Why Mary Tyler Moore Refused to Join the Feminist Movement
Mary Tyler Moore was not what most people would call a conservative. But what may surprise many television fans mourning her passing at age 80 Wednesday is that the actress also didn’t consider herself a liberal.
In the 2013 PBS series Pioneers of Television: Funny Ladies, Moore explained that despite her TV character’s image on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as a never-married working woman who became a feminist icon, she turned down Gloria Steinem’s invitation to join the feminist movement.
“I believed, and still do, that women have a very major role to play as mothers,” said Moore. “It’s very necessary for them to be with their children. That’s not what Gloria Steinem was saying. She was saying you can do everything and you owe it to yourself to have a career. I really didn’t believe that.”
As to electoral politics, Moore endorsed Jimmy Carter during his 1980 re-election campaign. But fast forward to 2008, when she said she would have done the same for Republican presidential nominee John McCain had he asked her to do so. (Memo to GOP: Missed opportunity.)
In an interview in 2009, Moore told Parade magazine, “When one looks at what’s happened to television, there are so few shows that interest me. I do watch a lot of Fox News. I like Charles Krauthammer and Bill O’Reilly.”
When asked if that meant she was a “right-winger,” Moore replied, “Maybe more of a libertarian centrist.”
Moore first found fame in the 1960s as homemaker Laura Petrie in The Dick Van Dyke Show. In her most famous role, as Mary Richards in the 1970s, she no doubt blazed a trail for women in America.
But, refreshingly, unlike so many actresses of her time, she wasn’t angry about it. And that’s one reason she will be remembered as the woman who could, and did, “turn the world on with her smile.”
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