9 Unsung Female Characters Of Mad Men

Although the central heartbeat of Mad Men is the stony, macho ad-man Don Draper, there’s no denying the television show has its fair share of fantastic female leads, from the shy secretary turned rising badass copywriter Peggy Olson, to Draper's confident but troubled ex-wife Betty Francis. The stories that have unfolded over the past seven seasons are as much about fluctuating '60s feminism and women's issues as they are tales of the advertising industry. And, throughout the series, the show has been host to a wide range of female characters who, although not main players, prove the writers' ability to create interesting women even if they're on the show for just a brief time. Here, we rundown all of our favorite, unsung female characters of Mad Men (and trust us, not all of them have slept with Don).


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Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/AMC.
Rachel Menken
A Jewish department-store owner, Rachel Menken (Maggie Siff) is one of the first Sterling-Cooper clients viewers meet onscreen. She initially butts heads with Don, thanks in part to her outspokenness and high standards, but the two eventually begin a romance. After suggesting they run away to Los Angeles on a whim, Rachel realizes how ridiculous his fantasies are (and arguably one of the few women to call him on his bullshit). "You don't want to run away with me, you just want to run away," she tells him. "You're a coward."

In an episode where Don asks her about Israel, Rachel reveals she knows little about it. "I'm American and not very Jewish," she asserts, representing the struggle of Jews living in 1960s America that Weiner recently related to Don Draper's struggle to remake himself as someone who could thrive in the advertising industry.
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Photo: Michael Yarish/AMC.
Faye Miller
Faye Miller (Cara Buono) comes to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in season 4 as a consultant for the firm. She's fiercely independent and well aware of her image as a high-powered woman. She even goes so far as to wear a fake wedding band so men don't make passes at her.

What makes Miller interesting is her apparent discomfort in the roles women were typically assigned during the era of Mad Men. For Faye, that includes being in any way sexualized in the workplace and having to deal with children. She has a particularly hard time with Sally, and she views their meeting as "a test" orchestrated by Don. After initially turning down his advances, they begin a secret relationship so as to not jeopardize Faye's reputation, but he later abruptly breaks up with her in favor of Megan Calvet. "I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things," Faye tells him.
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Photo: Michael Yarish/AMC.
Ida Blankenship
After Don sleeps with, and then rejects, his secretary Allison, which results in her dramatic, destructive exist from SCDP, Joan hires Ida Blankenship (Randee Heller), a woman that even Don couldn't possibly make a move on. The elderly, incompetent comic relief of season 4, Blankenship's voice never registers below a shrill scream, always announcing on the phone that Don is in the bathroom. When Don and Peggy accidentally get ahold of the recordings for Roger's book, they discover his ramblings on Blankenship once being Bert Cooper's wildly perverted former fling. Even her tragic, silent death at her desk midway through the season was imbued with hilarity as Joan, Peggy, and Pete attempt to get her body safely out of the office without clients noticing.
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Photo: Michael Yarish/AMC.
Dawn Chambers
Throughout its seven-season run, Mad Men has failed to explore race with the same intellect and sensitivity it has women, gay, and other minority issues. In season 5, Dawn Chambers (Teyonah Parris) emerged as one of SCDP's only black employees when she became Don's secretary. Throughout her story arc, Dawn was subjected to far more work and stress than her fellow white secretaries, including being blamed for another employee punching out early, getting reprimanded by her new boss Lou Avery for not being in the office because of tasks he asked her to do, and being forced to sleep in the office when riots threatened the city. Plus, the problems her race poses to the office were made clear on many occasions, including when Cooper takes issue with her as front-of-office secretary and employees call her Shirley, the name of the only other black woman in the office. But, Joan stands by Dawn in a way that recalls earlier support of Peggy, giving her a promotion to personnel director.
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Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/AMC.
Midge Daniels
As Don's mistress in the first season, Beatnik artist Midge Daniels (Rosemarie DeWitt) stood for everything Draper wasn’t. Her character was the only inkling of counter-culture Mad Men had in its beginnings, far before more free-spirited bohemians like Peggy's journalist boyfriend, Abe, and Megan Calvet made their way into the show. "I can't decide if you have everything, or nothing," Don says to her in the show's second episode. "I live in the moment," she responds. "Nothing is everything."

