‘The Brady Bunch’: Florence Henderson’s Poor Upbringing and Being 1 of 10 Children Shaped Her Life

by Keeli Parkey

Long before she was Mrs. Carol Brady on “The Brady Bunch,” actress Florence Henderson was just another child growing up in Indiana. And, it was this upbringing that helped shape the adult she would become later in life.

Details about Henderson’s early life were shared in an article by IndyStar.com on Nov. 25, 2016. Henderson passed away on Nov. 24, 2016. According to the article, the actress had nine siblings. And, she was the youngest of all of them. She was born to parents who worked as sharecroppers. She grew up poor and that was a difficult experience.

According to IMDb.com, Henderson’s parents were Joseph Henderson and Elizabeth Henderson. He was in charge of the farm. She was a homemaker.

IndyStar.com reported that Florence Henderson shared details about her childhood in her 1995 cookbook. It was titled, “A Little Cooking, A Little Talking and a Whole Lot of Fun.”

Here’s what Henderson reportedly shared in the cookbook: “I learned how to work wonders with pinto beans or with a potato. When we were lucky at home, we had fried chicken.”

That’s a world away from having Alice prepare meals for the entire family on “The Brady Bunch.”

Even though she was the youngest of 10 children, Florence Henderson still had responsibilities around her family’s home. And, some of those responsibilities do not sound fun at all. According to IndyStar.com, Henderson talked about these “childhood chores” during an interview in 1994. On her list of duties – going into the family’s fields and finding worms on tobacco leaves. Her job was to pick the worms off of the leaves.

In addition to the hard work, the future “Brady Bunch” actress did get to have fun. And, that fun helped motivate her to leave her humble beginnings behind.

“Sometimes on Saturdays, I got to go to the movies,” Henderson reportedly said in 1994. “That made me realize there was another world out there. I always had hope.”

Florence Henderson Left Indiana to Find Stardom Years Before ‘The Brady Bunch’

Florence Henderson’s path to becoming the mother of “The Brady Bunch” took her from her hometown of Dale, Indiana, to New York City, according to IMDb.com. After she graduated from St. Frances School in Indiana during 1951, she moved to New York City. There, she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts on a scholarship. It was her voice that allowed her to receive the scholarship.

She reportedly used her voice to entertain the people of her Indiana community. According to IMDb.com, she sang for such organizations as the American Legion, the Kiwanis, and the Elks.

Henderson worked as a “Today” girl during 1959 and 1960. She even became the first woman to work as a guest host of “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” That guest hosting job came in 1962.

“The Brady Bunch” aired from 1969 until 1974.