When I was growing up in the 1970s, I didn’t know many career women besides my mother. Women portrayed on television and in movies tended to embrace pre-feminism stereotypical tradition roles for women circa the 1950s.
I vividly recall a Hanes commercial where a female reporter was running up the steps of a courthouse in a trench coat and Hanes with a microphone and a pad in her hands. It was the first time I realized that women could be reporters (and not run their pantyhose). I thought, "I might like to do that."
But there was one woman on television who was in television news that ignited more than a just spark in my adolescent dreams, Mary Tyler Moore.
She played a funny, charming, bright, hard-charging news producer in her 30s. At the time, I didn’t yet understand the impact she would have not just on me, but on a generation of young girls who didn’t see anyone else in the entertainment world representing working women.
Suddenly, we had another option, a new path, a role that represented something different and exciting. Something we didn’t even know we wanted until we saw it modeled for us. We saw the possibilities of what we could be.
My mother was a lawyer by trade, but before she landed there, she was a typist (yes, with a college degree) for an insurance company, a high school English teacher and a small business owner. She took a winding path to her ultimate goal, mostly because no one told her in 1962 that being a lawyer was even a possibility for a woman. She went back to law school in her late 30s while raising two children and paved the road for women like me who never even considered we couldn’t do something because of our gender.
I never questioned that I would have a career due to the unwavering support and guidance from my parents, but also because of role models like Mary Tyler Moore who came into our living rooms every night and showed us we could do it.
Now, thanks to so many women who came before us, my daughters are being raised in a world where they see no limits, even those that others may try to impose on them. They are strong, confident and driven. I can’t wait to see what they will do with all their spunk and passion.
So, rest in peace Mary Tyler Moore. Know that you were more than just a quirky actress. You will always be remembered for plowing through the glass ceiling with a smile …
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.