Catherine, Emma, Purdey and feminism

I love the Avengers, along with other super-stylish British action shows from my childhood such as The Prisoner, The Saint and their low-rent cousin Dr Who. And one of the things I liked on these shows is that the female characters usually had their own goals which weren’t just getting married: they were the men’s allies, not just glamorous sidekicks (although of course that was part of why the actresses were cast in those parts).

I’m obviously not the only one who liked that about the shows. An academic wants to interview women whose first exposure to a feminist on television was Dr Catherine Gale, Honor Blackman’s character in the first series of the Avengers.

Did watching the first feminist on television, Honor Blackman as Dr. Catherine Gale, influence your life?

[After watching Cathy Gale in The Avengers] Women were leaving their homes, their kitchens and their creches in droves and going out and starting to throw men over their shoulders, which they’ve been doing ever since. It was sheer luck that the women’s movement was starting to get going then. Patrick Macnee

My name is Robin Redmon Wright, and I am a Ph.D. candidate from Texas A&M University and that statement by Macnee led me to formulate the topic of my dissertation research. And the more I’ve investigated the subject, the more fascinated I have become by the avant-garde nature of the character of Catherine Gale and her influence on female viewers. I am investigating the long-term effects of strong, successful, television female role models by looking at the one female character that was so incredibly far ahead of her time.

I want to interview women who were influenced by Honor Blackman‘s strong portrayal of the world’s first televised feminist heroine. All interviews will be strictly confidential. No real names will be used.

I want to hear your stories! If you can answer any of these questions, I would love to interview you for my doctoral dissertation:

1) What do you remember about the place of women in western culture when the character of Catherine Gale in The Avengers first hit the airwaves in 1962?

2) Did watching Cathy Gale on television have an effect on your choices, actions and/or worldview?

3) Can you tell me any stories about how watching the character of Cathy Gale (or the person of Honor Blackman) affected what you did? How you thought?

If you would be willing to participate in this research project, please email me at and tell me briefly about your experiences. I look forward to hearing from all those fans of Honor Blackman/Cathy Gale who were inspired by the actor and/or the character. Let’s tell the world how much she meant to women. Thank you.

–Robin Wright

My Avenger hoyden is Mrs Peel, not Dr Gale, because I was too young to see those episodes. I find it interesting that in fandom she is always Cathy, never Dr Catherine. Is it because most of Avengers’ fandom is male? Anyway, if Dr Gale was your first TV feminist, Robin Wright would like to interview you.
[the cartoon illustration is from 1964 and was added to Robin Wright’s text by tigtog]

Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism

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