Peggy Olson

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Peggy Olson
Peggy Olson Wiki.jpg
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson.
Mad Men character
Portrayed by Elisabeth Moss
First appearance "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (1.01)
Created by Matthew Weiner
Aliases "Peggy" (nick-name)
Occupation Copy Chief, Sterling Cooper & Partners (season 6)
Copy Chief, Cutler, Gleason & Chaough (season 6-present)
Advertising Copywriter, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (seasons 4-5)
Advertising Copywriter, Sterling Cooper (seasons 2-3)
Secretary to Don Draper (seasons 1-2)

Margaret "Peggy" Olson (born May 25, 1939) is a fictional character in the AMC television series Mad Men, and is portrayed by actress Elisabeth Moss. Initially, Peggy is secretary to Don Draper (Jon Hamm), creative director of the advertising agency Sterling Cooper. Later, she is promoted to copywriter, the first female writer at the firm since World War II. She later joins Draper when he leaves Sterling Cooper to become a founding member of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. By the end of Season 4, Peggy is effectively Draper's second-in-command in the creative department. Towards the end of season five, Peggy accepts a job offer from another agency and quits her job at SCDP. However, following a merger between SCDP and CGC her new workplace, Peggy finds herself working again with Don Draper.


Peggy Olson is initially presented as an innocent but determined young woman, eager to be a success in her job at Sterling Cooper after having graduated from the respected Miss Deaver's secretarial school. She was born on May 25, 1939,[1] and was brought up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York in a Roman Catholic Norwegian and Irish-American family.[2] When she was 12 years old, her father died of a heart attack in front of her.[3]

Peggy has an immense dislike of the double standard in regard to the vices of men and women and appears to be quite feminist in her views.

At Sterling Cooper[edit]

In the pilot episode, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", which takes place in March 1960, Peggy begins work as a secretary for Don Draper. Her supervisor, office manager Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks), directs her in her duties as well as offers personal advice, which includes referring her to a gynecologist to obtain a prescription for birth control pills. When Peggy meets account executive Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) for the first time, he makes rude comments about her appearance, prompting Don to defend her. Later that night, after his bachelor party, Pete shows up at Peggy's apartment drunk. Despite his offensive remarks earlier, Peggy sleeps with Pete that night. Months later, Peggy and Pete have another sexual encounter, this time on Pete's office couch, early one morning before other employees arrive.

In "Babylon", Sterling Cooper executive Freddy Rumsen notices Peggy's sharp mind and creativity during a focus group for Belle Jolie lipstick. After hearing Peggy's insightful remarks during a brainstorming session, Rumsen comments that her performance "was like watching a dog play the piano". She is asked to write some copy for the campaign in addition to her other duties. The campaign is a success, and she is soon promoted to Junior Copywriter. She reveals herself to be highly ambitious, and her approach to her work is compared to Don's. Later, after Rumsen is fired, Peggy convinces Senior Partner Roger Sterling to give her Rumsen's office.[4]

In the fall of 1960, Peggy rips her skirt trying to pick something up off of the floor, which prompts her to begin wearing oversize suits and baggy dress-and-jacket outfits. She also experiences noticeable weight gain (portrayed by Moss wearing a "fat suit" and facial appliances[citation needed]). Account executive Ken Cosgrove jokes to his male co-workers that Peggy looks like a lobster, because all her "meat" is in her "tail". Despite having coldly ended his brief affair with Peggy, Pete reacts strongly to Ken's remark and punches him in the face.

Office manager Joan Holloway makes snide remarks to Peggy about her weight gain, warning that she will remain a virgin because of her appearance. Peggy informs Joan that she is, in fact, not a virgin, and calls Joan out on her condescending attitude.

At the end of Season One, which takes place just before Thanksgiving 1960, Peggy begins to have severe stomach pains right after she is promoted to Junior Copywriter, heading up the new Clearasil account. Peggy attributes the stomach pain to bad office food "from the cart", and heads to St. Mary's Hospital in Brooklyn. She is shocked and in complete denial when the doctor tells her she's actually in labor. She gets up to leave, but immediately collapses, and the doctor orders her into the labor room. He also orders a psychiatrist to see her. She gives birth to a healthy baby boy.

