Bea Arthur made a career of playing formidable, opinionated women in movies and on television. Arthur served in the US Marine Corps during WWII. She studied at the New School’s Dramatic Workshop but was unable to find work, so she began singing in nightclubs and reading bit parts on Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows before her role as Lucy Brown in Threepenny Opera in 1954 earned her a reputation as a good character actor. This led to her creating the role of Yente the Matchmaker in Fiddler on the Roof in 1964 and winning a Tony for her performance of Vera Charles in Mame in 1966. In 1971, she became Maude first on All in the Family and then on her own spin-off, Maude, winning an Emmy in 1977 for her portrayal of the strong-willed feminist. Arthur made headlines for an episode where her character chose to have an abortion, which aired two months before Roe v. Wade. She won a second Emmy in 1988 for her role as the leader of a group of older women friends on Golden Girls and earned an American Comedy Award for her guest work on Malcolm in the Middle in 2000.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Bea Arthur." (Viewed on January 16, 2018) <https://jwa.org/people/arthur-bea>.