1970: Mary Tyler Moore Brings Empowered Women To Prime Time

By Rebeka Knott
Cloris Leachman (left), Mary Tyler Moore (centre), Valerie Harper pose, sitting on stools, wearing Seveties fashions, in a publicity portrait issued for the US television series, 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show', USA, circa 1974. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Ge

What sitcom did the most for women in the turbulent '60s and '70s? The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a feminist showcase that never announced itself as such. For TV's first two decades, women had largely been wives or girlfriends -- often subordinate to male leads, or simply part of the scenery. And for all Lucille Ball's comedic brilliance, her character on I Love Lucy wasn't empowering -- she was often creating messes that her husband had to clean up. The Mary Tyler Moore Show featured a single woman forging ahead in the workplace, whose friends were a working divorcee and a feminist wife with an invisible husband.

Premiering in 1970 and running for seven seasons, The Mary Tyler Moore Show was also, importantly, a show about grownups. It happened in grownup and professional spaces, particularly a single woman's apartment and the offices of a TV station. Mary Richards wasn't wearing an apron or putting a pie on the windowsill, nor was she gossiping all day with bored, mischievous housewives.