Blog

Mary Tyler Moore and feminism, after all

 Valerie Harper as Rhoda, Cloris Leachman as Phyllis and Mary Tyler Moore in the 1977 final episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Valerie Harper as Rhoda, Cloris Leachman as Phyllis and Mary Tyler Moore in the 1977 final episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Mary Tyler Moore – who died Wednesday of cardiopulmonary arrest after pneumonia at age 80 – was the Jackie of TV. And like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, she road the wave of feminism from chic wife and mother to career woman.

If Laura Petrie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” was White House Jackie in Capri pants, Mary Richards on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was Jackie O, the Doubleday and Viking editor, a sweater draped nattily over her shoulder. But Mary was not only a career woman, she was a certain kind of working woman, one who, unlike Jackie, had to go home and cook and face being alone. One of the enduring images for me of the opening montage later into the series’ run was of Mary resignedly throwing a piece of meat into a grocery cart. Life’s full of mundane tasks, no matter how glamorous you may be. And full of fragile colleagues and quirky neighbors – part of your extended family – who need your sunny bolstering.

Mary gave them, and us, that and more, paving the way for Murphy Brown and “30 Rocks’” Liz Lemon, women who didn’t always have a significant other but always had their brains, self-possession and circle of friends.

That’s why she made it, after all.