Women’s History Month Spotlight: Betty White

Good afternoon, residents of the 93rd! For this week’s Women’s History Month Spotlight, I’m focusing on Betty White!

Did you know that American actress Betty White was born in Oak Park, IL in 1922? At a young age, her family moved to California where she developed a love for the outdoors and acting. During her high school years at Beverly Hills High School, she acted and wrote performances, and then graduated in 1939.

When WWII began, she volunteered for the American Women’s Voluntary Service, participated in events, and delivered supplies to local soldiers before troops were deployed. When the war ended, she attempted to pursue a career acting on television, but went into radio due to being told she was “not photogenic”. She read commercials and had small speaking parts, and eventually in 1949 she had her first break in television on Al Jarvis’s Hollywood on Television. Eventually, White became the host, which required her to do 5.5 hours of live ad-lib television 6 days a week for 4 years. In 1951, she was nominated for her first Emmy Award as best actress on television, which was the first award and category specifically designed for women in television.

In 1952, she co-founded Brandy Productions and launched her first television series, Life with Elizabeth, which she developed with George Tibbles. “He wrote and I produced,” White explained to The Hollywood Reporter. “I was one of the first women producers in Hollywood.”

White’s sitcom career began with The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977), and then she played Rose Nylund in the 1980’s sitcom The Golden Girls. Most recently, from 2010-2015 she  played Elka Ostrovsky on Hot in Cleveland. In 2010, at the age of 88 she hosted Saturday Night Live, and she won an Emmy for her performance.

During her career, she won five Primetime Emmys, one competitive Daytime Emmy, a Los Angeles regional Emmy, and a lifetime achievement Daytime Emmy. Throughout her career, she was nominated for 16 Primtime Emmys. In 1995, she was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, and then she won a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. Throughout her career, White broke several barriers for women in the television industry.

In January 2021, White told People Magazine that “having a sense of  humor” is the key to a long and happy life. “Just looking at the positive side and not dwelling on the downside. [It] takes up too much energy being negative.”

-Dr. Kristen Strom