If 2017 was the year of women in the workplace being heard, it also saw the passing of two of pop culture’s most iconic working women who gave women a voice when few others did. It’s poignant then that the year began with the passing of the ultimate 1970’s working girl Mary Richards and ended with the death of Sally Rogers, the wise cracking career girl from the sixties.
Rose Marie the dynamo actress, who gave comedy writer Sally Rogers’s life, lost hers at the very close of 2017.
That distinctive, raspy voice spewing out one liners is sadly silenced now.
While much credit is paid to Mary Tyler Moore in her breakout role of Mary Richards as America’s first single career girl, it was Sally Rogers who opened that door for me.
Dick Van Dyke Show
Forever connected as co-stars in that classic sixties sit com The Dick van Dyke show, they represented two ends of the spectrum of a pre feminist female experience.
Whereas Mary Tyler Moore played the perfect suburban housewife, albeit in a smashing pair of tight fitting capris, Rose Marie decked out in her career gal business attire spent her days in a writers bullpen crafting zingers in a N.Y.C. office that she shared with Mary’s husband.
While Mary’s Laura Petrie gave up her promising career as a dancer to marry Rob Petrie and move to the leafy suburbs of New Rochelle, Rose Marie’s Sally Rogers was professional, spunky and well…one of the boys.
And boy oh boy, did that clever career girl loom large in my youth.
…and it wasn’t just because we shared the same first name.
I Wonder What Became of Sally?
As a matter of fact there were two Sallys that figured prominently in this Sally’s childhood.
Both blonde, they were both silly. Like me.
And they both appeared in my life at the dawn of the New Frontier.
See Sally Run. Run Sally Run
In the fall of 1961, just as I entered first grade, our new handsome president entered the White House promising to “move us all forward.” Taking it to heart, I felt exhilarated with my new sharpened pencils and broad lined note pads. I too would be moving forward as I learned to read and write.
It was in those primers that I was introduced to Silly Sally, baby sister to those famed baby boom siblings Dick and Jane. Little Sally, along with Mother and Father, Spot and Puff lived in that mythical world populated by perfect families fitting in seamlessly with the wholesome family world created by the Mad men of Madison Avenue and TVs own fairy tale families, the Cleavers and Andersons.
Father went off to the same mysterious office as Ward Cleaver did, while Mother and June Cleaver would likely enjoy trading tips on vacuuming in high heels.
What they all shared in common was offering up a blueprint for living out the middle class suburban dream. Though Little Sally was often mischievous and independent she was destined to follow in her mother’s high heeled footsteps, literally. Silly Sally
Dick Jane and Sally taught me to read and spell and…toe the line.They were hold overs from the Eisenhower era and the youthful freshness that Camelot was to bring had not entered the primers pages yet.
Along Comes Sally
That October, another Sally appeared in my life, a raspy voiced, wisecracking career gal who pointed to a life outside Middle America, USA.
On Tuesday nights at 8:00 a fast talking firecracker with blonde hair and a black bow exploded, the most clever and colorful career gal I’d ever seen was broadcast in vivid black and white right into my suburban living room.
TV’s Sally Rogers was not only silly, she was sharp, sassy and sarcastic. And single. As a full-fledged member of a comedy writing team on the Dick Van Dyke show debuting that fall, she was a whip smart working professional that was neither a teacher, a nurse, a ballerina nor model, the usual assortment of career choices generally presented to a 6-year-old girl.
Instead of watching a husband and his briefcase come home from a mysterious unseen job in Corporate USA, viewers watched the action in Rob Petrie’s office where as head writer of the comedy variety show The Allan Brady Show, he worked with a saucy gal who could banter with the boys and out wisecrack most of the men around her.
A Man’s World
Still, it was a man’s world.
In the 1950s and 1960s TV writing was very much a male domain.
Carl Reiner who created the show based it on his real life experience writing for Sid Caesars variety/sketch show Your Show of Show in the 1950s.
Sally Rogers was reputed to be based on Selma Diamond a nasal voiced writer on that show where she famously quipped that working as the only woman in a quintet of writers was “like being in Red China- I’m there, they just don’t recognize me.”
Some things don’t change all that much.
Boy oh Boy
Of course Sally was still a product of a pre feminist sensibility where “You were nothing without a man” so Sally was always on the prowl to meet one.
She was a familiar single woman cliché- a wise cracking , self-deprecating, career girl hardened by experience that made her sarcastic and scared off men with her sense of humor and strong personality.
It was hard to escape the false dichotomy of housewife vs career girl which was the prevailing myth at the time with the perfect housewife still depicted as the ultimate goal of every woman. There was always the obligatory story lines about Sally trying to get a date or wondering why Sally had never been married- poor girl”
But there were hints of feminism.
Strong Tall Sally
While Sally did fall into some classic female stereotypes and was more often than not the groups designated typist, she was no secretary, and was strong-willed, witty and most important valued.
Yes, she was still husband hunting and man hungry but she was defined by more than that. She was a dedicated career girl whose words really mattered.
It made me want to be that wise cracking dame trading zingers for a living who worked with men not as a gal Friday but as an equal, a peer. Someone who lived in the city in a post war high rise who took a subway to work, not a suburban housewife who drove a station wagon.
She wasn’t someone’s wife, she wasn’t someone’s mother. She was Sally.
See Sally Write. Write Sally Write
I had no desire to morph into Mother and fill her shoes as it seemed Little Sally was destined to do.
Most important I wanted to type not my boss’s words but my own clever quips.
Just like another saucy Sally.
Copyright (©) 2018 Sally Edelstein
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