Mrs America on BBC2: start date, cast, plot and everything you need to know

Cate Blanchett and Rose Byrne star in the US miniseries about the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment...

Critically-acclaimed US miniseries Mrs America, which dramatises the attempt to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, arrives on BBC2 soon. Here’s everything we know about the show.

Mrs America start date: when does it begin on BBC2?

The series begins on Wednesday 9 July at 9pm on BBC2 with a double-bill. The full series will be available on BBC iPlayer after the second episode has been broadcast.

What is it about?

Mrs America opens in 1971, as the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) – which would guarantee equal legal rights for men and women – receives approval from Congress and the Senate, and is sent out to the individual states to be ratified.

With support from both the Republican and Democratic parties, it’s expected to pass easily. But housewife and conservative campaigner Phyllis Schlafly is concerned that the ERA would disadvantage women who choose to stay at home and raise a family. With her network of housewives behind her, she launches a campaign to stop it.

Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem and Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan in a scene from Mrs America

Rose Byrne and Tracey Ullman as feminist campaigners Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan (Photo: BBC/FX)

Each episode follows a moment in the campaign from the viewpoint of a different key figure. Episode one focuses on Phyllis herself, while later episodes highlight feminist campaigners like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and Shirley Chisholm – the first black woman elected to the US Congress and the first black candidate to run for the Democratic party’s Presidential nomination.

Uzo Aduba as presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm takes to the lectern in a scene from Mrs America

Uzo Aduba as presidential hopeful Shirley Chisholm (Photo: BBC/FX)

Who’s in it?

The series boasts a superstar cast, including Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly, Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem, and Tracey Ullman as The Feminine Mystique author Betty Friedan.

Pitch Perfect’s Elizabeth Banks plays Republican feminist Jill Ruckelshaus, Orange Is The New Black star Uzo Aduba plays Shirley Chisholm, and American Horror Story’s Sarah Paulson plays Alice Macray – a composite character invented for the drama, who represents several people within Phyllis’s movement.

The cast also features Criminal Minds star Jeanne Tripplehorn as Phyllis’s sister-in-law Eleanor, Mad Men’s John Slattery as Phyllis’s husband Fred, The Americans star Margo Martindale as feminist organiser Bella Abzug, and Castle Rock’s Melanie Lynskey as conservative activist Rosemary Thompson.

Mrs America trailer: what does it reveal?

The official trailer for the series shows Phyllis going to war against the Equal Rights Amendment in America, and hints at how her confident public speaking wins over new supporters. However, it also suggests that she will ultimately alienate people on her own side, including her close friend Alice, who asks her “when did you get so mean?”.

It also shows the struggles experienced the women’s liberation movement as they fight for their own right to be heard, with Gloria Steinem observing that “we don’t get to decide how the battle lines are drawn”.

What else do we know about Mrs America?

  • The series is in nine-parts, and will air as weekly double-bills.
  • It is based on true events, and was created by former Mad Men writer Dahvi Waller, with Cate Blanchett also serving as an executive producer.
  • The series was a smash hit when it aired with America, described by The Atlantic as “maybe the first great television series of 2020.”
  • In real life, Phyllis Schlafly’s movement was successful in ensuring that the ERA was not ratified by the required number of states in time for the deadline, but the fight continues: the state of Virginia voted to ratify it earlier this year.

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