09.20.12 Truth & Wisdom

Seven Inspirational Women In Television History

Seven Inspirational Women In Television History

BY Rebecca Fernandez

Television played a central part of my life growing up. I’m not saying my mother plopped me in front of the tv everyday and left me there, but I was an only child, and honestly I felt connected with my tv families. I was obsessed with all different shows, from Dobie Gillis and The Patty Duke Show (who doesn’t want an identical cousin?!) to Saved by the Bell and Full House. I grew up with the kids, I learned lessons from their mistakes and I loved being a part of their story.

I was always particularly intrigued by the matriarchs of television. I myself have one of the greatest mothers of all time, but every woman is different, and every woman nurtures in her own way. I studied the different relationships they had with their husbands and friends, and most of all their children. These characters lived and loved for the world to see, and they were fabulous.

In the spirit of amazing (albeit fictional) women, I have compiled a list of some of my all-time favorites, in chronological order.


1. June Cleaver – Leave It to Beaver
Barbara Billingsley played a woman who embodied the spirit of the late 1950s American mother. She was beautiful, well dressed and a whiz in the kitchen. She tended to her children’s injuries and fed them after school snacks. She may have played into the stereotype of the “woman in the kitchen” ideal, but she did it so very well, right?


2. Donna Reed – The Donna Reed Show
Donna Reed was a true pioneer for women. She was one of the first women to own her own production company, and helped transform her own plateaued movie career into an Emmy-winning television series where she played a charming and sophisticated woman.


3. Florida Evans – Good Times
The role of Florida Evans, played by Esther Rolle, began on the series Maude, where she was a housekeeper to Maude and Walter. Her character was a smashing success, and eventually moved on to star in Good Times. In season three, Florida’s husband James was killed in a car accident, leaving her a grieving widow. This turn of events was fairly groundbreaking for its genre, and needless to say, Esther was an amazing actress.


4. Roseanne Connor – Roseanne
Roseanne was a central part of many millenial women’s lives. I don’t know many people who didn’t grow up with the Connor family, and honestly, I would be skeptical of someone who didn’t love them. I had the name “Becky” for most of my life, and I always felt like I shared Becky Connor’s (both of them!) embarassment at the chicken-call-sounding name. Clearly that episode still resonates with me. Roseanne handled a lot of life’s lemons by creating laughter out of them. Although they didn’t always magically solve their problems as a lot of television families do, the Connors almost always came together in the end and showed that love and family can conquer all.


5. Clair Huxtable – The Cosby Show
I can’t think of many women more beautiful and sophisticated than Clair Huxtable. She was so smart and classy, and just oozed feminine confidence. She managed to run the family and have a successful career and be everything to everyone, all the time. And somehow still loved her husband even though he wore those ridiculous sweaters.


6. Angela Chase – My So Called Life
Whoa. This show came at a time for me when my hormones were out of control and nobody understood me, OKAY?! I couldn’t believe my luck when I found Angela, a teenager who made a lot of terrible life decisions so I didn’t have to. Someone who loved grungier clothes, had wilder hair and sighed even more than me. And the eye rolling! We were practically soul mates.


7. Liz Lemon – 30 Rock
Any woman who wants a pocket deep frier is tops in my book. Liz is a overly-worked, under-appreciated food-aholic who is constantly wrangling some of the craziest personalities in show business. She has no problem talking about her shabby undergarments or her love of Cheezy Blasters and gosh darnit, shouldn’t we all have that kind of confidence? Because I’m wearing a genie bra as I’m writing this, and yes, it’s damn-near medical looking, but I’m comfortable. And that’s all that matters.

I created a site called The Women Take Over, where we celebrate all things feminism and feature inspirational women (and men!) who are making a difference in our fight for equality. I once lost a spelling bee on the word “civilian” and have never misspelled it since. You can follow me on Twitter @ParksFernandez, Instagram and Tumblr if you'd like- no pressure.

Comments

  • SO MANY! Off the top of my head:
    Vivian Banks – Fresh Prince of Bel Air
    Elyse Keaton – Family Ties
    Leslie Knope – Parks and Recreation

    • Love Leslie Knope! I wanted to list Vivian Banks, but then you get into the whole WHICH VIVIAN BANKS DO YOU CHOOSE?? debate. Great additions!

    • Chrissa

      Elaine Benes – Seinfeld
      Sally Soloman – 3rd Rock From the Sun
      Clarissa & Alex Mack – Nickelodeon legends
      Just a few more that I heart.

  • Chrissa

    Only child here too! I have amazing parents but I also grew up with TV. Sometimes the girls in school aren’t the best role models, so I’m glad I had TV ladies like the ones above to show me the way. LOVE LIZ & ROSEANNE!

  • Sarah

    Love Claire Huxtable too – such a terrific tv role model.
    Two of my favorites are Mary Richards – and Rhoda Morgenstern.
    @facebook-644316122:disqus – great additions to the list!

  • Jan

    I just loved Marlo Thomas as “That Girl!”

  • Ana

    Liz!!! Love her!

  • Great list! I also LOVE Lucy Ricardo 🙂

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