Skip to main content

Afternoon Shift

The 'real' Peggy Olson: New book takes on being female in the advertising world

(Photo courtesy of AMC)

AMC's drama Mad Men is in full swing and while I'd love to share my detailed thoughts on this season, I'm only one episode in (well, two episodes since the premiere was a double-header). I do know from the constant stream of reviews and commentaries that the series is wading into some heady waters representative of the times, like race relations and the Vietnam War. So while I haven't seen the most recent episodes of the show, I have been a devoted viewer of the previous four seasons. Like most present-day viewers, I find it hard to ignore the antiquated and somewhat frightening treatment of women in the workplace.

Quick summary for non-viewers: Office manager Joan Harris and copywriter Peggy Olson are the most prominent female employees at the ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (formerly just Sterling Cooper). Peggy was recently promoted from Jr. Copywriter and seems to be garnering a little more respect from her male colleagues, but it hasn't been without a struggle. She's trying to be one of the boys but that doesn't always work out so well, either. She's been criticized for being too uptight or serious. What's a girl to do?!

But how do you separate truth from fiction?

A new book by a former female copywriter should offer some clues into how true Mad Men's depictions of the ad world really are. Jane Maas is author of Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the '60s and Beyond. Maas was a copywriter at Ogilivy and Mather beginning in the 1960s, and later worked on the popular "I Love NY" campaign. Maas joins Steve Edwards on Afternoon Shift to share real tales from the scotch-swiggin, cigarette-smokin, vintage days of the advertising scene. Was there a Don Draper in her world? Maas will answer those questions and more. 

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.