Saturday, January 28, 2017

You're Gonna Make It After All

I believe the sadness we feel when a celebrity dies lies in the impact that person made on our own lives.

Ted Baxter and Mary Richards on WJM set
I felt very sad Wednesday when I learned of the death of actress Mary Tyler Moore. Yes, I remembered her as Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke show - who could forget "Oh, Rob...".

And I remember being totally fascinated that it was her voice, her legs, and only those, at the beginning of every episode of Richard Diamond, Private Detective (one of my very favorite TV shows).

But it was her role as Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show which affected me the most. The hair, the clothes, the attitude, the suggestion (assurance) that I could make it; I could have it after all.

In my 'Mary Richards' dress, SE Beltway office, December, 1973

This came at a time in my life (the show aired from 1970 to 1977) when I had remarried, had two more children, and divorced again. The line from the show's theme song, "How will you make it on your own?",  repeated over and over in my head during sleepless nights. It wasn't just me I had to worry about, it was also my three children. I drew strength from Mary's positiveness. "It's time you started living. It's time you let someone else do some giving. Love is all around."

Mary represented a new role model for me. The personification of women in the workplace (so aptly portrayed in 'Mad Men' years later) was on the way out. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, NOW (National Organization of Women) and the fight for the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) were at the forefront of showing me there was another way of living my life - a way more in line with my way of thinking - a way to be a woman true to being myself.

With every episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, I felt more empowered. She wasn't afraid to stand up to her boss and ask for equal pay. She may not have had family near by, but she cultivated her own family of friends with whom she found strength and empathy. She helped me see that there could be forward motion even after the set backs.

So, yes, I felt sadness when I heard that Mary Tyler Moore had died. I also felt great gladness for the life she lived and gratitude for the world she opened for me through one of her acting roles.

And I remember my first trip to the Twin Cities, staying downtown, walking through the skyway above Nicollet Mall, looking, hoping to see, even though I knew it was impossible, Mary Richards on the street below.


  1. When I heard that she has passed, you were the first person I thought. I remember watching her show and how you shared with us kids that you could do anything just like she did in her show. You inspired me more ways than one when we watched that show together.

  2. Thanks, P. There was a lot to like and learn in watching those episodes. She really did inspire me and a lot of other women.