While she's initially portrayed as a funny, sexy, independent woman, seasons later she returns, asking Don for money after falling into heroin addiction, exemplifying the darker underbelly of a now-glamorized 1960s New York art scene.
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Photo: Jamie Trueblood/AMC.
Margaret Sterling
The ever-growing radicalization and extremism of youth culture during the 1960s enters Mad Men's stories infrequently due to the fact that the show largely centers on middle- to upper-class businessmen. When it does come, it occurs on the sidelines through minor characters, from teenage Rolling Stones groupies or whiz-kid art department hires. Which is why Roger Sterling's daughter Margaret's transformation from bratty young Manhattanite to cult-dwelling mistress makes her one of the more intriguing female characters in Mad Men's last season.

Seemingly disinterested in marriage and motherhood from the show's beginnings (her parents pressured her into a larger wedding), Margaret (played by Elizabeth Rice) runs away to a hippie commune, leaving her young son and husband behind. When Roger attempts to rescue her, he realizes the hedonist, barnyard lifestyle may be what she's always wanted. And, without the natural setting, the sins of the commune are certainly not a far cry from the drug-laden, hyper-sexed life Roger's led in the city. "She was so cruel and so serene," he says of her choice. "I thought she was finally happy." And, so he lets her stay.
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Photo: Michael Yarish/AMC.
Joyce Ramsay
The '60s were not an easy time for anyone who was openly gay. Viewers got a glimpse at the struggles of being closeted in an almost entirely hyper-masculine, heterosexual office environment through the lens of character Sal Romero, with the agency's landscape further fleshed out thanks to the brief story line about the young, openly homosexual designer Kurt Smith. But, Joyce Ramsay (Zosia Mamet), a friend of Peggy and a photo editor for Life Magazine, is a forward, flirtatious lesbian. Witty and frank, Joyce pulls Peggy into a downtown New York social scene that has her mingling with journalists and artists and ultimately confronting harder truths about the ethical nature of the advertising industry. Joyce's charm can best be summed up by the way she hits on Peggy. "I have a boyfriend," Peggy explains. "He doesn't own your vagina," Joyce replies.
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Photo: Carin Baer/AMC.
Bobbie Barrett
Of all the women Don had affairs with, Bobbie Barrett (Melinda McGraw) might be the only character to be his conniving match. The manager of her comedian husband, Jimmy Barrett, Bobbie seduces Don even though he's trying to stay faithful to Betty. A lover of borderline sadistic games, Bobbie calls Don at home, gossips about him with his former lovers, and is as sexually aggressive and cruel as many of the men on the show. After Peggy bails Don and Bobbie out of jail following a car accident, Bobbie gives Peggy some of the best words of wisdom a female character has uttered to another woman on the show: "You're never gonna get that corner office until you start treating Don as an equal. And, no one will tell you this, but you can't be a man. Don't even try. Be a woman. It's powerful business, when done correctly."
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Photo: Adam Taylor/AMC.
Anna Draper
One might argue that Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton) is the only woman Don ever truly loved. The wife of the real Don Draper whose identity Dick Whitman stole, Anna is the closest thing he ever had to family. When he gets the phone call that Anna has died of cancer, viewers see Draper break down in a way that rivals no other emotional moment for him on the show — not his divorce, not his brother's suicide, not when he hurts Sally when she discovers his infidelity in season 6. But, more so than just her odd connection to Don is her imparted wisdom and overall, positive outlook on life. "I know everything about you, and I still love you," she says.

During a tarot card reading, Anna pulls a World card. "It means that the only thing keeping you from being happy is the belief that you are alone," she tells him. "What if it"s true?" Don asks. "Then you can change."

There is an almost mythical element to Anna. She is someone who sees the worst in Don and forgives him fully, even when he can't forgive himself.
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