Season Two begins 15 months later, on February 14, 1962, with a slim Peggy and no mention of the birth. Her long absence (which is not shown) is a mystery to Sterling Cooper's employees. One co-worker cracks during a meeting that "Draper knocked her up and she's dropped nine pounds, eight ounces." Pete, for his part, heard through office gossip that Peggy simply went to a fat farm.

Later in the season, it is revealed through a series of flashbacks that Peggy's mother and then very-pregnant sister have covered up Peggy's sudden disappearance from Sterling Cooper. They tell Don that Peggy is in quarantine with tuberculosis. Don becomes suspicious and seeks her out at the hospital, where he finds her in a terrible mental state (though it is not clear if he's learned of her pregnancy), and Don realizes her hospitalization is not due to tuberculosis. He encourages her to forget about the entire thing, advising she should "move forward", and would be surprised at how easy it would be to pretend "this" never happened.

Meanwhile, Peggy's sister Anita, who has since given birth to her third child, is resentful of Peggy and tells their young new parish priest, Father Gill, that Peggy seduced a married man, got pregnant, and was forced to give up the baby. (Later, in "The Suitcase", Peggy reveals that because only Don visited her at the hospital, her family believed he had fathered her illegitimate child). Throughout Season Two, Father Gill, who is progressive in nature and relies on Peggy's advertising sensibilities several times, repeatedly tries to persuade Peggy to take confession, but Peggy consistently declines. By the end of the season, she leaves the church.

In "The Jet Set", copywriter Kurt Smith gives Peggy a makeover, cutting her demure ponytail in favor of a shorter, more modern hairstyle.

In the Season 2 finale, set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Pete asks Peggy to come into his office and sit down with him. Pete has come to the realization that he never should have married his wife Trudy; he should have married Peggy, instead, when he "had the chance". Peggy reveals that she had his baby and gave it away two years ago. This admission is particularly shocking and hurtful to Pete, as Trudy appears to be infertile and wishes to adopt, an idea that Pete initially rejects, reconsiders, and then vehemently rejects again. Peggy walks away from Pete.

In Season 3 (1963), Peggy's ideas for advertising, while respected, are frequently ignored. In particular, her comment that the proposed ad campaign for Pepsi's new diet cola Patio, involving a shot-for-shot remake of Ann-Margret's opening scene in Bye Bye Birdie, would not actually appeal to the female target audience, is dismissed. When the ad in question is shot down by Pepsi (whose idea it was in the first place), she smiles to herself.[5]

Due to the lengthy commute from Brooklyn, Peggy decides to move to an apartment in Manhattan, which her mother regards as an affront. Peggy posts an ad at SC for a roommate. Following Joan's advice to make her ad about fun and good times, and post it somewhere other than at SC, Peggy finds a prospective roommate in Karen Ericson; her conversation with Karen reveals that Peggy is Norwegian, at least on her father's side (Karen is Swedish American, though Peggy tells her mother that Karen is Norwegian).[5]

Peggy becomes romantically involved with Duck Phillips, and he seeks to lure her and Pete away to his firm. Pete is uninterested in working for Duck, but Peggy's passing temptation is fueled by a feeling of being unappreciated by Sterling Cooper, and Don in particular, who had previously shut down her attempt to get a raise. However, she joins Don and others in forming a new ad agency after Don reassures her that he values her work. Peggy's relationship with Duck is complicated by his chronic alcoholism. It completely collapses after he gets into a drunken brawl with Don in the SCDP offices.

At Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP)[edit]

In the fourth season (1964–65), Peggy perseveres as a trusted member of the SCDP creative staff, despite lingering resentment and patronizing from most of the men she works with. Her affair with Duck has ended and she has begun dating a man named Mark. However, the relationship becomes strained as Peggy led Mark to believe he was her first lover. Mark breaks up with her following a fiasco on Peggy's birthday in which Mark planned a surprise birthday dinner, inviting Peggy's family, and she canceled last minute due to work. Peggy then becomes friends with Joyce Ramsay (portrayed by Zosia Mamet), a writer for Life magazine and a lesbian. Peggy develops feelings for one of Joyce's beatnik friends, Abe Drexler (played by Charlie Hofheimer); their relationship is almost derailed because of his subtle sexism and criticisms of advertising, but eventually blooms into a romance. Despite friction over Peggy's work life, she accepts Abe's proposal to live together in her apartment. The relationship causes strain between Peggy and her mother, who is horrified that her daughter is "living in sin" with a Jewish man.

