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Betty White: A Life Well Lived

Betty White was a beloved American Icon who not only made many people laugh with her witty jokes when she was on the big and little screens, but also stood up for groups without the ability to speak for themselves. Being a master at comedy, she was able to use empathy in order to create beautiful stories and was an unmovable force that refused to give up well into her 90s.


Betty White was born on January 17, 1922, in a small town in Illinois. Her early childhood was spent in California during the great depression, where she grew a love for animals and aspired to become a forest ranger. At this time, women were not permitted to become forest rangers. Undeterred, Betty White pursued an interest in writing, which led to her joining her high school's theater program. This love of performing would stay with her entire life, however it was put on hold when she joined the American Women's Voluntary Services and assisted during WWII, driving trucks filled with military supplies.

Her early life and heroism during her youth is something she will be well renowned for even after her passing. After serving in the war, she began her early career going to multiple studios to try to get a contract—she was told that she was unattractive and not pretty enough to be signed as an actress. Soon after this, in 1949, she became a radio personality, picking up odd uncredited jobs and doing voice overs for different productions for a measly $5 per job.


This inconsistent stream of bad jobs only pushed Betty White to continue this dive into stardom. She eventually started up her own radio show called The Betty White Show, quickly fast tracking her way towards early television. White began to work on multiple sketch comedy shows and other smaller projects before she and her assistants created the show Life With Elizabeth, which became one of the first nationally syndicated shows to be partly owned by a woman! Even at the age of 28, Betty White was able to make change within the television industry and set new standards that indicated just how much of an incredible woman she would be throughout the rest of her life.

From this early fame, she got her own variety show which would become very famous for its controversy rather than any other comedic premise. When she took over her show, it was nationally aired on NBC. On one of her show's 1954 episodes, White introduced a new talent named Arthur Duncan. Duncan was a black tap dancer; in the anti-black south, seeing him on the show was extremely controversial. NBC and White were sent nonstop letters from Southerners who were angered by his appearance. NBC attempted to convince White, who was producing and starring in the show, to remove Duncan. However, she refused and continued to air Duncan, which led to her show's cancellation and full removal from TV. Betty White never regretted this decision and, like any decent person, saw this action as the morally correct thing to do.


Despite her show's controversy, her career continued on smoothly and she became a walking legend. In the 80s, she joined the series The Golden Girls, which became a massive success and is now one of the major things people think of when they hear the name Betty White. This role would be one of her last starring roles, as she humbly stepped back from the spotlight and took less lead roles. With so many roles and achievements throughout her career, it's easy to get lost within White’s entire history—she remained popular even without many roles and continually adapted to a new generation of stars.


Betty White fought for those who couldn’t speak for themselves and she did just that through her work on animal rights. She was a board member of Los Angeles Zoo Association and also a donator to animal rights organizations up until her passing. Despite Betty White’s passing, the love many feel for her has lived on! The news of her death made front headlines and sparked nostalgic conversations all over social media. She is now being remembered fondly in many different ways, including murals and talk shows. She was a woman who did so many amazing things and helped so many people…rest in peace, Betty White.

Special thanks to PBS documentary on White, Salon.com, People.com, Wikipedia, Betty White's personal biographies, and The Washington Post for their information on White and her extraordinary life.

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