You’ve Come a Long Way Peggy Olson

Peggy Mad Men Comic career girl

Mad Men’s Peggy Olson Big Time Career Girl (R) Vintage DC Comics
“This is the big chance I’ve been waiting for! I mustn’t fail this time! Not love or anything else is going to keep me from success!”

We have watched with pride as Mad Men’s Peggy Olson has risen from the ranks of treading water in the secretarial pool to swimming with the big fishes on Madison Avenue.

As the Mad Men at Sterling Cooper & Partners implode all around her, Peggy’s star is rising.  Last seen in season 6 sitting behind Don Draper’s vacant desk, one wonders, who’s wearing the polyester pant suit now?

You’ve come a long way, Peggy Olson, from Miss Deaver’s Secretarial School to  head copywriter at  SP & Partners. and now with Don’s absence poised to become Creative Director.

You’ve Come A Long Way Baby?

In season 5 when Peggy became the new chief copywriter at a rival Madison Avenue agency after leaving Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in the dust, she was handed Phillip Morris’s latest offering to the world of smoking -a cigarette especially for  m’lady.

It was a top, secret as yet unnamed women’s cigarette which of course we all know would be  the Virginia Slims Cigarette account. These new cigarettes were slimmer than the fat cigarettes men smoke, and were tailored slim to fit a lady’s hand, her lips, and her purse.

Vintage Virginia Slims Ad 1968

This Nov 1968 ad for Virginia Slims with its picture of a turn of the century woman sneaking a smoke, presents the following scenario; “In 1915, Mrs. Cynthia Robinson was caught smoking in the cellar behind the preserves. Although she was 34, her husband sent her straight to her room.”

This was the beginning of Madison Avenue attempt to pander to the “New Woman.”

Mirroring the burgeoning women’s liberation movement , the early campaign themes of feminism and women’s lib carried the slogan “You’ve come a long way baby.”

Vintage Virginia Slims Cigarette Ad 1968

This September 1968 vintage advertisement for Virginia Slims explains just what this extra long cigarette for women is. The text for the vintage photo of early 20th century women is as follows: “1. Mrs Violet Anderson claims to have smoked her first cigarette on May 19, 1910…in the attic of her grandfathers farmhouse. 2.Cynthia Irene Bell smoked her first cigarette behind the old barn out back on Jan. 4, 1912. It was cold. 3. Myrna F. Phillips confesses she smoked March 4 or 5, 1911 out in the country where only a squirrel and a bird could see her. The others offered ‘no comment.’ You’ve come a long way.”

The formulaic ads followed the same theme-bold images of a glamorous, fashionably dressed liberated woman contrasting with pictures of early 20th century women being reprimanded for being caught smoking by their husband or some other men.

Since it was marketed for the young professional gal, who better to manage this up and coming account than up and comer young professional Peggy Olson, who being single would be willing to work weekends, evenings and holidays.

Vixen by Night

Peggy in the drivers seat

Peggy’s In the Drivers Seat! (R) Vintage ad Body Bu Fisher 1968

But it wasn’t all work for single career girls like Peggy.

Making the scene in groovy go-togethers, her eyes smudged as if with crayolas in iridescent jewel tones of turquoise and sea green, her Yardley slickered lips wet and wild, we got a glimpse this season of Peggy Olson as Vixen by Night. It was clear she was ready to get uninhibited, get liberated and go –go completely Mad!

Coming Attractions 1969

vintage playboy cartoon 1960s

“My place, or yours? Or right here?”
Playboy Magazine Cartoon by John Dempsy

Fast forward to the final season of Mad Men.

It will be 1969 and the sexual revolution was about to get into full swing. Romance and motherhood would become so so passé. You’ve come a long way baby…and babies were definitely not in the picture.

Wake up sister, there was a whole new world out there.

Suddenly it was a liberated world of New Freedom and Peggy would be ready to dive right in to the swinging world of singles. Busting out of her cocoon, and swinging in a butterfly sleeved-A lined mini skirt, Peggy would have her pick from the plethora of dimly lit, Tiffany lamped, singles bars that lined Second and First Avenue on the Upper East side of NY,  foregoing the watering holes of the  wild, wild west of her own Upper West Side neighborhood.

You’ve come a long way from Bay Ridge Brooklyn, Peggy.

Liberated Ladies

Romance comics

Vintage DC Romance Comics

These new liberated ladies were shedding their inhibitions as quickly as they shed their polyester clothes.

There was no place for  squares- virginal Sleeping Beauties were a thing of the past. Gone was the bad girl the one who went all the way and wrecked her whole life. Suddenly it seemed it was a Cold War world of Cosmo girls ready to shake your world, a strange new world of pills and panaceas, of living together, of vibrations and of sexual openness.

Magazines Cosmo Sensuous NY

(L) Cover Cosmopolitan Magazine model Samantha Jones shot by Francesco Scavullo Dec. 1968 (R) Book- The Sensuous New Yorker by Bernhardt Hurwood Award Books

Uninhibited, stepping out in a leggy little Mary Quant slick and shiny vinyl miniskirts these chicks were girdle-free-garter-free-free-to be you-and-me: they were part of the new freedom generation, a beltless, pinless, fussless generation.

Puffing on her pretty as a picture New Eve cigarettes ( like Virginia Slims, cancer made especially for the ladies) the liberated lady lit her own cigarettes and opened her own doors.

