The Mary Tyler Moore Show, while being a funny and loved show, is seen as one of the first “feminist” shows on television. Long before Ally McBeal or Murphy Brown, The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the first show featuring a woman focused on her career, rather than home and family, as the main character.
The feminist movement of the 1970’s obviously saw an opening with the show to make it and its star a standard bearer for organizations like the National Women’s Political Caucus and feminist leaders, Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan. However, while not a conservative, Mary Tyler Moore rejected their overtures at getting her to sign on to their movement.
“I believed, and still do, that women have a very major role to play as mothers,” said Moore. “It’s very necessary for them to be with their children. That’s not what Gloria Steinem was saying. She was saying you can do everything and you owe it to yourself to have a career. I really didn’t believe that.”
In other words, Mary Tyler Moore was a practical feminist. She realized that as with anything there were tradeoffs to having a career and being a mother. Moore herself was a working mother but understood the importance of parents (mothers in particular) raising their own children, and such a thing necessarily required a sacrifice of career to some degree.
Ironically, Moore should be considered an even greater feminist icon for declining to sign on to the groupthink of 2nd and 3rd wave feminism which tells women to reject their maternal role for career and money.