Peggy & Joan Have Come So Far Since 'Mad Men' Season 1 That It's Hard To Remember When They Had No Power At All
If Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway (now, Harris) needed a theme song, I'd absolutely give them Drake's "Started From The Bottom" — perfectly curated period-appropriate accoutrement be damned. Because these two ladies started from the bottom, and now they're here taking names, getting stuff done, and being boss as hell. Peggy & Joan in Mad Men Season 1 were mere shadows of the women we see today (well, I guess it's technically 1969 in Mad Men time). So now as we stare down the barrel of the last handful of Mad Men episodes ever, it's hard not to think back on how Peggy & Joan became the Mad Men heroines they are today.
If you can remember back to Season 1 (which, I know, honestly seems like so long ago), Peggy was a young, naive secretary who was explicitly told her place was in the pecking order at Sterling Cooper. Read: she was at the bottom, and she might have to do a little "extra" to rise even a little ways up. She had awkward bangs and didn't yet grasp the Don behind the Draper. She's come so far since then.
Joan, on the other hand, walked around Sterling Cooper like she owned the place, and back then she did, but she was obsessed with appearance and looks. It took a long time for Joan to come into even the tiniest bit of power without her appearance playing a factor in what she was handed.
Peggy starts at Sterling Cooper. Is basically a nobody. Sleeps with Pete and gets pregnant. (Later, we'll learn that Don told told her that, "This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened." Peggy takes it to heart) By the end of the season, Peggy has been promoted to Junior Copywriter — even though it's all because of the tension between Don and Pete. But hey, a promotion is a promotion.
Joan is the office manager of Sterling Cooper, and — to put it in layman's terms — the mother hen to everyone. She knows which secretaries are sleeping with their bosses, and she looks out for them. Joan means business and she spews some of the more sexist '60s-isms in Season 1, but she's got a heart.
Peggy spends a lot of time striking out during Season 2 between failing to get new clients and a disastrous string of dates. She gets knocked down, but she gets up again.
Joan marries Greg. It's everything she's ever wanted — to be married and well off — but she soon becomes terrified that her life will become boring.
Another agency tries to woo Peggy away, but she sticks with Sterling Cooper. Her loyalty pays off, and when Don decides to start a brand new firm, and he naturally includes Peggy in with his new employees.
Joan leaves Sterling Cooper, immediately hates her life and everything in it, including Greg. When Don and Roger call on her for help, she immediately responds and plays a huge role in getting Sterling Cooper Draper Price off the ground.
Peggy has a new boyfriend Abe (who she'll later accidentally stab) and he asks her to move in with him. Joan encourages Peggy to make the big move, citing that she's being a "brave" girl to do something like that. Peggy's also one who nabs Sterling Cooper Draper Price their first account since losing Lucky Strike.
Joan gets knocked off her horse a little bit in Season 4, between the stress of Greg coming and going, and also some of the new SCDP staff is undermining her (Peggy ultimately takes care of this and this pisses Joan off in the process). She's promoted to "Director of Agency Operations" which is just a placeholder title. It's not exactly what Joan wants, but she'll take it.
Ted comes along and offers Peggy a better job and way more money to do it. She takes the job, and leaves Sterling Cooper Draper Price behind for a place where she's finally valued for what she's worth.
The partners want Joan to sleep with someone at Jaguar to secure the account. She does so — but for a price. She wants a partnership, including voting rights, and 5 percent of SCDP. They agree. It might not be a whole lot of power and Joan's might not be the role model way to obtain said power, but things gets better for Joanie later.
Peggy is now working for Cutler Gleason Chaough, where she's encouraged to go after clients and try to steal them away from SCDP. She's also up for an advertizing award. And then, when SCDP and CGC merge, Peggy is named the new copy chief. She's also put in charge when Don is sent away on a leave of absence.
Joan realizes she's still acting more like a secretary than a partner, and begins to transfer some of her duties to someone else. She attends all partner meetings, and votes, making sure her voice is heard.
Peggy, free from Ted — and Don — and way more independent and confident than she's ever been. Though her time in charge is short lived and though she struggles trying to get her new boss, Lou, to recognize her work, it doesn't discourage her. She eventually takes the lead on Burger Chef (with Don's help) and she wins the account the way Season 1 Don would have.
Joan refuses Bob Benson's marriage proposal, because she doesn't want to live without love or accept that she's somehow lost her opportunity to find it. She also manages the Avon and Butler Footwear accounts LIKE A BOSS and finally moves upstairs with the account men.
See? Started from the bottom, now they're here.
Images: Doug Hyun/AMC; Giphy (10)