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|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|
|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, and was brought up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York in a Roman Catholic Norwegian-American family. 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
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 offering personal advice, which includes referring her to a gynecologist to obtain a prescription for the birth-control pill. When she meets Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) for the first time, he makes rude comments to Peggy about her dowdy 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 research for a campaign 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 that of Don Draper. Later, after Rumsen is fired, Peggy convinces Roger Sterling to give her Rumsen's office.
In the fall of 1960, Peggy rips her skirt trying to pick something up off of the floor, which prompts her to begin wearing baggy dress-and-jacket outfits. She also experiences noticeable weight gain (portrayed by Moss wearing a "fat suit" and facial appliances). 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.
Joan makes snide remarks to Peggy about her weight gain, warning her 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 that 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 the employees of Sterling Cooper. 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 her worried boss, Don Draper, 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 made immediately clear if he'd learned of her pregnancy), and realizes that her hospitalization is not due to tuberculosis. He encourages her to forget about the entire thing, giving her the advice he is often heard giving, to "move forward" and that "this" never happened.
Meanwhile, Peggy's sister, who has since given birth herself, is resentful of Peggy and tells their young new parish priest that Peggy seduced a married man, got pregnant, and was forced to give up the baby (it is later revealed that because Don visited her at the hospital, her family believed him to be the father of her illegitimate child). Throughout Season Two, the priest, who is progressive in nature and relies on Peggy's advertising sensibilities several times, repeatedly tries to persuade Peggy to admit her sins in confession, but Peggy consistently refuses, and by the end of the season leaves the church, as the pressure to confess only upsets her.
In "The Jet Set," Peggy gets her hair cut from her demure ponytail into a shorter, more modern hair style. This was said to represent the upcoming change for women's style in the 60s.
In the Season Two 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 Trudy, and 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 Three (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 of the drink, is dismissed. When the ad in question is shot down by Pepsi (whose idea it was in the first place), she smiles to herself.
Due to the difficulties of commuting from Brooklyn, Peggy decides to move to an apartment in Manhattan; her mother regards this as an affront. Paul Kinsey, conspiring with one of the secretaries, pulls a prank on Peggy during her first attempt to find a roommate, after which Joan advises Peggy to make her ad about fun and good times. She 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).
Peggy becomes romantically involved with Duck Phillips, and he makes a nearly-successful effort to lure her away to his firm. Her 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 and eventually collapses after he gets into a drunken brawl with Don in the SCDP offices.
At Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP)
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 became strained as Peggy led Mark to believe he was her first. After a fiasco on Peggy's birthday when Mark planned a surprise birthday dinner, inviting Peggy's family, and she cancelled last minute due to work, Mark became furious and broke up with her. Peggy then becomes friends with Joyce Ramsay (portrayed by Zosia Mamet), a Life magazine employee 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.
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)
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. It is revealed that Peggy has romantic feelings for Ted and in a moment of weakness, the pair share a kiss on Christmas eve.
In "The Flood", Peggy and Megan are nominated for a prestigious advertising award, being the only SCDP nominees (despite neither of them working there anymore). The evening is interrupted by news that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been assassinated, although the audience quietly learns that Megan and presumably Peggy won the award.
When Don Draper and Ted Chaough join forces and trick Chevrolet into suggesting that the two firms merge, they turn to Peggy to draft the press release. Both are oblivious to Peggy's obvious distress.
At Sterling Cooper & Partners (SC&P)
Joan, who is quite pleased to see her, assigns Peggy to the office previously used by Harry Crane and Pete Campbell, the one with the 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 "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 on their different paths to power, which is cut off when Pete and Ted confront Joan. Peggy realizes that Joan needs the support of someone who believes in her, and so improvises a fake phone call that saves Joan's neck.
Peggy's relationship with Don Draper
During Season Four (1964–65), Peggy's complex working relationship with Don Draper continues to evolve as he relies on her to handle important accounts. 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.
Their relationship is solidified when Don forces Peggy to work all night on her birthday. Though she is initially angry at Don for having to cancel dinner plans with her boyfriend to accommodate his work demands, they spend the night discussing their lives and Don reveals to her details of his past. Peggy helps Don through another drunken binge and defuses a confrontation between him and Duck Phillips, who shows up at the office searching for Peggy in a drunken stupor of his own. The two fall asleep on Don's office couch as he lies with his head in 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." Later that day, Don conveys his gratitude to Peggy by pausing during an advertisement-related conversation and embracing her hand, briefly shedding his emotional unavailability and confirming their bond.
Peggy appears surprised and disappointed when Don announces his engagement to Megan Calvet, his secretary. Peggy congratulates Don, to which Don replies that Megan admires Peggy and considers her a role model of sorts. 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 that his engagement to Megan should come as no surprise.
Peggy and Don's relationship becomes more strained after Don marries Megan, promoting her to copy writer at SCDP. Peggy takes on the role of her mentor and in turn attempts to nurture Megan's apparent talent (although it later turns out that Megan is dissatisfied with being a copy writer). She is also given more responsibility by Don, now that he has married again and is 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 copy writer - Michael Ginsberg - who seems to receive more credit than she does for the same amount of work.
After Peggy goes to Don asking for recognition in saving a client account in the Season Five episode, 'The Other Woman', Don throws money in her face, assuming that she is asking for another raise. This is Peggy's breaking point, and she realizes that 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 an improved title. Peggy breaks the news to Don. After landing Jaguar, Don finally agrees to give Peggy a raise, believing this was her original intention. He is shocked when Peggy turns down a blank cheque salary and realizes he is about to lose his protégé. The two share a moment, in which Don grasps her hand and gives it a kiss. Peggy leaves the offices, entering an elevator that is illuminated with light as she begins her journey away from SCDP and Don.
However in Season Six as there is a merger between SCDP and Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough bringing the two back together.
- PeggyOlson, a Twitter microblog based on the character
- In Season 4, Episode 7, the day of the second Clay-Liston fight (May 25, 1965) is depicted as her 26th birthday.
- "The Mountain King". Mad Men. Season 2. Episode 12. 2008-11-19. AMC.
- "The Arrangements". Mad Men. Season 3. Episode 3. 2009-09-06. AMC.
- Peggy Olson at AMCtv.com