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By Joanna Valente
TV icon and womenâ€™s rights advocateÂ Mary Tyler Moore, who was in an interfaith marriage,Â died today after being hospitalized in Connecticut. She was 80 years old. Her representative,Â Mara Buxbaum, told the Huffington Post in a statement:
â€śToday, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine. A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile.â€ť
That statement isnâ€™t hyperbole either. Without Tyler, the way women are portrayed in mediaâ€“and treated in real life, especially at workâ€“would not be the same. The Mary Tyler Moore ShowÂ was the first show to give serious attention to independent working women. Moore, who initially got her big break on theÂ 1960s sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, started her own show in the â€™70s, where she played a 30-year-old working woman who never marriedâ€“something unheard of on TVÂ at the time.Â
Here are three reasons Mary Tyler Moore was a feminist icon:
1. Mooreâ€™s character, Mary Richards, famously askedÂ for equal pay to her male co-worker in Season 3, episode 1. The fact that equal pay for women is still largely up for debate is, well, depressing.
2. Thereâ€™s also that episode where Mary goes on the pill. Hello, womenâ€™s lib. You can watch it here on Hulu.
3. MooreÂ ran the show. Literally. Moore was a boss lady.Â The Mary Tyler Moore Show director Alan Rafkin recalled in his autobiography how this was the case, stating:
â€śFirst and foremost Mary was a businesswoman and she ran her series beautifully.Â She was the boss, and although you werenâ€™t always wedded to doing things exactly her way, you never forgot for a second that she was in charge.â€ťÂ
Even Oprah famously said in aÂ PBS documentary celebrating the actress that Moore â€śhas probably had more influence on my career than any other single person or force.â€ť Moore herself identified as a feministâ€“andÂ she told Larry King on his show that her character certainly was:
â€śShe wasnâ€™t aggressive about it, but she surely was.Â The writers never forgot that. They had her in situations where she had to deal with it.â€ť
The show itself ran for seven seasons and held the record for most Emmys wonÂ at a whoppingÂ 29, until â€śFrasierâ€ť broke it in 2002. Besides her acting, Moore was also an animal rights activist, as she foundedÂ Broadway Barks 15, an annual homeless cat and dog adoption event in New York City, and fought for legislation to protect farm animals from inhumane suffering.
But thatâ€™s not it either. Moore was also an advocate for researching cures for diabetes and served as the international chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Moore herself suffered fromÂ type 1 diabetes (and was diagnosed at age 33), and nearly became blind from it in recent years.
Moore, who was not Jewish, is survived by herÂ husband Robert Levine. She and Levine (who is Jewish) were married for 33 years. She was a mother to herÂ son, Richard, who died in 1980 of an accidental gunshot.
We will miss you, Mary Tyler Moore.
This article was reprinted with permission from Kveller.com, a fast-growing, award-winning website for parents raising Jewish and interfaith kids. Follow Kveller on Facebook and sign up for their newsletters here.
Joanna Valente is the Editorial Assistant atÂ Kveller. She is the author ofÂ Sirs & Madams,Â The Gods Are Dead, Xenos, andÂ MarysÂ of the Sea, andÂ received her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College.Â You can follow herÂ @joannasaidÂ on Twitter, @joannacvalente on Instagram, orÂ email her atÂ firstname.lastname@example.org.