The 1960s Working Girl
August 14, 2009
Amanda Marcotte has a piece up at The American Prospect Online about Mad Men. There’s a lot in there but I thought this bit was especially interesting:
The rebellion of the 1960s was only made possible because of economic changes and other cultural developments that happened in the early — and less romanticized — part of the decade.
The character of Peggy Olson, a secretary at the advertising agency Sterling Cooper who moves into copywriting, doesn’t go to work because she’s an overeducated housewife looking to relieve boredom. She is a working-class Catholic girl from Brooklyn who needs the money and then finds herself addicted to ambition. Peggy’s story, and that of all working-class women who held jobs because they had to, is as essential to the history of women’s liberation as The Feminine Mystique or protests against the Miss America contest.
Too often we hear and are taught about how Betty Friedan revolutionized feminism with The Feminine Mystique but I’ve heard very little about what happened to women who “needs the money” and enters the workforce. As the show plainly shows, a lot of these women went into the work force hoping to bag a man but not all of them and those who didn’t immediately get married were a key factor in changing the masculine dominated culture.