In the episode "Far Away Places" her behavior appears to have mirrored Don's in the first episode: smoking, heavy drinking, manipulative behaviour and meaningless sexual encounters. However, Peggy's relationship with Abe develops when they move in with each other in "At the Codfish Ball".

In the season five episode "The Other Woman", Peggy accepts a job offer from another agency, Cutler, Gleason and Chaough, and quits her job at SCDP on the advice of Freddy Rumsen. She tells this news to Don, who kisses her on the hand before she disappears into an elevator.

At Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough (CGC)[edit]

Peggy is widely respected by her superiors and feared by her subordinates at CGC. Her secretary, Phyllis, advises her to try a little positive reinforcement along with her criticism, but she gets mixed results. Peggy frequently works late, sharing gossip and news with Stan Rizzo by phone. In a moment of weakness, Ted kisses Peggy, and she is later revealed to have romantic feelings for Ted, as well.

In "The Flood", Peggy and Megan are nominated for a prestigious advertising award for their Heinz Baked Beans ad. They are the only SCDP/SC&P nominees, despite the fact that neither works there any more. The evening is interrupted by news of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and in a final frame showing the CLIO in Megan's living room, the audience quietly learns that she and Peggy won the award.

When Don and Ted join forces to pitch Chevrolet, leading the two firms to merge, they turn to Peggy to draft the press release. Both are oblivious to Peggy's obvious distress.

At Sterling Cooper & Partners (SC&P)[edit]

Joan, who is pleased to see her, assigns Peggy to the office previously used by Harry Crane and Pete Campbell, which features an awkwardly placed pillar. Peggy has been unanimously declared Copy Chief, but finds it very difficult to serve two masters, as she is almost continually put in the middle of Don and Ted's leadership squabbles.

In "The Better Half", Peggy finally admits to Abe how much she dislikes her new apartment and its dangerous neighborhood, announcing her intention to sell it, even if she takes a loss. That night, she hears a noise and, frightened, goes to check it out with a homemade bayonet to protect herself but accidentally stabs Abe. In the ambulance, Abe labels her an enemy to his beliefs and breaks up with her.

In "A Tale of Two Cities", Joan recruits Peggy to assist her in securing Avon as a client, but Peggy is distressed to discover that Joan has excluded Pete (who had been ordered to handle it by Ted) from the proceedings and is trying to manage things on her own. Peggy and Joan have a heated discussion about their different paths to power, but when Pete and Ted confront Joan, Peggy realizes Joan needs support from someone who believes in her, and so improvises a fake phone call that saves Joan's neck.

In "The Quality of Mercy", Don and Megan catch Ted and Peggy together at the movies during a work day. Their clear affection for each other is obvious and bothersome to everyone in the office. Don criticizes Ted for allowing Peggy free rein to exceed the budget on an overly expensive but brilliant television ad. In a client meeting, Don soothes the client's worries about the expense (which could clearly jeopardize the account), but attributing the ad concept to the late Frank Gleason. While this tactic saves the account, it takes credit away from Peggy, who had hoped to win a CLIO Award for it. Don also subtly alludes to the inappropriate relationship between Peggy and Ted (which only the SC&P insiders catch), prompting Ted to back off from Peggy. In response, Peggy calls Don a monster.

In the Season 6 finale, "In Care Of", Peggy leaves the office for a date in a revealing dress, doused in Chanel No. 5. Ted is waiting at her apartment when she returns; he confesses that he loves her and promises to leave his wife, and he and Peggy finally consummate their relationship. However, the next morning, Ted asks Don to let him manage the SC&P office in California, in an effort to put as much distance between him and Peggy as possible and start over with his family. Don eventually relents, and Ted informs Peggy of his plans. Peggy is furious at Ted's unilateral decision and sneers, "Well, aren't you lucky, to have decisions?"

Don's erratic attendance and behavior cause concern, and in the wake of the disastrous Hershey's pitch meeting, the partners (Bert, Roger, Jim, and Joan) place him on a "leave of absence" of unspecified duration. Peggy, working late, takes over Don's office because it's "where everything is".

