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Mad Men and Working Women

Feminist Perspectives on Historical Power, Resistance, and Otherness

Erika Engstrom, Tracy Lucht, Jane Marcellus and Kimberly Wilmot Voss

This book was featured as one of thirty-four Epic Feminist Books in Teen Vogue magazine.

This book offers interpretive and contextual tools to read the AMC television series Mad Men, providing a much-needed historical explanation and exposition regarding the status of women in an era that has been painted as pre- or non-feminist. In chapters aimed at helping readers understand women’s lives in the 1960s, Mad Men is used as a springboard to explore and discover alternative ways of seeing women. Offering more than a discussion of the show itself, the book offers historical insight for thinking about serious issues that «modern» working women continue to face today: balancing their work and personal lives, competing with other women, and controlling their own bodies and reproductive choices. Rather than critiquing the show for portraying women as victims, the book shows subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) ways that feminism functioned in an era when women were supposedly caught between the «waves» of the women’s movement but when, the authors argue, they functioned nonetheless as empowered individuals.
By doing so, it provides historical context and analysis that complicates traditional interpretations by (1) exploring historical constructions of women’s work; (2) unpacking feminist and non-feminist discourses surrounding that work; (3) identifying modes of resistance; and (4) revisiting forgotten work coded as feminine.
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On behalf of all of us, Erika Engstrom thanks Mary Savigar, our editor at Peter Lang, for her continued support of this project. Erika personally thanks Sheila Gibbons, editor of Media Report to Women, for her past and present encouragement and support. Thank you, Sheila, for helping this feminist to reach her career goals, and for your tireless efforts to call attention to gender inequity in mass media. Lastly, Erika looks forward to the next “wine meeting” with Tracy, Jane, and Kim.

Tracy Lucht wishes to thank her hardworking research assistant, Chenyan Shan, and her colleagues at Iowa State’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication for their support of this project. On a personal level, this scholar is grateful for the encouragement and inspiration of smart, supportive women near and far, including Daniela Dimitrova, Raluca Cozma, and her three wonderfully collaborative co-authors.

Jane Marcellus thanks her co-authors, especially Erika, whose unyielding vision and faith made this happen. Tricia Farwell loaned out her coveted Zippo Lighter Case limited edition of season one during a cold winter break when Mad Men and endless bowls of Malt-O-Meal seemed like the only respite from the flu. Tom Bivins and Deb Merskin have often been helpful with feedback and article suggestions. Sam Jones, finally, is always nearby, just in case he’s needed.

Kimberly Wilmot Voss would like to acknowledge her husband, Lance Speere, who introduced her to Mad Men and made many helpful suggestions on her chapters....

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