Jeanne Murray, aka; Jean Stapleton, aka; Edith Bunker died yesterday. She was 90 years old. According to her son, John Putch, she died of natural causes, surrounded by her immediate family. Those of us who came of age during the 1970s, fondly remember watching the show All in the Family, for which she became famous.
The daughter of an opera singer and businessman, Stapleton grew up on Long Island and in New York City. It was there during the early 1940s, while working as a typist for the British War Ministry Office, that she began her career in theater.
She worked on Broadway, appearing in shows such as, Damn Yankees, Ring the Bells, and Funny Girl, and on TV shows like Dr. Kildare and Lux Video Theater, before landing her most famous role of the lovable, naive, beer fetching Edith.
I remember hearing criticism of the program for humanizing the bigotry of Archie. They also criticized Edith’s character because of her submissiveness to her husband. But those critics failed to recognize satire. This was, after all, the time of Gloria Steinem, bra burnings, Ms Magazine, NOW and protests for the ERA. To many of us here at Uppity’s Place…..The Good Old Days! Or to quote the show’s theme song; Those Were The Days!
Boy the way Glen Miller played, songs that made the hit parade, guys like us we had it made…..
Yes Archie was a guy. Guys had it made….and Archie liked it that way!
That was the point of the show, using Archie’s character to expose the soft bigotry of the time, with humor. As for Edith, Archie clearly loved her, but treated her like hired help. But we loved Edith too! At least, I know I did! Hearing Archie frequently call her “dingbat” and telling her to “Stifle!” and declaring an argument, “Case Closed” made me cringe! I wanted to *liberate* Edith! I wanted to liberate all women….especially myself!
…and you knew who you were then, girls were girls and men were men….
Yes, that was the point. Archie was struggling to come to terms with the changes he saw going on in society in the 70s. He didn’t want that kind of change, he, like Lou Dobbs and Erick Erickson of today, wanted to be the Dominant One! The Man of the House!
What happened over the run of the program from 1971-1979, was a slow evolution of the characters, especially Edith. Edith began to become more assertive and independent. When she got a job, part-time outside the home as a caretaker for the Sunshine Home, I cheered her on!
Yea Edith! You go girl!!
The character Edith didn’t die yesterday, she “died” on the show in 1980. Stapleton wanted to pursue other projects. She played Eleanor Roosevelt in a made for TV movie, and later in a one woman show on Broadway.
But you know I’ve been wondering about something all day, in light of Uppity’s post on the neanderthal Erick Erickson and his views on women in the workplace. You know that pseudoscience invented by his own very manly cinnamon roll brain that says men are biologically predetermined to be the DOMINANT one in a marriage……I’ve been wondering what a 2013 Edith would say to Mr. Erickson. I think she might say something like this, “GO STIFLE YOURSELF!!!”
Was Edith Bunker a feminist? You tell me.
RIP Jean Stapleton.
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