Mad Men and me: A female copywriter reveals what it was really like to work at an advertising agency in the 60s
18:19 GMT, 9 March 2012
The television show Mad Men has won a worldwide fan base and awards for its portrayal of an advertising company in the 1950s and 60s.
Throughout the show's four series (the fifth will be broadcast later this month), chain smoking, drinking and adultery have been shown as the norm in the male dominated world. But how much is fact and how much is fiction
According to one woman who was able to rise to become a copywriter in the 1960s despite her gender, much of the sexism, alcoholism and promiscuity in the show was part of her daily working life.
The cast of TV's Mad Men: Like Elisabeth Moss' character Peggy, front right, Jane Maas had to work hard to be taken seriously as a copywriter in a male dominated environment
Jane Maas worked for one of the biggest advertising agencies in New York, Ogilvy & Mather, as a copywriter and rose through the ranks to become a creative director.
Like Peggy Olson, played by Elisabeth Moss in Mad Men, she had to work twice as hard to prove herself in the role for far less pay than her male counter parts.
Maas admits in her memoirs, Mad Women, which have just been published, that she was often patronised by her colleagues who had no concept of sexual equality in the workplace – or outside it.
‘Why should men take [women] seriously as advertising professionals Women weren’t even taken seriously as consumers,' she reveals. 'David Ogilvy wrote his famous statement, “The consumer is not a moron; she is your wife.” '
Maas observes that women rising to positions of power was rare and even those who went to university like she did were not supposed to have career ambitions. Their number one priority was supposed to be marriage and children.
Most women even believed in the doctrine and would shun those of their gender who tried to break the stereotypes.
Any woman who did attain a career would be expected to give it up when they had children, it was simply socially unacceptable to be a working mother.
Man's world: As in the show, women in the 60s were routinely patronised and expected to give up their jobs when they became mothers
Working women 'knew, as did everybody, that they would continue
working only until they were married, or at most until they were
pregnant. In an advertising agency of the 1960s, a baby shower sounded
the death knell of your career,’ says Maas.
She was able to break the mould and continue her career after having children thanks to the support of her liberal-minded husband, Michael, and a full-time housekeeper, Mabel.
But she admits like most working mothers, despite her success, she laments the time she lost watching her daughters grow up by putting her career first.
Insight: Jane Maas has revealed what it was really like to work for an advertising agency in the 60s
Like in Mad Men, Maas says office parties would often become 'sex and booze filled orgies' and knocking back spirits was considered the norm even during the working day. Most of the executives would have a drinks cabinet in their office, like the character Don Draper, without ever considering they could have an unhealthy alcohol dependency.
Despite the dangers of smoking beginning to be uncovered, puffing on cigarettes throughout the day was also the done thing – Maas even admits she lit up soon after labour while crading her newborn.
But while equality and health in the workplace left a lot to be desired in the sixties, Maas admits they did do one thing better – fashion.
Fabulous dresses, seamed stockings and pointy bras were the staples of her wardrobe and when she was promoted to a role beyond being a secretary, she was expected to wear a hat in the office to reflect her status.
Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the 60s and beyond by Jane Maas (Bantam Press, 12.99)