Florence Henderson may have earned a reputation of being one of the most iconic classic TV stars in the world after playing Carol in The Brady Bunch. But her climb to fame wasn’t lined with red carpets and star-studded events like many actors.
While most celebrities are born into the industry, Henderson was born into poverty. The Hollywood Walk of Famer grew up in rural Indiana to tobacco sharecropper parents Joseph and Elizabeth Henderson. Henderson was the youngest of 10 children. And at an early age, she had to learn how to cook on a tight budget in order to ensure her large family could eat proper meals.
In fact, those skills were something she cherished well into her life. And in 1988, she recounted her kitchen memories and shared budget recipes in a book titled A Little Cooking, A Little Talking and a Whole Lot of Fun.
“I learned how to work wonders with pinto beans or with a potato,” she said in a 1995 interview, per the IndyStar. “When we were lucky at home, we had fried chicken.”
Outside of the home, Florence Henderson’s chores continued as she had an obligation to help her parents’ farm. In 1994, she admitted that she spent many days picking worms off tobacco leaves. And those experiences were inevitably what made her decide that she was going to be a TV star.
“Sometimes on Saturdays, I got to go to the movies. That made me realize there was another world out there,” she said. “I always had hope.”
Florence Henderson Wanted to Be Remembered for Her ‘Sense of Humanity’
And that hope took Florence Henderson far. After graduating from St. Frances School in 1951, she went on to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City on a singing scholarship.
Once she earned her degree, she quickly found her first role at the age of 21 in a TV series called I Spy. And from that day forward, she remained busy on screen.
Henderson celebrated many successes throughout her career. Obviously, her most known achievement was landing her spot on The Brady Bunch in 1969. But she also had other notable achievements, like being the first woman to guest host The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1962. But in the end, Henderson didn’t want her list of accolated to define her in death.
Florence Henderson passed away in 2016. But years earlier, she spoke with the Television Academy Foundation and shared that she hoped that people don’t remember her as just a star—but as a star who managed to stay true to herself despite the fame.
“[I want to be remembered] as someone who survived for a long time in a very tough business and, hopefully, managed to retain a sense of humanity,” she said.