Photos: What did the characters in ‘Mrs. America’ look like in real life?


The cast of “Mrs. America” is full of recognizable women: Cate Blanchett, Uzo Aduba, Elizabeth Banks, Rose Byrne and Tracey Ullman, to name a few.

But in this new FX on Hulu project, set in the 1970s amid the second wave of feminism, they are all playing people who were political stars in the fights for and against passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Hollywood has worked its magic once again with the miniseries, transforming those players and others nearly seamlessly, via hair, makeup and costumes, into historical figures including Phyllis Schlafly, Shirley Chisholm and Gloria Steinem.

FX on Hulu series “Mrs. America,” about the fight for — and against — the Equal Rights Amendment — is compelling, ambitious TV drama.

April 15, 2020

Take a trip back in time and check out some of the “Mrs. America” actors in character, below, pictured with their real-life counterparts.


Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly

Cate Blanchett, left, as Phyllis Schlafly in "Mrs. America," and the real Phyllis Schlafly in 1976.
(Sabrina Lantos / FX, left; Associated Press, right)

Oscar-winning Australian actress Blanchett slips right into the role of Schlafly, a successful crusader against ratification of the ERA who defended traditional gender roles. Schlafly also opposed abortion, calling Roe vs. Wade the worst decision the U.S. Supreme Court had ever made. Schlafly, who was also an author, founded the conservative Eagle Forum in 1972 and remained chair and chief executive of the political interest group until her death in 2016.

Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm

Uzo Aduba, left, as Shirley Chisholm in "Mrs. America," and the real Shirley Chisholm in 1971.
(Sabrina Lantos / FX, left; Associated Press, right)

“Orange Is the New Black” breakout Aduba channels Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, who gave a memorable speech in favor of the ERA in 1970. In addition to serving seven terms in the House of Representatives, the Democrat ran for president in 1972. She was the first black candidate for a major party’s presidential nomination, the first black woman to run for the Democratic nomination and the first woman to appear in a presidential debate. Chisholm died in 2005.

Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem

Rose Byrne, left, as Gloria Steinem in "Mrs. America," and the real Gloria Steinem in 1970.
(Sabrina Lantos / FX, left; Associated Press, right)

Bouncing back from the flop comedy “Like a Boss,” Byrne effortlessly rocks Steinem’s trademark straight hair and glasses that the feminist icon had in the 1970s. In 197`1, the journalist-turned-activist was among the many founders of the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) and delivered her historic “Address to the Women of America” speech when the group first convened in 1971.

Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug

Margo Martindale, left, as Bella Abzug in "Mrs. America," and the real Bella Abzug in 1972.
(Sabrina Lantos / FX, left; Stephen Verona, right)

A two-time Emmy winner for her work on “The Americans,” Martindale embodies Abzug, who was another NWPC founder. The author of “The Gender Gap” was known for her trademark hats, though they were not allowed on the floor of the House, where she served for three terms in the ‘70s before running unsuccessfully for a Senate seat. Abzug died in `1998.

Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan

Tracey Ullman, left, as Betty Friedan in "Mrs. America," and the real Betty Friedan in 1970.
(Sabrina Lantos / FX, left; Associated Press, right)

Ullman, the chameleonic British comedian and actress, plays Friedan, a key figure in second-wave feminism. After serving as the first president of the National Organization for Women, which she co-founded in 1966, the author of “The Feminine Mystique” moved on to advocate strongly for ERA ratification after it was passed in 1972 by the House and Senate. She would remain an activist, author and highly regarded intellectual into the late 1990s, including a late-’80s stint as a visiting professor at USC’s Annenberg School. Friedan died in 2006.

Elizabeth Banks as Jill Ruckelshaus

Elizabeth Banks, left, as Jill Ruckelshaus in "Mrs. America," and the real Jill Ruckelshaus in 1970.
(Sabrina Lantos / FX, left; Associated Press, right)

Actress and “Charlie’s Angels” filmmaker Banks portrays Ruckelshaus, another of the many founders of the NWPC. An advocate for ERA ratification, she was briefly a White House assistant and head of the White House Office of Women’s Programs. The early ‘80s saw her as commissioner of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and in 1996, she joined the boards of Costco Wholesale Corp. and Lincoln National Corp.

John Slattery as Fred Schlafly

John Slattery as Fred Schlafly in 'Mrs. America'
(Sabrina Lantos / FX, left; Associated Press, right)

The “Mad Men” actor takes on the role of Mr. Schlafly, a lawyer and husband of Phyllis. According to the Eagle Forum, Fred encouraged Phyllis, “was immensely proud of her, and he read what she wrote and freely ‘censored’ and edited her work.” An Eagle Forum award recognizing supportive husbands bears his name. The couple had six children during their 43 years of marriage, and he died in 1993.