Celebrate National Business Women's Day with our favorite TV career women
September 22 is National Business Women’s Day, so what better way to honor women in the workforce than highlight our favorite career gals in classic TV?
Over the last half century, women have made terrific strides in the professional world, and as the years go on, those strides have been documented on television. Did a woman on TV inspire you to follow your career path? Do you wish you had these types of role models on TV when you were growing up? Tell us in the comments!
'Our Miss Brooks' (1952-1956)
Starting off as a radio show, Our Miss Brooks doesn’t seem particularly progressive these days, but back then, a story about a single woman in the workplace was pretty rare — even if she was working in a stereotypically female position. Eve Arden played Connie Brooks, a high school English teacher who was career-minded despite having feelings for her colleague, Mr. Boynton. Though it was cancelled abruptly, it got brief revival in the form of a movie, in which Connie and Mr. Boyton become engaged.
Image: CBS Television Distribution
Julia was praised for breaking new ground in the late '60s as being one of the first series to to feature an African-American woman as the star and filling a role that wasn’t service-related. Julia, played by Diahann Carroll was a widow who worked as a nurse. Though there were romantic interests, the show focused more on Julia juggling work and her son, Corey. It wasn’t free from controversy, though, as many critics felt that Julia’s life was unrealistic for a black woman in the 1960s and thought the show was playing it safe by not writing a black male lead into the show.
Image: 20th Television
'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' (1970-1977)
A list like this wouldn’t be complete without The Mary Tyler Moore Show! Though the Mary Richards character was originally meant to be divorced, writers opted to have the series begin when she decides to her pack up and leave her unfulfilling relationship and move to Minneapolis. Though she applies to be a secretary, she lands an associate producer position at a TV station. The show focuses on her personal relationships as well as her professional life, and she ends up moving up in the company.
'One Day at a Time' (1975-1984)
One Day at a Time was one of the first shows to portray a single mother who had been divorced rather than widowed. Ann Romano plays a woman who re-enters the working world for the first time since she was married, while raising her two daughters on her own. She begins working at an ad agency and later on opens her own company. The series ends with her remarried, and packing up to move to London to continue pursuing her career. It’s been rebooted for Netflix as well. Its first season was released in January and it was picked up for a second season.
Image: Sony Pictures Television
'Cagney and Lacey' (1982-1988)
Cagney and Lacey was inspired by the feminist movement and the idea that there was no one way that a woman can achieve empowerment. The two namesakes of the show, Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey both led completely different lives outside of their jobs as police detectives — Cagney was a single woman focused on her career, while Lacey was married with children. They were both strong and professional, and worked well together as partners and friends. It was canceled twice early on, but thanks to vocal fans, it was brought back on the air twice.
Image: Orion Television
'Murphy Brown' (1988-1998)
Journalism has always been a bit of a boy’s club, so when Murphy Brown hit the air, with Candace Bergen playing a hard-hitting, no-nonsense, successful reporter at a fictional magazine, FYI, it was clear that the character wouldn’t be a typical TV personality. A recovering alcoholic, 40-something Brown wasn’t particularly focused on a personal life, but didn’t play into the idea that a woman has to struggle with a work-life balance. A couple seasons in, Brown becomes pregnant and decides to raise the child alone without having to choose between the child and her career.
Image: Warner Bros. Television Distribution