Cable Girls and the 1920s as a ‘Turning Point’ for Women

I just finished watching part one of Netflix’s first season of Cable Girls, a Spanish series (and apparently Spain’s first Netflix-exclusive) about women working as operators in 1920s Madrid.  Probably the best way to describe the series is a Spanish Sex and the City meets Mad Men with flappers, considering it’s about four close female friends (SATC) with a bit of stolen identities/past secrets (Don Draper/Mad Men) the workplace.  There’s also a redhead supervisor who kind of reminds me of Joan Holloway, not to mention one ambitious woman who seems to be the Peggy Olsen of the bunch.

As many of us know from history, women of the 1920s – especially young women like the characters in Cable Girls – had drastically different lifestyles than their mothers.  They were more likely to work, and had more freedom than previous generations.  In many parts of the world (especially English-speaking countries), women were given the right to vote (suffrage was not granted to Spanish women until the 1930s, so suffrage meetings are an integral part of this series).  And this was the case not just in western countries, but in some parts of the east as well.  In China, for example, contemporaries of the lead characters were among the first to not have had bound feet.  Just NOT having bound feet allowed women to do much more than be confined at home doing, say, needlepoint or weaving and waiting to be matched with a husband.  My great-grandmother had bound feet, but my great-aunt (her eldest child, who would have been in her teens in the 20s, so a bit younger), did not.  My great-grandmother was barely literate, yet every one of her kids, male or female, completed high school, with some going beyond.  It was such a drastic change compared to later decades (e.g. my mother (a baby boomer) and I (an Xennial, if you want to use the “latest” term) both have a university education).  The show is also an educational experience for many of us in the 21st century, who take certain things – like, for example, going to the movies with a man (the boarding house matron believed movies were sinful) or even divorce (divorce was not legal in 1920s Spain) – for granted.

However, no matter how things improve, many issues are still relevant today.  Take Angeles, for example.  Today, she would be the woman who “has it all” – a job, a husband and a child.  She might be viewed as being “perfect.”  However, how does SHE feel?  Is SHE satisfied?  This same question continues to be asked today.  And then there are those who want to escape from the more traditional boundaries that they were raised in (e.g. Carlotta) or those who have secrets to hide.  Topics the series explores include domestic abuse, homosexuality and changing technology.  The show could very well be set in 2017 with some minor changes (e.g. programmers/coders rather than switchboard operators).  Perhaps today, topics explore would also include the lack of women in STEM careers and equal pay rather than, say, suffrage.  This is why I’ve found the show universal.  You really DON’T need to be of Spanish or southern European descent to “get” these topics, nor do you need to be a history buff.  As noted earlier, I have found aspects of MY FAMILY in the series as well.  And Macau is pretty far and culturally different from Madrid.  While there have only been eight episodes so far (another eight – the remaining episodes of the first season – is expected to drop in the fall)


Cynthia Cheng Mintz

Cynthia Cheng Mintz, previously known for her sites, DelectablyChic! (still "live" and still active on social media) and Shorty Stories, was born and raised in Toronto. In addition to writing, Cynthia enjoys cooking and is an avid supporter of the Canadian fashion industry. She is involved with various philanthropic projects, including music, arts, culture and mental health awareness.