Culture Archive: The Hardest-Working Women in Pop Culture History

From 'I Love Lucy's namesake to Erin Brokovich, we compiled the gutsiest and most boundary-pushing working girls from the big and small screens.

i love lucy
From I Love Lucy's namesake to Erin Brokovich, we compiled the gutsiest and most boundary-pushing working girls from the big and small screens.
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Courtesy of Everett Collection
I LOVE LUCY (1952)

If one piece of chocolate on the factory's assembly line gets past Lucy and Ethel, the women will be fired. "We're fighting a losing game!" Lucy cries as the conveyor belt speeds up. So they stuff candy into their mouths, hats, and shirts. Now that's called multitasking!

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Courtesy of Everett Collection
THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW (1972)

TV producer Mary lays down an ultimatum to her gruff boss: "Mr. Grant, I've come to a very important decision, and I think you should know that I'm not asking — I'm demanding a raise." She gets it.

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Courtesy of Everett Collection
NORMA RAE (1979)

Cotton-mill worker Norma Rae organizes a union walkout to protest working conditions — and she refuses to bow to management: "It's going to take you and the police department and the fire department and the National Guard to get me out of here."

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Courtesy of Everett Collection
ERIN BROCKOVICH (2000)

She's constantly underestimated as a result of her saucy appearance, but buxom legal assistant Erin Brockovich makes it work. When her boss asks her how she expects to get the files her office needs to prove wrongdoing, she responds, "They're called boobs, Ed."

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Courtesy of Everett Collection
ALLY MCBEAL (1998)

Upset when a male judge asks her to stick to a dress code, micro-mini-clad lawyer Ally McBeal won't alter her outfit: "Would he ever pull a man into chambers and tell him how to dress?" She spends a night in jail to maintain her principles — and hemline.

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Courtesy of Everett Collection
WORKING GIRL (1988)

When secretary Tess learns that her bitchy Wall Street boss, Katharine, intends to pass Tess' work off as her own, Tess decides to impersonate Katharine (including borrowing her clothes) to land a big deal — and a handsome exec — on her own.

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Courtesy of Everett Collection
9 TO 5 (1980)

Violet, Doralee, and Judy have had it up to here with their demon boss, a misogynist who sexually harasses them. So they kidnap him (obviously!) and hold him hostage with a phone wire. During his absence, the company flourishes under the women's management.

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8 of 10
Courtesy of Everett Collection
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2006)

Fashion magazine assistant Andy has an epiphany while in Paris with her boss, Miranda Priestly: She's through answering to the editor from hell! Andy tosses her cell into a fountain. Buh-bye!

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Courtesy of Everett Collection
MAD MEN (2007)

Secretary Peggy Olson beats all odds: She becomes Sterling Cooper's first female copywriter. "I've got a way for you to turn this [Clearasil] account into a home run," Don Draper tells his team. "We have the perfect writer ... Peggy."

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Courtesy of Everett Collection
GIRLS (2012)

In today's lousy economy, unpaid internships are often the only option for young creatives. Not for Hannah: She ditches working for free to become a writer on her own. So what if she's got to be a barista to get by?

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