Mad Men ended its season last Sunday. We'll have to wait for season six to find out how Joan, Megan and Peggy cope with their careers and romances (relationships hadn't been invented yet).
Meanwhile, this comparison will help illustrate the complexity of women's roles in the 1960's.
"The little woman." What did The Women Who Lunch do for the rest of the afternoon? Apparently they played bridge. Even when this Merrill Anderson ad for US Trust appeared in 1966, the image seemed dated and Merrill's copy condescending:
The man who introduces his wife to the Trust company – to observe and take part in his talks with them – is filling the role of a devoted and far-seeing husband.But remember, in those days many a high-net-worth man was married to a woman who didn't know how to write a check. Often the men liked it that way. "You want my wife to talk with you? What if she learns my net worth? Good grief! Next thing, you'll be wanting to tell her my income."
Mad women. In the 1960's women found little welcome in many areas of business, especially banking and Wall Street. Advertising was something of an exception, and had been for decades.
In London in the 1920's, Dorothy Sayers worked for an ad agency. (So did the hero of her mysteries, Lord Peter Wimsey, in "Murder Must Advertise.") In New York, circa 1930, another Dorothy worked for Edwin Bird Wilson. So did young Merrill Anderson. They married, and in 1934 Merrill and Dorothy Anderson launched The Merrill Anderson Company.
In the 1960's, the really big news on Madison Avenue was a woman. Mary Wells Lawrence. Read her story and you'll appreciate the challenge faced by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner: you can't make this stuff up.