There’s plenty of speculation about who the falling man is in the opening credits of Mad Men — which, sadly, concludes after seven brilliant seasons on Sunday, May 17 — but one thing is for damn sure: it’s not one of the women of Mad Men. While the men continue to fall personally and professionally, the women continue to rise above them.
As the series has proven time and time again, the women of this era faced sexism and discrimination in the workplace and at home. Mad Men’s female characters have dealt with more than their fair share of it, but they were also some true feminists. Groundbreaking characters like Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks), Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), and Faye Miller (Cara Buono) broke the glass ceiling in a male-dominated industry, while others like Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka), Trudy Campbell (Alison Brie), and, yes, even Betty Francis (January Jones) found their true identities in spite of what was expected of them from society.
In honor of the end of the Mad Men era and the badass women who inhabited it, we’ve picked the best moments of feminism from the series.
When Peggy became the first female copywriter at Sterling Cooper in far too longAMC
The first of Peggy’s many crowning professional achievements in an environment where the cards were stacked against her, only to have her triumph.
When Sally tells Betty looks aren’t everything
After Sally breaks her nose, her mother Betty, unsurprisingly freaks out. Sally retorted with some damn good comebacks like, “It’s a nose job, not an abortion.” Sally is the spawn of two very beautiful, but very broken people and she figured out pretty early on that looks aren’t worth worrying about.
When Joan opted to get divorced for a second time than stay married to her horrible, disgusting rapist husbandMad Men Wikia
Greg was the worst, got it? The worst. Joan knew the stigma attached to being a two-time divorcee, not to mention a single mother, but it was better than the alternative of staying married to her nightmare of a husband who once raped her.
When Peggy walked down the halls of McCann Erickson no longer giving a damn what was expected of herAMC
Peggy had to work incredibly hard to get where she is today, all while the men around her did whatever the hell they wanted with little to no consequences. At long last, she got to let go of the stigmas and expectations that weighed her down for far too long.
When Dr. Faye Miller cut Don Draper to the coreAMC
Faye was an incredibly successful woman and probably one of the only women in the world that could have been a good fit for Don Draper, but as she so succinctly told him, “You only like the beginnings of things.” Dr. Faye knew him too well, which is exactly why he ran to Megan, but at least she had the courage to say what needed to be said to the man who treats women so poorly.
When Joan turned down Bob’s sham marriage proposalAMC
Not great, Bob. Joan would rather stay single and look for the real love that she deserves than put on a show.
Anytime Sally explored her budding sexuality
Sally grew up in a screwed up household, to say the very least, but she’s been able to own her womanhood and explore her budding sexuality and interest in boys, despite all the factors against her telling her not to. Sally has seen some things she shouldn’t have in her young life (including catching her father sleeping with a married woman), but she still seems poised to take hold of her own life in every aspect.
Joan pointing out the rampant sexism at McCann EricksonAMC
In a just world, she would have taken them to court and won. Even if the result was terrible and downright tragic, at least she spoke up rather than accept what was being dished to her.
When Trudy told Pete, “I will destroy you”
Hell hath no fury.
When Megan broke free from Don for goodAMC
Say what you will about Megan (especially when it comes to feminism), but at least she, like other women on the show, realized that getting divorced and going at life alone is far better than being miserable with the wrong man.
When Betty discovered the joys of laundryEverett Collection / Rex Features
Feminist and Betty don’t typically go hand in hand, but it sure did when the housewife discovered an alternate use for her washing machine.
When Dawn held her own at SDCPAMC
No easy task, considering the era.
When Peggy opened up about giving up her baby for adoption
Peggy had to keep her pregnancy and the ultimate decision to give up her son (whom she conceived with ultimate scumbag Pete) a secret, but she has since been able to open up to Don and Stan about the emotional repercussions of such a harrowing, life-changing event.
When Joan said what every woman in that office has thought at one point: “I want to burn this place down.”AMC
Do it, Joanie. Just burn it all down.