Hulu series portrays 1970s women’s liberation movement

Cate Blanchett plays Phyllis Schlafly in Hulu's original series "Mrs. America." Photo courtesy of Hulu

By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer

Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan. These are the names of women who led the women’s liberation movement in the 1970s.

“Mrs. America” is a series on Hulu that highlights the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. The series centers around Phyllis Schlafly, played by Cate Blanchett, a conservative woman who led the opposition to the ERA. Each episode focuses on a different female leader while never losing sight of Schlafly’s goal to stop the passage of the ERA.

Women’s Equality Day was proposed by Abzug to celebrate women’s suffrage. It occurs on Aug. 26, each year to commemorate the ratification of the 19th Amendment. As this year is the 100th anniversary, “Mrs. America” is a way to learn about key women in history that made a difference on each side of the movement.

Cedar Park junior Charis Nelson said representation is important in history classes and in leadership.

“I think for a long time it was just white men in charge. I would like to hold public office one day, and it would make me kind of sad… if in 24 years when I actually run, I’m the first, it would be kind of disappointing,” Nelson said.

Even as a political science major, Nelson said she did not recognize any of the names of the women featured in “Mrs. America” and that she was disappointed in her past history classes.

Allen senior Miriam Laeky also weighed in on the representation of these women’s work in history curricula.

“We stand on the shoulders of giants, and we fail to look down sometimes and ask for their names,” Laeky said.

One of the historic women focused on in the show is Shirley Chisholm. She was the first Black woman to be elected to Congress and the first woman and Black person to run for presidential nomination in either of this country’s two major political parties.

“Why is she not in every single textbook? This is an incredible woman who was such a maverick, a crusader in American politics and not enough people can recognize her name,” Laeky said.

The show has a scene with Margaret Sloan-Hunter, a Black woman who worked for Gloria Steinem at Ms. Magazine, who brought up tokenism in the workplace. Sloan-Hunter said in the show there is not just one Black experience.

“That was really powerful because that was a concept a lot of [white women] didn’t even really know was a thing and also they kind of negated the fact that it could even be happening within their own circle,” Laeky said. “I think that’s the hard look we need to give feminism right now is that we may be excluding people from the conversation unknowingly.”