The Legacy: Betty White’s Impact on the World

Isabella Hewitt, Multimedia Photo Editor

On Dec. 31, 2021, famous actress and entertainer Betty White died at the age of 99. White, fully known as Betty Marion White Ludden, was born Jan. 17, 1922, in suburban Oak Park, Illinois. She moved to the city of Los Angeles, California at the age of two, where she jump-started her career. 

White’s career debuted in 1939 after she graduated high school, where she immediately went into the entertainment industry. As her first gig, she performed in a radio commercial. White continued to work on the radio and later had her own show, known as “The Betty White Show.”

In Los Angeles, 1949, she continued her radio presence and became a co-host with Al Jarvis on his daily variety show, “Hollywood on Television.” In 1952, Jarvis left the show leaving White to host by herself for four years.

In 1951, White received the Emmy Award for Best Actress on Television; this award made history as the award show’s first award and category designed specifically for women in television. 

Not only did White have a main role on screen, but she played a prominent role behind the camera. White was the first woman to produce a sitcom — “Life With Elizabeth” — in the U.S.; The sitcom launched in the early 1950s, and George Tibbles helped with its development as a writer and producer. 

White continued to appear in over 100 movies and television shows throughout her lifetime, having starred in many iconic productions with roles such as: Rose Nylund in “The Golden Girls” (1985- 1992), Sue Ann Nivens in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1970-1977), Elka Ostrovsky in “Hot in Cleveland” (2010-2015), Bea Sigurdson in “That 70s Show” (1998-2006), Grandma Annie in “The Proposal” (2009) and Grandma Bunny in “You Again” (2010). 

White not only starred in many live-action films and T.V. shows but also voiced characters in multiple animated films such as: “The Lorax” (2012), “Toy Story 4” (2019), “Ponyo” (2008),  “Hercules” (1998-1999), “Trouble” (2019), “Pound Puppies” (2010-2013), “Forky Asks a Question” (2019-2020) and more. 

White not only provided the world with laughter and joy through her acting but was also known for her deep love for animals. Throughout her life, she created “Bets’ Pets,” a fan club intended to help animal charities. She often supported fundraisers for animal welfare organizations, such as the Morris Animal Foundation and American Humane Society. White was not only known for her role as an advocate for animals and against animal cruelty; she was passionate about diversity and inclusion as well. 

Born in the 1920s, when many lived and learned in a close-minded atmosphere, White remained open-minded and stuck up for the issues she believed in. In the 1950s and 1960s, White took a stand on matters pertaining to inclusion and diversity a very controversial move at the time. 

In 1954, she took a public stance against racism when she went against complaints about having a Black performer on her TV show. She continued to take a stand as she fought for LGBTQIA+ rights over the years. Starring with queer characters in “The Golden Girls,” White later spoke about the right to marriage equality in 2014. In 2018, she continued her support over disability rights as a top donor for “Guide Dogs for the Blind”.

Betty White, known as “The First Lady of Television,” has left a great mark in entertainment history and the lives of millions with a legacy that will last for infinite lifetimes.