New York for career opportunities out on the west coast. Their future together is uncertain, but I for one hope that Megan chooses her career ambitions over her miserable marriage. You deserve better, girl!

Credit: madmenwiththingsdrawnonthem (Tumblr)

Credit: madmenwiththingsdrawnonthem (Tumblr)

After struggling with her body image last year, Betty Francis is restored to her original slim figure. She gained lots of attention from her husband Henry’s political colleagues and enjoyed the boost to her confidence. While meeting up at their son’s summer camp, Betty and Don reconnect and have a one-night stand. It was during this surprising moment that Betty delivered one of the most hard-hitting truth bombs about Don and his relationships with women, addressing Megan in particular: “That poor girl. She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.” Whether she was genuinely sympathetic towards her ex-husband’s second wife or not, she has his character down to an art. It is her scenes with her daughter Sally that offer a raw glimpse into Betty’s own heart. Through she is criticized for being an ice queen and stone cold mom, she does try to help her eldest and only daughter, who is struggling with the difficulties of her parents’ divorce. At the end of the season, Betty is on the verge of tears, frustrated that what she’s doing isn’t enough and recognizing that Sally needs more than she can give her. It’s heartbreaking, truly.

Little Sally Draper is not so little anymore! Fourteen-year-old Sally plays the part of troubled teenager dealing with the repercussions of a broken home extremely well – talking back to her mother, acting mature for her age, and questioning everything. The one thing that she always held on to growing up was her idealization of her father, which all came to a screeching halt this season with his countless mistakes and an indiscretion that destroyed his daughter’s innocence for good. Not only did Don negligently leave his kids alone in his apartment and victim to a robber (wait, it gets worse?), but Sally also caught her father in the act of adultery with a woman who is not his wife. Both awful incidents make her realize that she doesn’t know this father she adores, at all. Sickened by the truth, Sally enrolls in Miss. Porter’s Boarding School, where she dabbles with alcohol and other rebellious activities. In one of the most memorable scenes of the season, the lost and jaded Sally shares a cigarette with her mother as she expresses her disappointment with her dad: “My father’s never given me anything.” Ouch.

I was bowing down to Trudy Campbell when she finally confronted her husband Pete and his infidelities after he went too far and too close to home by getting involved with a neighbor. After ruthlessly laying down her law and vowing to destroy him if he doesn’t comply by her separation rules, she kicked his unfaithful ass to the curb. Trudy is the clear winner of the Scene Stealer Award!

Dawn Chambers possesses all of the qualities of a good employee – she’s hard-working, honest, observant, caring, and able to deal with Don Draper’s bullcrap with patience, calmness, and grace. In the office, Dawn looks up to Joan, and in return, Joan considers Dawn to be the only secretary she can count on to do stuff properly. Even amidst the racial tensions mounting in regards to the civil rights movement, Dawn always keeps her cool and stays focused on her job. Basically, Dawn Chambers is a saint!

When the show heads into it’s seventh (and final) season in 2014, I will be most intrigued to discover how the Mad Women of Mad Men navigate their way through the last year of the swingin’ 1960s. To Peggy, Joan, Megan, Betty, Sally, Trudy, and Dawn – I salute you. Good luck and Godspeed to you fierce ladies in 1969!

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4 Comments on “Mad Women of Mad Men”

  1. drush76 June 30, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    I’m surprised that you have something to say about Dawn, considering how she was shoved to the background after one lousy episode. Not even Bob Benson suffered that fate.

    • Elizabeth Rosalyn July 15, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

      I’m disappointed that Dawn had so little screentime on this season in particular, but even so, I found her few appearances to be memorable and important. I hope she will be featured more in the show’s last season!


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