The struggle for equal rights is a constantly evolving one. Which is why it's incredibly important to know your history. That's where Mrs. America comes in. Granted, it's a television miniseries and not a documentary, but Mrs. America still paints an accurate portrayal of the women's right movement in the '70s. And the show takes great care to make sure the characters in the drama are close to the real-life women of the movement as possible. To that end, here's our own rundown of the Mrs. America's stars vs. the real people they're bringing to the screen.
To be more specific, Mrs. America covers the fight to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the 1970s. The amendment was focused on eliminating many of the inequalities that existed between men and women in matters of divorce, employment, and more. It required the approval of 38 states before it could be passed into law, and by 1972, it had won over 28 states. It was there that the amendment and its supporters met one of its staunchest opponents: Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett). Read on for more about each of the characters, below.
Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly
As a staunchly conservative politician, Schlafly organized a grassroots campaign to stop the ERA from being ratified. For a time, she succeeded, getting five of the 28 states to rescind their approval of the amendment, defeating it in court.
Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem
Steinem already had a big name as a journalist, with a column in New York magazine and as a co-founder of Ms. magazine. Her work focused on advocating for women's rights, and, combined with her prominent platform, made her one of the leading voices in second-wave feminism.
Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug
Abzug was a layer and prominent activist, lobbying for equality and women's rights. Her advocacy for marginalized people took her all the way to Congress, where she served as a representative for a district in Manhattan. There she stayed, making a name for herself as one of the first members of Congress to advocate for gay rights. She served until 1976, when she left to campaign for a seat on the Senate, though she ultimately did not succeed.
Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm
Chisholm made history as the first black woman to be elected to Congress, which is the first of many firsts she had accomplished in her political career. She was also the first woman to run for the Democratic party's presidential nomination, the first black candidate to run for any party's nomination, and the first woman to appear in a United States debate. She accomplished many of these firsts in her 1972 presidential campaign.
Elizabeth Banks as Jill Ruckelshaus
Ruckelshaus served as an assistant at the White House, and led the White House Office of Women's Programs. In 1971, she also helped found the National Women's Political Caucus, a group dedicated to helping women who wish to be elected to office in any level of government.
Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan
By the time the fight for the ERA came around, Friedan was already one of the most prominent activists for women's rights. She effectively kickstarted second-wave feminism when she published The Feminine Mystique, a book that confronted women with the traditional gender roles they were expected to fulfill, showing them to be an illusion propped up by men.
Each of these women had a significant role in moving the ERA forward, though the fight to have it fully ratified continues on. Originally, the proposal only had seven years to secure approval from 38 states, and they fell short, thanks to the efforts of Schlafly. Later, the deadline was moved three years to 1982, and by then, it still only had the approval of 35 states. Since then, however, approvals for the amendment have trickled in, until Virginia handed in its 38th approval in January 2020. It has yet to be recognized as the 28th amendment.