‘The Golden Girls’ Star Bea Arthur Broke Television Taboo With a Controversial Abortion Storyline in ‘Maude’

by Jeremy Spirogis
Bea Arthur as Dorothy, Rue McClanahan as Blanche, and Betty White as Rose Nylund

Bea Arthur is perhaps greatest identified to followers lately because the cantankerous and witty Dorothy from the sitcom The Golden Girls, however lengthy earlier than she was making viewers chuckle in that collection, she was part of a number of different main tv reveals.

Arthur’s function within the collection Maude was not solely groundbreaking for tv usually, however throughout her days on the present, she was concerned in a number of storylines that modified the course of how ladies have been portrayed in community tv. 

How Bea Arthur turn out to be well-known

Bea Arthur as Dorothy, Rue McClanahan as Blanche, and Betty White as Rose Nylund
Pictured: (l-r) Bea Arthur as Dorothy Petrillo-Zbornak, Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux, Betty White as Rose Nylund | NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

RELATED: ‘The Golden Girls’: Inside Bea Arthur’s Alleged Feud With Betty White

According to IMDb, Arthur was born in New York in 1922. When Arthur was 10 years outdated, her household relocated to Maryland, the place younger Arthur started to expertise well being issues stemming from a situation that brought about blood clotting points.

Arthur was finally in a position to overcome her well being issues and through World War II, Arthur enlisted as one of many first members of the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. She labored as a typist, a truck driver, and a dispatcher throughout her time in service, finally getting honorably discharged in 1945.

Several years after she was discharged from army service, Bea Arthur determined to pursue a profession in performing. She began by performing in a wide range of stage productions, together with off-Broadway performs. By the ’60s, Arthur was a longtime title on Broadway and had earned popularity of her performances in reveals similar to Mame and Fiddler on the Roof

Bea Arthur starred in ‘Maude’

Beatrice Arthur as MaudeBeatrice Arthur as Maude
Beatrice Arthur as Maude Findlay on ‘Maude.’ | CBS Photo Archive

In 1971, Arthur appeared as a visitor star on the favored TV collection All within the Family. As Maude Findlay, the outspoken, liberal cousin of conservative Edith Bunker, Arthur was completely tart and sarcastic.

Viewers beloved her efficiency as Maude, a lot in order that after a number of extra visitor spots on All within the Family, Arthur was approached about starring in her personal spinoff collection.

Maude debuted on tv in 1972 and made a star out of Bea Arthur. The collection addressed plenty of matters that had not been handled on tv earlier than, together with homosexual rights, the Vietnam War, ladies’s rights, abuse, menopause, alcoholism, and way more.

However, one explicit two-part episode brought about controversy amongst viewers, an episode that handled a sensitive, however very related matter.

How did Bea Arthur’s abortion storyline in ‘Maude’ break tv obstacles?

The two-part episode, Maude’s Dilemma, featured a very powerful storyline. The episode instructed the story of how Maude was stunned with a late-life being pregnant and the best way that she agonizes over what to do about it.

Ultimately, Maude decides that the most effective plan of action is for her to have an abortion. While such subject material may appear comparatively par for the course on tv today, in 1972, it brought about a significant stir. In many states, abortion was nonetheless unlawful, and plenty of community associates refused to air the episode.

According to a report by the Chicago Tribune, abortion had been featured in not less than one tv collection previous to the Maude storyline, however by no means instantly — and by no means as one thing dealt with by a number one character.

As Arthur later recalled: “‘The amount of mail was incredible. ‘I can’t call it hate mail, although there were a few that said, `Die, die,` but most were intelligent people who were deeply offended, and very emotional about it. I think the problem was I had become some sort of Joan of Arc for the middle-aged woman.”

Ultimately, regardless that it brought about main controversy on the time, the two-part episode made historical past and has since turn out to be a cultural touchstone. 

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