When it comes to the fascinating pockets of American history, there’s a power player that helped shape the discourse of US politics that you might not have heard of: Phyllis Schlafly. The conservative activist was a leading voice in opposition of the feminist movement in the 1970s and launched the “STOP ERA” campaign, a movement organized in opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment. With FX’s new historical drama Mrs. America, two-time Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett brings Schlafly to life in the series from creator Dahvi Waller.
Set during the fight for the ERA, the series takes a look at the key figures in the evolving feminist movement — and their opponents — led by an outstanding cast that includes Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem, Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug, Tracey Ullmann as Betty Friedan, James Marsden as Republican congressman Philip Crane, John Slattery as Fred Schlafly, Elizabeth Banks is Jill Ruckelshaus, a White House assistant, women’s rights activist, and wife of the former head of the EPA, William Ruckelshaus, and Sarah Paulson as a fictional composite character named Alice.
The cast and creators of the series were on-hand at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, California, where they discussed the importance of the series in today’s climate and the shocking relevance of the topics they were debating back in the 1970s. “We haven’t really come as far as we thought we have,” said Waller of what surprised her most when making the series. “The conversations we’re having today, they were having 50 years ago.”
For Blanchett, she was inspired by the opportunity to tell the story of, not just the feminist movement of the 70s, but the opposing conservative movement and the lively debate they engaged in the pursuit of their beliefs. “There was a real, strong culture of robust public debate and I feel like that is something, not just in America but globally, we’ve lost,” Blanchett said. “There were actually two women’s movements in the 70s,” she continued, “the feminist women’s movements and the conservative women’s movement.”
Mrs. America also takes a look at the history of intersectional feminism (or the lack thereof) in the roots of the movement, with Uso Aduba taking on the role of Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman in Congress who launched a presidential campaign in the early 70s. Asked about the fight for intersectional feminism, Aduba said, “I think it is something that we’re still battling on a real level, but I think the difference between now vs then is that the women’s movement is cognizant of it.”
You can get a peek at how the series will tackle those issues and more in the first trailer below. As announced, Mrs. America will debut on April 15 as a part of the new FX on Hulu block.
Here’s the official synopsis for Mrs. America:
Mrs. America tells the story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and the unexpected backlash led by a conservative woman named Phyllis Schlafly, played by Blanchett. Through the eyes of the women of that era – both Schlafly and Second Wave feminists Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug and Jill Ruckelshaus – the series explores how one of the toughest battlegrounds in the culture wars of the 70s helped give rise to the Moral Majority and forever shifted our political landscape.