“I was in the typing pool, and I lost my virginity to the account executive on Jell-O. He was immensely charming, a Hungarian who had been a professional soccer star, came over here to play a game, and managed to defect. I was smitten. He took me to his apartment one evening after work and we had sex. Then his telephone rang, and I could hear a woman crying and accusing him of being unfaithful.
Pretty soon after that I figured out he was working his way through the typing pool. So somebody or other in the pool was always crying because she suspected he was sexually involved with somebody else. And she – whichever one she happened to be- was always right.”
The above excerpt was from the book Mad Women by Jane Haas. Haas started working in the advertising business in 1964 and moved her way up the career ladder quickly to copywriter. Her book tells the real story of what it was like to be a woman working at an ad agency in those glamorous, booze-filled Mad Men days. Though she says a lot of what the show portrays is very accurate, some of it is not. With the show returning for its 5th season this Sunday, we decided to get the scoop from a few real ‘Mad Women’ as well.
Keep in mind this was a very turbulent time for women. In 1950, only one in every three women entered the workforce; by the 1960s, social and economic forces made higher education more available to women, thus increasing their job opportunities. Between 1960 and 1965 there was a 57% increase in women being awarded degrees in the US (the same figure for men rose by 25%). But women were still not supposed to be openly ambitious and white men still dominated everything.
“It was socially acceptable for men, single or married to have affairs. It was also okay, in that freewheelin era, for a woman, even a married woman, to have an affair as long as it was discreet. But openly promiscuous women were punished in one way or another.”-Jane Haas
Sonia Pressman Fuentes worked in advertising in the 1950s after graduating from Cornell University. She told The Grindstone she couldn’t get a job until she studied shorthand (speedwriting.) She eventually went to work as a secretary for the Fashion Advertising Manager of Today’s Woman Magazine which was part of Fawcett Publications in New York City.
“The men were treated like gods and some of them dated the young secretaries and I recall one of them men married one of the secretaries. I was in a small agency – 7-10 people at various times –in Boston. The pace was frantic but the people in the firm were all supportive of each other.”
“Often it was the men in our working lives who invited women to “have another.” Linda Brid Francke, who went on to become an award-winning biographer, started out doing secretarial work at Young & Rubicam, where she reported to creative supervisor Bob Higbee, who took her to lunch a lot. “We’d start with martinis and end with Rusty Nails – that’s a combination of scotch and Drambuie – and go back to work.-Jane Haas
Francine L. Trevens, worked in several small Boston ad agencies in that time period. She told The Grindstone she was basically a copywriter but was also in charge of all news releases.
“Yes, we wined and dined clients. Funniest occasion for me was when I was soothing an irate client. I did not drink and the client did, profusely, so my boss suggested I get to the restaurant early, order a ginger ale and tell the waiter to just refill with the same. Unfortunately, the waiters floated about, taking orders for drinks anywhere.
So, the client arrived, got his drink. When he wanted a refill he insisted I have one, too. The waiter asked what I was drinking. I said gin and ginger ale. It was the first thing that popped into my mind. We still had not ordered food at 2 PM. I was used to lunching at noon. My head was spinning. The client ordered another round of drinks and then we ordered lunch. The client agreed to stay with our firm: I returned to work with knees like water and a head unattached to my body. My boss sent me home by taxi.”