On the go, these sensuous women had no time for pregnancy and no time for cramps. With their birth control pills in one hand, their Midol in the other, these grooving chicks in eye-catching EZ care Quiana polyester in get-him-and-keep-him colors were ready for anything in their quest looking for Mr Goodbar in any of the dozens of crowded single bars that sprouted up in cities everywhere

 Women’s New Freedom

Newsweek Feminism Feminine Hygiene spary ad

Women’s Liberation (L) Cover Newsweek Magazine March 1970 “Women in Revolt”
(R) Vintage ad for Massengil Feminine Deodorant Spray “Freedom Now! The ad claimed their product was the better way to be free to enjoy being a woman.” You like freedom don’t you?” they asked.

It didn’t take long before companies began creating products and marketing strategies that exploited the idea of the liberated “new woman.”

A seasoned copywriter and smart cookie like Peggy would likely snag onto the hottest new products being marketed to the liberated lady in 1969.  Feminine Hygiene Products. The newly liberated Cosmo Girl could come on strong.

Sexual freedom came at a price.

The drug and cosmetic industry expanded from the underarm deodorant to a more private part of the body. The most “girl part” as they described it. The problem that had no name only 5 years earlier now had a slew on products to help a liberated gal feel confident and feminine.

Feminism and Femininity

Feminine Hygiene FDS ad romance comics

(L) Vintage ad for FDS 1969 “This new product will be as essential to you as your toothbrush” (R) DC Romance Comics

By 1969 being confidently close was never nicer. “It’s a freer, more natural, more out in the open world and we’re on you’re side,” the makers of new Feminine Hygiene sprays assured women.

In the body to body environment of the singles scene, competition was fierce.”We know it’s a rough race. And we want you to win!” promised another Feminine spray ad. “Lets face up to the problem like it is. The days of hush-hush are over. Today single and married women have been liberated-in their attire…in their attitudes…in their relationships”

Feminine Hygiene Married Women

(L) New answer for the intimate embarrassing problems married women face- Vintage 1966 ad for Norforms tiny germicidal suppositories to keep the Mrs. fresh as a daisy

The age-old problem of “intimate embarrassing odor problems” once faced only by married women whose husbands wanted their wife to be feminine…in every sense of the word, was now the sexually active liberated ladies dilemma too.

This was the dawning of the age of FDS.

A welcome new addition to the world of feminine freshness, was this personal deodorant for the ultimate social security. It was, manufacturers were hoping, to become as essential to the new woman’s daily life as a bath and shower.

“Today’s young woman…committed to total femininity is entitled to total confidence,” the ads stated boldly. “With the creation of FDS a whole new era of feminine confidence begins”

Why take a chance Make this your passport to popularity…and to your peace of mind about being a girl. An attractive, nice-to- be- with girl.”

Feminine Hygiene Feminique

(L) Vintage Ad 1969 Feminique Feminine Hygiene Spray (R) Vintage ad White Horse 1968

Making the scene with FDS was Feminique. Their full-page ad announced provocatively: “ Five years ago most women would have been too embarrassed to read this page”.

“This is a page that will tell you about an external vaginal deodorant spray. A product that would have made your grandmother faint and your mother blush. All it should do to you is make you happy. Very happy.”

“Because now that ‘The Pill’ has freed you from worry, The Spray will help make all that freedom worthwhile.”

“The spray is called Feminique. The name is feminine which is precisely what this product will make you. Feminine in every sense of the word.”

Woman’s New Freedom-Pristeen Is Part Of It

Feminine Hygiene Pristeen Ads

Vintage Pristeen Ads 1969

No one marketed Feminine Hygiene Sprays more aggressively than Pristeen made by Warner Lambert pharmaceuticals.

In 1969 they ran a series of bold ads for the little lady with the headline “Unfortunately the trickiest problem a girl has isn’t under her pretty little arms”.

The text continues: “That was solved a long time ago. The real problem, as you may very well know, is how to keep the most girl part of you- the vaginal area- fresh and free of any worry-making odors.”

“Now finally there is a way. It’s called Pristeen. A brand new vaginal spray deodorant that’s been especially developed to cope with the problem. “(Or create a problem when none really existed)

feminine Hygiene Pristeen  ad judith Crist

Vintage Pristeen Ads 1970 Judith Crist talks about woman’s new freedom

The following year in 1970 Pristeen enlisted highly respected movie critic Judith Crist  to talk about “woman’s new freedom” and naturally Pristeen is a part of it. As Ms. Crist espouses on the portrayal of the new woman in films, the ad somehow manages to fit Pristeen into the picture with a starring role. “Now that women have the ‘courage’  to look a little different” to behave a bit more honestly”, they want products to do just that…products that didn’t exist even 5 years ago”

By 1970 there were 30 brands of feminine deodorant sprays on the market and Americans were spending well over $67 million annually in an attempt to be more “feminine”.

Copyright (©) 20014 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved

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4 comments

  1. This was a wonderful post, Sally! I’m going to read it once more because there was so much to it. I vaguely remember those feminine sprays. I would have been too young to use them, but I seem to remember something in the 80s about them being bad for you–no doubt spraying perfume mixed with deodorizer on your lady parts is a recipe for disaster. Unbelievable how a company could take something as wonderful as women’s freedom and turn it into an opportunity to tell us we smell. Ha. Nothing has changed. (And just a note … the “Unintentionally Gay Ads … Does He or Doesn’t He,” is broken. It takes you to a Time Warner search page.)

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    • Thanks Susie, glad you enjoyed it. Yes you are correct that they ultimately found out those hygiene sprays etc. were anything but “helpful” to women and sis more harm than good (both psychologically and physically) Capitalizing on womens New Freedom makes it particularly ironic. Thanks for the heads up about the broken link to Unintentionally Gay Ads …it’s fixed now!

      Like

  2. Pingback: Then and Now: Mad Men World of 1969 | Envisioning The American Dream

  3. Pingback: The Maddeningly Mad Men World of Sexual Harassment | Envisioning The American Dream

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