“The work makes me feel strong. I like to play women who walk through fire and come out standing.” Linda Lavin’s work as an actor/activist has had a positive influence on many of America’s working women. Although her Jewish heritage has not been the central focus of her acting career, she has powerfully portrayed Jewish women on stage and screen.
Linda Lavin was born on October 15, 1937, in Portland, Maine, to David J. Lavin, owner of a flourishing furniture business, and Lucille (Potter) Lavin, a singer and local radio show host. The Lavins were active participants in the local Jewish community. In 1959, Lavin received her B.A. in theater arts from the College of William and Mary. After struggling to “make it” in Broadway musicals, she became frustrated with the vapid female roles. She switched to drama and was acclaimed for her work in Little Murders, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, and Broadway Bound, which won a Tony Award.
Lavin and Rob Leibman were married in 1969, but they divorced in 1980 because of their divergent interests. Two years later, Lavin married Kip Niven and became a stepmother to his two children, Jim and Kate. Because of his mental and emotional cruelty, Lavin divorced Niven in 1992.
For many, Lavin’s most memorable role is that of Alice in the television show of the same name (1976–1985). The emotional truths of life as a hardworking, single mother spoke to women across the country. The positive response Lavin received led her to political activism championing the rights of working women.
Lavin has received many awards for her work. She continues to perform, produce, and direct in theater and television, consistently featuring female role models.
Brantley, Ben. “New Cast for ‘Sisters Rosensweig,’” NYTimes, September 24, 1993, C3; Brozan, Nadine. “Linda Lavin Is Happy to Pay $675,000,” NYTimes, July 3, 1992, B4; Cimons, Marlene. “My Side: Linda Lavin,” Working Woman (February 1980): 88; Current Biography Yearbook (1987); Notable Names in American Theater; Rich, Frank. “Linda Lavin Takes Her Turn as Mama Rose,” NYTimes, September 18, 1990, 11; See, Carolyn. “Linda Lavin Can Take Care of Herself,” McCalls (October 1978): 114; “When Linda Lavin Meets the First Lady, She’ll Speak of Women Like Alice,” NTimes, May 4, 1994, 8; Who’s Who in America (1996); Who’s Who in Theater.