Since the invention of television, American sitcoms have commonly depicted a traditional family of a mother, father, and children. However, The Mary Tyler Moore Show is an example of a television sitcom that has branched away from this trend through Mary Richards’ character as a successful, independent woman who exerts power through her high-power career and non-conformity to traditional gender roles. The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a direct reflection of women’s strengthening independence in relationships and authority in the workplace that was propelled by the Feminist Movement of the 1960’s. The Mary Tyler Moore Show advocates female power in the workplace, proves single women’s capability of having economic stability without male support, and encourages the new socially acceptable practice of women no longer needing to be with a man to be validated in society.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show shows the daily life of Mary Richards, a single and self-supporting woman in her thirties, who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1970. Mary Richards works as an associate producer for WJM-TV’s Six O’clock News, and is good friends with her boss, Lou Grant. Lou treats Mary like a daughter and has her best interest at heart, in which his soft side is exposed. Mary Richards is very happy as a single woman and is not seeking a relationship, contrary to stereotypes. Her character highlights the satisfaction her job brings her and how she does not need a man in her life to allow her to be her best. The Mary Tyler Moore Show, created by James L. Brooks and Alan Burns, aired on CBS from 1970 until 1977.
The Feminist Movement that started in the 1960’s was strongly influenced by the social, cultural, and political climate of gender inequality in the preceding years. The 1950’s were a decade dominated by male superiority in which society’s attitudes towards women rested upon the belief that women relied upon men for not only for support, but also for survival. For example, single women were not eligible to own credit cards, which exemplified how society was structured based on the idea that single women were not capable of the same things that men were. The ideal role of the female was to be a docile wife and homemaker, raising children, and actively taking care of the home. As stated in Gloria Lane’s article, “Women’s History in America,” “Maternity, the natural biological role of women, has traditionally been regarded as their major social role as well” (Lane). The resulting female social role in the 1950’s was to continue to represent oneself as a maternal figure, taking care of their children while their husbands went to work. The Feminist Movement brought on a new perspective of female adequacy in society that changed women’s roles in the home and workplace in the 1960’s. The activist groups that supported the Feminist Movement, as stated by Julie Peters and Andrew Wolper in Women’s Rights, Human Rights: International Feminist Perspectives, “used the human rights framework to promote the achievement of women’s rights in the interrelated areas of political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights” (Peters and Wolper 19). The Feminist Movement aimed to entitle women to the same career opportunities, such as “equal work for equal pay,” to own property, and to have martial, parental, and religious rights. As Julie Peters and Andrew Wolper continue stating, women were viewed as having “economic dependency upon men, and consequently the poor socio-economic status of women restricted their entry into the workforce” (Peters and Wolper 12). The Feminist Movement aimed to break women free of these confining social standards and expectations of female dependency upon men that predisposed them to becoming housewives and/or not entering the workforce.
According to the article "Modern Times: 1950-Present," a startling example of this was during President John F. Kennedy’s term in office, in which only 9 of the 240