My dad sometimes tells me I’m living the Mary Tyler Moore Life: young, single, working gal in a little apartment in the big city (okay, fine, Baltimore’s not exactly “the big city,” but it’s about 50% larger than Minneapolis, so shut up). But the truth is, I’m not living the Mary Tyler Moore life, and that’s thanks, in part, to Mary Tyler Moore. Ambitious, career-oriented young women like me owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mary Tyler Moore, because her show helped pave the way for the lives we currently complain about, but also love.
I’m not living the Mary Tyler Moore life because when Mary Richards made her debut on America’s TV screens in 1970, a smart, liberated single woman with more interest in her career than family as the protagonist of a TV show was absolutely unheard of. At the time, Mary Richards was groundbreaking. She broke barriers; she shattered glass ceilings; she broke rules–she was on the pill and had premarital sex! Today, young, single, independent career women living on their own aren’t really breaking the rules. In fact, we’re kind of following them. And that’s because women like Mary Tyler Moore changed the rules for us.
My dad had me watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show when I was a kid. It was one of a couple of beloved TV shows from his childhood he had me watch, but it’s the one I enjoyed the most and the one that really stuck with me. At the time, I didn’t realize how groundbreaking and feminist it was, but looking back, it definitely helped shape my lifelong love of girl power, and I’m grateful to my dad for making me watch it.
I think about Mary Tyler Moore and groundbreaking women like her a lot now that I’m a young, single, working woman. I think about all the barriers they broke and battles they fought so that I could be complaining about having to wake up to go to my job that nobody questions whether I should have, and spend the day in my all-female office. I think about how radically different my experience as a working woman is from Mary Richards’ life. I think about how far we still have to go, and the glass ceilings we still have to break. And I think about how far we’ve come and the women who got us there. Mary Tyler Moore didn’t just turn the world on with her smile; she changed it.