Mad Women: 1968 in Women's History
This Sunday, AMC's Mad Men returns for its sixth season and takes off in America's transformative year of 1968. While we hope Don Draper becomes enlightened with some progressive knowledge this season, we can't depend on that, so we're supplementing the season premiere with 5 MAKERS sharing their perspectives on the game-changing year and the milestone women's history moments that it saw.
Writer and feminist activist Robin Morgan maintains that no bras were burned outside the Miss America pageant in September 1968, but she did lead a group of protestors to rebel against the "degrading mindless-boob-girlie symbol" created by the pageant and media. The protest certainly got the media's attention and stamped the women's movement into the public consciousness.
Marian Wright Edelman, activist and founder of the Children's Defense Fund, understood there was a war going on, but would not ignore the millions of children going hungry in her own country. As a messenger between Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., Edelman helped push King to organize 1968's Poor People's March on Washington. Tragically, both men were assassinated before the campaign took shape, but when it launched, it was in Dr. King's honor.
By 1968, the Vietnam War was at its peak. Brigadier General Pat Foote rose through the military ranks and was sent to Vietnam as the first female public relations officer in Saigon. Foote explains the implications the war had on women integrating into all realms of the military.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton was a civil rights leader in her own right, but in this piece she comments on the 1968 election of Shirley Chisholm, the first African American women to be elected to Congress.
Mad Men has portrayed air travel to be quite glamorous. MAKER Dusty Roads explains how the airlines not only trained the stewardesses to treat passengers but also how to look. In fact, it was common industry practice for airlines to enforce their stewardess to remain unmarried and retire at the age of 32. But Roads didn't want to retire, she wanted a career. By pursuing her landmark sex discrimination suit, in 1968, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission issued a ruling prohibiting age ceilings and marriage bans.
While Mad Men has hinted at the social change bubbling beneath the surface in earlier seasons, this will be an interesting one to keep an eye on. And who knows, maybe Don will join Gloria Steinem in the women's movement next year...