Betty White: The American Actress, Author, and Activist


Molly Lavelle '24, Community Writer

Betty White was a beloved American actress and TV star. She was most popular for her vast roles in the entertainment industry since the 1940s, but is also known for the many things she did in her life. Betty Marion White was born on January 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois to Horace and Tess White. She rose to fame early in her life, working in various projects and radio shows around the 1940s. She co-founded Bandy Productions so that she could be in charge of her own projects. Betty was one of the first women to work both in front of and behind the camera.  Around this time, she married Lane Allen, who she would end up being married to for a few years. She continued acting in many other projects like That 70’s Show, Mama’s Family, Love Boat, and many more. She then met her next husband, Allen Ludden, who she would be married to until his death in 1981. White never gave birth to any children herself, yet stated many times in interviews how grateful she was to be a stepmother and help raise her husband’s children. Having children of her own was never a priority for White, she wanted to focus on her career. Betty’s career was not short-lived at all, as her popularity continued to grow until her very last days. In 2010, White starred in a Superbowl commercial that took the country by storm. Fans went crazy afterwards, and begged for her to participate in more recent productions. She ended up hosting Saturday Night Live alongside Jay-Z, after previously rejecting the show 3 times.

Though Betty White has been in numerous different movies and TV programs, there are specific iconic roles that she will be remembered by. White was featured in The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the character Sue Ann Nivens. The sitcom was about a newly single woman who moves to Minneapolis and works at a fictional TV station. White would recieve 3 Emmy nominations for her role, and won two of them. White is also famous for her role in The Golden Girls. After its debut in 1985, the show skyrocketed to fame. Betty White, along with her costars Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, were seen as the most iconic women of the time. However, White was not only an actress; she was a popular author and animal rights activist. White wrote many autobiographies about her life in the television business publishing her first one in 1987. White was also a devoted animal welfare activist. She received the National Humanitarian Medal from the American Humane Association. 

Betty White sadly passed away on December 31, 2022, only a few weeks before her 100th birthday. She passed away due to a stroke that she had just six days earlier. Though this was a sad time, the world did not forget about her. White’s legacy lives on now more than ever. After her death, fans created “The Betty White Challenge.” The challenge was started on social media and encouraged people to donate just $5 to any animal rescue organization on her birthday on January 17. Betty would be happy to know the positive impact that her death caused in America. This small challenge that started on Instagram has brought in around 12.7 million dollars. Betty White was a beloved woman, in all aspects, and her loss is massive for America. Everyone in the film industry has been grieving, but try to also celebrate that which she did; she lead an eventful life.