‘All in the Family’: Jean Stapleton Once Said She Hoped ‘Typical American Housewives’ Weren’t Like Edith Bunker

by Will Shepard

All in the Family is one of America’s favorite shows from the 1970s. To this day, it still sarcastically depicts the social landscape of America exceptionally well. It was one of the first sitcoms to become a prime-time television show.

Jean Stapleton starred as Edith Bunker and appeared in all 208 of the episodes on All in the Family. Her character on the show was the stereotypical housewife of the 1970s.

Stapleton was always displaying subservient behavior as Edith Bunker in All in the Family. Moreover, her character was the traditional wife of the time period. The director would even have to tell her to stifle her true character to be more like the stereotypical housewife of the period.

However, in real life, Stapleton was the direct opposite of her television show character. Outside of All in the Family, she worked incredibly hard to earn more rights for women.

Jean Stapleton unfortunately passed away in 2013.

Stapelton Did Not Want Women to Emulate the Character She Played on “All in the Family”

In an interview with the New York Times from 1972, Stapleton talked about her character. She hoped that no one took her All in the Family character at face value.

During the interview, she noted that her character is much different than her real personality. Stapleton explains that her All in the Family character is designed to ridicule the prejudices of housewives.

She distinctly described her character in the interview. She hoped that no woman looked at Edith’s role on All in the Family as ideal.

“At least I hope she’s not the typical American housewife. What Edith represents is the housewife who is still in bondage to the male figure, very submissive, and restricted to the home. She is very naive, and she kind of thinks through a mist, and she lacks the education to expand her world. I would hope that most housewives are not like that.”

It is safe to say that Stapleton’s work outside of the show proves that she did exceptional work for women in her time. Television shows nowadays are portraying women in a much different light, thanks, in part, to Stapleton’s work on All in the Family.