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How Mary Tyler Moore inspired me to be a female journalist

Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards in her show,

Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards in her show, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." (photo/baltimoresun.com)

She could turn the world on with her smile. She made it on her own and showed women in the 1970s that you don’t need a man to be successful. This woman is none other than the iconic comedian and actress Mary Tyler Moore.

Moore, who died on Jan. 25 at the age of 80, became a feminist icon with her hit 1970 sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show. As Mary Richards, Moore did the unthinkable; she worked as a producer for a news station. She was a woman working in a male-dominated profession. She questioned why she wasn’t paid as much as the other men who worked there. She was a single woman in her 30’s, and she moved to Minneapolis to “make it on her own,” as the lyrics to the memorable theme song suggest.

Moore showed women that they could do things on their own and that their voices matter. The show celebrated female friendship over romantic relationships, and Richards was promoted in her job at the station, rising to become a producer, which was unheard of at the time.

But most importantly, Mary Tyler Moore showed me, a young woman who dreams of “making it on my own” that I can be a female journalist. I can turn the world on with my smile. Richards knew what she was capable of, and she went out and did it. She embodied so much the kind of journalist I want to be, and I know I’m not alone on this feeling. For more than 40 years, Moore has shown generations of female journalists what’s possible both in and out of the newsroom.

She encouraged women to be ambitious, empowered, funny and that it’s okay to be flawed. Her show made a powerful, lasting impression for women, paving the way for women to enter the workforce—particularly in newsrooms.

“Mary Tyler Moore is a television icon who not only entertained millions of Americans week after week with her quick humor and amazing talent, but inspired women of her generation to pursue careers in broadcasting, journalism and related fields,” said David Rehr, president of the National Association of Broadcasters, when he presented Moore with the Distinguished Service Award in 2009.

Moore was a revolutionary woman, from the very beginning of her break-out role as Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. When she was cast to play opposite Dick Van Dyke on the show, she was a 25-year-old dancer and actress. She also had something else—spunk.

From the moment she read the first “Hello” of the pilot episode for her audition, producer Carl Reiner told her to stop. He led her down a hallway and announced her as Laura Petrie.

Moore brought a lot of herself into the role, including her capris pants. Before Laura Petrie, the typical look for women on television was a dress usually covered with an apron. This wasn’t Moore. She wore capris pants. She wanted Laura Petrie to wear capris pants, as well. Women, not just men, wear pants. This was unheard of, but she had written into her contract that she must wear capris pants in at least one scene of every episode.

And so it happened. Moore transformed how women were seen on television, and this was just the first step of her revolutionary career. She brought her spunk to her own television show. She walked into the newsroom with confidence.

Watching Mary Tyler Moore reruns as I grew up, I was inspired by her ability to tackle large obstacles. She inspired me to stand up for myself and my opinions. My voice matters and I can accomplish anything.

The entertainment business lost so many beloved celebrities in 2016—Prince, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. But when I read the news last week that Mary Tyler Moore passed away—America’s Mary—I was shocked. Her death was the hardest one for me to grasp out of all of the other celebrities. I’m still trying to grasp that she is really gone. I think a large part of why I’m struggling to deal with her death is because of how influential she was on my life.

I am in the same place Mary Richards was when her show began. I am a single woman about to graduate college, move to an unknown place to ‘make it on my own.’ I relate so much to Mary Richards. I want to be a successful journalist. I moved my way up on the staff at the Northern Review, and now I serve as the Editor-in-Chief. I’ve made it, but there’s so much more to learn and room to grow.

Mary Tyler Moore showed me to handle life with grace, humor, and, well, spunk. I’ll always be thankful for her contributions to journalism and women’s rights. She sure turned my world on with her smile.

I throw my hat up in the air for Mary.