Last year, I crammed five seasons of Mad Men into just six weeks, and one of my main observations overtime (aside from Pete Campbell’s poor aging and receding hairline) was the progression of the show’s women, most notably Peggy Olson. Portrayed by actress Elisabeth Moss, Peggy’s character experiences the most drastic changes of anyone else on the series, and she’s not the only female to raise eyebrows and turn heads. Mad Men takes place during a sexist, embarrassing point in American history, but its women are strong, smart and resilient because they have no other choice but to look out for themselves. In honor of Sunday’s season seven premiere, here are ten most kickass lady moments in AMC’s longstanding drama.
If it’s not already clear, there are some spoilers about the earlier seasons in this post, so if you aren’t caught up on Mad Men, you may not want to scroll down.
10. Sally Draper telling off Don
She’s no adult, but Sally Draper proves she’s one of the coolest females on the show when she tells her pitiful womanizing father Don, “You make me sick!” Growing up with a dad like that has got to be damaging, but she’s a tough young lady in spite of it and finally learns how to shame her disappointing parent for being the cad that he is.
9. Betty Draper leaving Don
It’s never okay to cheat, even if your spouse is Don Draper, whose philandering is so routine at this point that no one is even shocked to see him engage in extramarital activity. That said, I was impressed to watch Betty’s character fall in love outside her marriage and be the one to file for divorce. She goes on to tie the knot with Henry Francis, the Other Man, and though this relationship is imperfect, it’s much better than what she had with Don, to whom wedding vows mean absolutely nothing.
8. Sally Draper acting out at the dinner table
It’s bad manners to do this, but how would you feel if your mom started seeing someone else and you were forced to accept that person, especially if your dad is the ever faithful Don Draper? Don, of course, is the true source of the problem, but Betty has her faults too, and as the oldest sibling, Sally recognizes these flaws more than her brothers do.
7. Peggy Olson’s transformation
If I had to choose one feminist hero on TV, it’d be Peggy Olson, quite possibly my biggest inspiration and favorite fictional character ever. When we meet her in season one, she is Don’s new mousy secretary at Sterling Cooper. She’s insecure and submissive at first, making herself an easy target for office manager and queen bee Joan Holloway, but Peggy shows the men of the ad agency that she’s smart, driven, hard-working and in control. When the guys refuse to view her as an equal, she embraces her femininity at the advice of Joan, and sure enough, she’s a knockout:
She’s a whole new person by season six, and as far as we know, she’s currently stepping in for Don, who is told to take some time off at the end of season six.
6. Joan Holloway scolding her smarmy husband
There are a lot of disturbing life events in Mad Men. Someone commits suicide. Another has a baby and never even admitted she was pregnant. One man cannot stop sleeping around despite the fact that he has a wife. Joan, the beautiful, adored office manager, gets raped by her husband Greg toward the end of season two. After meeting Roger and seeming to figure out that Joan was once involved with this man, Greg forces himself on her in Don’s workspace. It’s one of the show’s darker moments for sure, and Joan later condemns him for his unthinkable actions. Joan is a no-nonsense person, and she’s not about to forget something like that.
5. Peggy snapping at Ted
Peggy gets screwed over a lot in Mad Men, and the season six finale is no exception. After her co-worker fling Ted backs out of his promise to leave his family for her and instead chooses to move to California, Peggy says, “Well, aren’t you lucky to have decisions.” Here’s hoping that decision backfires on him because he does not deserve Peggy, his wife or the beautiful golden state.
4. Megan Draper calling out Don for hurting her career prospects
In season six, Megan Draper agrees to leave behind her acting prospects in NYC because Don wants to move to California. She’s all set and ready to go when Don says “Just kidding! I’d like to stay so this other guy at work can move.” This, of course, is incredibly inconsiderate of Don, as his wife has already made plans to work on the West Coast, so she leaves their shared apartment. It’s unclear whether they’re still together or not, but Megan finally tells her husband that his behavior just isn’t OK and that her career should be just as important as his own.
3. Megan Draper singing at Don’s party
She knows how to have fun, no simple feat for the wife of ultimate player Don Draper!
2. Trudy threatening Pete
Like most of the men on the show, Pete Campbell sucks at being married. He impregnates another woman outside his marriage, works long hours, is extremely cranky and unpleasant to be around and doesn’t care about anyone but himself. After Trudy is fed up with his cheating, she says, “I refuse to be a failure. I don’t care what you want any more. This is how it’s going to work — you will be here only when I tell you to be here. I’m drawing a 50 mile radius around this house and if you so much as open your fly to urinate, I will destroy you.”
1. Peggy standing up to Joan
I’m not trying to promote girl-on-girl hate here, but Joan is a bit of a bully towards Peggy at first. She appears threatened by the fact that Peggy is intelligent and not simply fated to be a secretary forever. Joan mocks Peggy for putting on a considerable amount of weight, to which Peggy responds, “I just realized something. You think you’re being helpful.” Burn. They clear the air later on, but it took that moment of truth for Joan to respect newbie Peggy.
Any other cool lady moments in Mad Men? Share in the comments section.