Peggy's relationship with Don Draper[edit]

Peggy is Don's secretary until she is promoted, thanks to Freddy Rumsen telling Don about how she acted during a product test. Don allows Peggy to work on accounts, but tells her that she is still his secretary. Peggy is often openly resentful of Don's demanding requirements and his refusal to express appreciation for her work, but is also conscious that he is the only one in the firm who views her as an equal to her fellow copywriters, notwithstanding her gender. At the end of Season One, Don gives her a raise and promotes her, meaning she will no longer work as his secretary.

During Season Two, Peggy and Don's relationship deepens after Don drives while intoxicated and gets into a car accident. Having no one else to call and under arrest for drunk driving, he calls Peggy, who bails him and Bobbie Barret (with whom Don was having an affair) out of jail. Bobbie stays at Peggy's apartment for a few days and she constantly asks Peggy why she is helping Don so much. It is revealed that at the end of Season One, Peggy gave birth to a son, which she gave away. Traumatized by the experience, Peggy is forced to stay in the hospital for a long time and Don was the only one who cared enough to investigate her whereabouts, and is also the only one who visits her in the hospital, besides her mother. Peggy and Don have an intense conversation in the hospital, and he encourages her to do what the doctors are telling her to do. At the end of the episode, "The New Girl", Peggy calls him "Don" instead of "Mr. Draper", which she has been doing since the beginning of the series.

When in "Maidenform" (Season 2) Peggy questions her male colleagues' categorizations of women as "Marilyns" or "Jackies" and asks which she is, Ken quips that she's Gertrude Stein, and the younger men laugh. Don quickly counters that Peggy is Irene Dunne, which Freddy supports with, "I love Irene Dunne".[6]

In Season Three, Don and Peggy continue to rely on each other. However, their relationship becomes strained due to Don's anger and seemingly lack of appreciation for Peggy and her work. When Don decides to start his own advertising agency, Peggy is one of the first people he talks to. He assumes that Peggy will quit and follow him to his new agency, but he is surprised and hurt when she declines, stating that she's tired of being on the receiving end of his anger when something doesn't work out for him. Don later goes to Peggy's apartment, and the two have an emotional conversation, in which Don asks her to go with him to his new agency. When Peggy continues to express reluctance, Don tells her that if she doesn't go with him, he will spend the rest of his life trying to hire her. Matthew Weiner, the creator and writer of the series, has stated that this conversation is essentially Don telling Peggy that he loves her.

Don and Peggy's relationship is further solidified in Season Four, when Don forces Peggy to work all night on her birthday (in "The Suitcase"). Though she is initially angry at Don for having to cancel dinner plans with her boyfriend to accommodate his work demands, they eventually make up and go to dinner. They spend the night talking and both reveal personal details about their lives to each other. Peggy tells him that her mother hates him because she thinks that he is the father of her baby. They also discuss the fact that everyone in the office assumes that the two are either sleeping together, or have slept together in the past. Peggy asks him in a roundabout way why he never attempted to have an affair with her. He tells her that he has rules that he cannot break, to which she makes a snide remark and refers to his previous affairs. Peggy complains about dating, and Don responds that she's "cute as hell" and will find someone.

Peggy and Don return to the office building, where Peggy helps Don get through his drunken stupor. Duck unexpectedly shows up, also extremely drunk. He believes that Peggy and Don are romantically involved and he calls her a whore. In response, Don attacks Duck, and the two drunkenly brawl. Peggy eventually gets Duck to leave and she returns to Don's office where she finds him drinking again. Don apologizes to Peggy for embarrassing her, and the two fall asleep on his office couch with his head on Peggy's lap. Later that morning, a distraught Don weeps in Peggy's presence after he learns of Anna's death over the telephone. When Don tells Peggy that he has lost the only one in the world who truly knew him, Peggy tenderly places a consoling hand on his shoulder and replies, "That's not true." which appears to calm him down. Later that morning, a sober Don calls Peggy into his office to talk about the ad they had been struggling with. Don abruptly stops the work related conversation by holding Peggy's hand, as a sign of gratitude for everything she did the night before.

