Tag Archives: tv on dvd

The Women of Mad Men and Call the Midwife

13 May

I am a graduate of Douglass College (DC ‘04), an all-women’s school that was part of Rutgers University. In 2007, Douglass College and three other liberal arts schools were all combined to become the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS). When the merger was first proposed, Douglass alumnae (myself included) protested, and ultimately a compromise was reached that led to the creation of the Douglass Residential College (DRC). Women attending SAS can choose to live at DRC, which offers them special programs and opportunities to excel that are central to Douglass’s mission.

Last month brought a new conflict. Rutgers University wants to fold the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College (the main fundraising body for DC/DRC) into the Rutgers Foundation with the goal of streamlining all fundraising. However, it is not clear if gifts donated to Douglass will go directly to DRC, which is concerning. Again, Douglass alumnae protested and mobilized to Save the AADC. (#SaveAADC) On May 1 there was a rally on DRC, which my friend and fellow alumnae Stephanie attended with her two young sons. (Gotta start kids early in activism!) This issue hasn’t been resolved and is headed toward mediation. Details can be found here.

The quick action of my classmates and sister alumnae, and the pictures from the rally I saw on social media, inspired me to think about my favorite female characters that I admire on TV, most of whom are on Mad Men and Call the Midwife.

Mad Men 


Mad Men, a show set in a 1960s Madison Avenue advertising agency that followed the lives of the employees and the events of that turbulent decade, has long been appointment television for me. (This is rare for me, which I’ve previously written about on this blog!) I enjoy discussing Mad Men with my dad, who graduated high school in 1968 and remembers the 1960s well. I am excited to see how it all ends this Sunday when the series finale airs.

I loved following the stories of the women of Mad Men, Betty, Peggy, and Joan. The show was set before the women’s movement gained traction in the 1970s and never shied away from the issues women living and working at the time faced, such as sexual harassment, unequal pay, and discrimination–issues that still exist in 2015, sadly.

Betty Draper Francis (played by January Jones) is a victim of her time–a Bryn Mawr educated woman who was a model but then became a housewife suffering from “the problem that has no name” described in Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking book, The Feminine Mystique. Watching Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss) ascend from the secretary pool to become Copy Chief was thrilling but bittersweet because she had to sacrifice more and work much harder than her male colleagues to succeed. Joan Holloway Harris (Christina Hendricks) was the office manager who became a partner at the firm in a controversial manner, but proved herself as a capable ad exec when she brought in Avon as a client.

All seasons of Mad Men (with the exception of the last batch of episodes) are available to borrow from the Hoboken Public Library, and other BCCLS libraries, if you want to dive into this show or re-watch it again.

Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, Season 6, Season 7 Part 1

Call the Midwife


Call the Midwife, based on Jennifer Worth’s memoirs of the same name, follows the nurses and nuns of Nonnatus House that serve the Poplar community in South London in the late 1950s-early 1960s. As the show’s title indicates, much of their time is spent caring for expectant mothers and delivering newborns. The birth scenes are realistic (for TV) and employ real newborn babies, who by British law can only shoot scenes for 20 minutes at a time.

Women make up much of the cast, and their stories are diverse and interesting. Some of the nurses come from more privileged backgrounds and are at first horrified by the poverty they encounter in Poplar. I think Sister Monica Joan (played by Judy Parfitt), an elderly nun who suffers from dementia, is the most fascinating character. She no longer works as a nurse due to her condition, but in her moments of clarity she shares wisdom and sage advice with her fellow sisters and the younger nurses when they run into challenging situations.

Many of the stories Jennifer Worth’s first memoir, which I read and enjoyed, were used in the show. One story I liked that hasn’t been seen on the show was about how one young Poplar boy took it upon himself to protect Nurse Chummy (Miranda Hart), who was a target for teasing by the other children. Worth wrote that that young boy grew up to become a bodyguard for Princess Diana.

All four seasons of Call the Midwife are available to borrow, as well as the memoir. Jennifer Worth wrote two more books a about her time as a midwife, Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse and Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End. Both are on my to-read list.

Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4

Who are your favorite female TV characters? Please share in the comments.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

My Favorite Things: Meet the Newest HPL Librarian

29 Dec

Hello Hoboken patrons. I’m excited to join the community and this blog as a new librarian on the block. For my first post I thought I’d share some of my favorite books, television shows and movies as a way of introducing myself. I enjoy a huge range of genres and topics, everything from The Wizard of Oz to Harry Potter to The Walking Dead, but I’ll focus on a few titles that may not be as popular or may have been forgotten.

Some of my favorites for children are:

Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder


The Little House series (and the TV show loosely based on the books) made a lasting impression on me. As a child I wanted to be Laura Ingalls and often pretended that I was her. Although the books are fiction, not autobiographies, they paint an incredible picture of being a pioneer family and growing up in the 1870s. Laura wrote about the excitement of discovering new places, the heartbreak of losing a huge wheat crop and the fear of living through blizzards in a clear, matter-of-fact style. I recommend these books to any kid who is interested in history or just wants to read a good story. And if you haven’t read the books since you were a child, I’d recommend you pick them up again. I recently re-read them, and found new things I missed the first ten times.

Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parrish


Amelia Bedelia is a character who takes everything she is told literally. In my favorite story, Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia, Amelia learns how to play baseball. When she hits the ball and is told to “run home” she runs to her house. When I read these books as a child I thought I was so smart for knowing why Amelia was wrong. These books are silly and fun, and I recommend them to every kid I know.

The Three Pigs, by David Wiesner


This picture book starts out like every other version of The Three Pigs that you’ve ever read or heard. The pigs build houses out of different materials, the wolf huffs and puffs and blows the house down, but then something unexpected happens: the pigs are blown right out of their story and into others. Wiesner illustrates the story in different styles that match where the Pigs are exploring. This is a great book to read with your favorite kids, and offers an opportunity to use your imaginations to take the pigs on your own made-up adventures. If you enjoy this book, look for additional Wiesner.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – Directed by Steven Spielberg


E.T. is the story of a boy and his alien. A young visitor from outer space is stranded on Earth when his spaceship leaves without him. Elliot, his brother, sister and their friends work to reunite E.T. with his family. I could watch this movie every day and not get bored. It has adventure, frightening encounters, and real emotion. The friendship that Elliot and E.T. develop is deep and real and can resonate with anyone who has ever had a friend.

A few of my favorites for adults are:

Fringe – TV series


If you liked The X-Files and Lost, check out Fringe starring Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Jasika Nicole and John Noble. This series had all of the mythology and mystery of both of those series, but with a much less convoluted story. The monster of the week, the relationships between the characters and the overall arc of the show were beautifully intertwined to create something I haven’t seen much of: a series with continuity that (mostly) made sense. The series flew under the radar, and was constantly at risk of cancellation but if you like science fiction with complex characters I’d recommend watching the series.

Hannibal – TV series


Hannibal starring Hugh Dancy as profiler Will Graham and Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lector isn’t for everyone. It’s violent and gruesome, yet it is also completely fascinating. It’s based on the novels by Thomas Harris, especially Red Dragon, and takes place before the events of Silence of the Lambs. The cinematography on this series is unparalleled. It’s stylish and haunting, as is the show itself. I often have to watch during the day because it’s very scary, but I still look forward each new episode. Season 3 is filming now, and this X-Files fan is very excited that Gillian Anderson has been promoted to series regular.

Wicked, by Gregory Maguire


My colleague Lois has already written about Wicked in her blog post about The Wizard of Oz, but I have to second the recommendation for this novel. I tend to re-read only books from my childhood, but this one (and my next entry on this list) are the exceptions. Maguire makes the politics and the people of Oz so real that you almost expect to read about Munchkinland in an actual newspaper. The book took me a little while to get into, but within a few chapters I was hooked.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte


Jane Eyre is such a typical, old-fashioned, high-school English class book that I was surprised that I loved it. Even though I enjoy reading, and English was my favorite class, I didn’t always like the books we were forced to read. Jane Eyre is different and right from the first paragraph I was enthralled. Some of my opinions about the characters have changed over time, but the perfect language and sympathetic characters keep me coming back over and over. If you haven’t read Jane Eyre since your own high school English class, I recommend that you give it another chance.

All of these titles can be borrowed from the library.

-Written by Kim Iacucci, Children’s Librarian

%d bloggers like this: