By Samantha White
As a viewer of AMC’s “Mad Men” and a lover of all things 1960s, I was ecstatic to read Jane Maas’ “Mad Women: the Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the Sixties and Beyond.” In the book, Maas talks about specific campaigns she was involved with as a copywriter in New York (most notably, the “I Love New York” tourism campaign) and tells the stories of the few other female peers she had. While she makes references to “Mad Men,” she focuses on three main topics: how females were viewed in the office, the never-ending full-time employee and mother battle, and the struggles of being a woman in the industry back then.
According to Maas, women usually entered an ad agency as a typist or a secretary, then slowly worked their way up (if they desired to). The senior men in the agency would often make their rounds through the female groups, as if the women of the office were their personal pool of available dates. This included just about everyone and anyone, regardless of marital status. Maas informs us of the “Three-Martini Lunch,” explaining that senior employees rarely returned to the office from lunch sober, creating an office full of sexual tension and flirting.
Maas opens “Mad Women” by walking through her daily routine of working on Madison Avenue and explaining her priorities as a full time working mother. She is clear when she says that her career came first, followed by her husband, then her children. She was able to live this way because of her “lifeline,” her nanny/housekeeper, Mabel. Maas did what was required of her to get ahead, even if that meant leaving her family behind and says later that she wouldn’t go back and change her priorities if she could. However, many other working mothers interviewed in the book discuss the revolving door of daily guilt around not being with their children when at the office, and not working when at home with their families.
In addition to the working mother conflict, Maas writes about other difficulties facing women in the 1960s working world. Females made half the wages of their male counterparts and were rarely given raises. Maas explains that when given the opportunity to begin actually writing copy, she had to do so on her own time, as not to interrupt her typing duties. This meant prioritizing her career even more, and spending less time with her family. In the final chapter of “Mad Women”, Maas questions whether or not women are equals in the modern workplace. While Maas believes women have come a long way, she also thinks that we “still have a long way to go.”