Peggy appears surprised and disappointed when Don announces his engagement to Megan Calvet, his secretary. Peggy congratulates Don, and Don replies that Megan admires her and that Megan reminds him a lot of Peggy. Peggy interprets the gesture as a backhanded compliment, and in a private chat with Joan she remarks indignantly that Don seems more excited about marrying his secretary than about her own success. Joan tells Peggy that Don is no less superficial and shallow than any of their other male superiors, and his engagement to Megan should come as no surprise.

Peggy and Don's relationship becomes more strained after Don marries Megan and promotes her to copywriter at SCDP. Peggy takes on the role of Megan's mentor and attempts to nurture her apparent talent (although it later turns out Megan is dissatisfied with being a copywriter). Don also gives Peggy more responsibility, as he has begun spending more time at home than at work. Peggy is often frustrated by her new workload, and matters do not improve when the agency hires another male copywriter - Michael Ginsberg - who seems to receive more credit than his supervisor Peggy does for the same amount of work.

After Peggy manages to save an account, she asks Don if she will be going to Paris with the remainder of the team and requests recognition for saving the Château Cheval Blanc client account (in the Season Five episode, "The Other Woman"), Don grows angry and throws money in her face, assuming that she is asking for another raise. This is Peggy's breaking point, and she realizes she can no longer stay at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Under advice from Freddy Rumsen, Peggy takes meetings with other agencies, ultimately choosing to go with Don's rival Ted Chaough at Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough, where she will receive more money and the title of Copy Chief. Peggy breaks the news to Don immediately after he learns SCDP has landed Jaguar. Don mistakenly assumes, that she is asking for a raise and is shocked when she tells him that she's actually quitting. Don tells her to state the amount of money she is being offered at the other agency, and he will pay her more, but Peggy holds her ground. After using several failed tactics to get her to stay, Don gets increasingly emotional and angrier, but finally accepts her two weeks notice of resignation. Don cruelly tells her that she can leave that day instead of waiting the customary two weeks. When Peggy holds out her hand for a handshake, Don takes her hand and kisses it, and refuses to let go until Peggy forcefully removes it. An emotional Peggy walks out, leaving Don in tears in his office.

In Season Six, SCDP and CGC merge, reuniting Peggy and Don, much to Peggy's disappointment. Don and Peggy's relationship is at this point extremely strained, cemented by Don's excessive drinking and his jealousy of Ted. Most of Don and Peggy's interactions during this season, is them fighting over the fact that Don constantly puts her in the middle of arguments between him and Ted, which makes her uncomfortable. Don confronts Peggy after she refuses to pick a side, telling her that it's her job to pick the best idea. Peggy argues that he only gets angry when she refuses to pick a side or when she sides with Ted. She tells him that both he and Ted are similar, but the difference is that Ted never makes her as angry as Don makes her. Don replies with, "He doesn't know you." and walks out, leaving a shaken Peggy.

In the last episode of Season 6 ("In Care Of"), Don is set to move to California with Megan, but puts his marriage on the line by allowing Ted to take his place, in order to save his marriage after Ted sleeps with Peggy. When Ted tells Peggy that he is leaving, she grows angry and assumes that this is Don's doing as revenge for her affair with Ted, but is shocked and confused when Ted tells her that he asked Don, and Don accepted. The other partners place Don on a forced leave due to his behavior, making Peggy SC&P's de facto creative director. In a much talked-about tableau,[7] the season closes on a shot of Peggy sitting at Don's desk chair, gazing at the New York skyline, in a pose reminiscent of Don's in Mad Men's title card.


  1. ^ In Season 4, Episode 7, the day of the second Clay-Liston fight (May 25, 1965) is depicted as her 26th birthday.
  2. ^ A phone conversation depicted in Season 6, Episode 1 between Peggy and Ted Chaough's family pastor reveals that Peggy's father was Lutheran and of Norwegian background, whereas her mother is Catholic and of Irish heritage.
  3. ^ revealed in Don and Peggy's late-night conversation at a diner in Season 4, Episode 7
  4. ^ "The Mountain King". Mad Men. Season 2. Episode 12. 2008-11-19. AMC.
  5. ^ a b "The Arrangements". Mad Men. Season 3. Episode 3. 2009-09-06. AMC.
  6. ^ Deborah Lipp (January 7, 2009). "Peggy is neither a Marilyn or a Jackie". 
  7. ^

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