Rick: What Mary Tyler Moore meant to my mother


For me, Mary Tyler Moore represented what it meant to be both successful and a person with Type 1 diabetes.   My parents and I watched her program each week and I can recall my mother saying she has type 1 diabetes like I do.  Meaning like my mom did.  Her apparent health gave me hope and by extension the belief that my mom might be OK.  I can recall when I was diagnosed with diabetes that my mom said, you can do anything and Mom used Mary Tyler Moore as an example of a successful person with diabetes.

American feminism defined

Mary Tyler Moore represented American feminism in the 1970’s as America’s most successful middle aged working woman on TV who was not married.  The Mary Tyler Moore Show was about adults facing adult issues, in an adult and humorous way.  We often forget that the Mary Tyler Moore Show was about women making it in the world without a man to guide them and doing so successfully.  It was as much a revelation in sitcoms as was All in the Family, That Girl or the Jefferson’s to name a few.

Mary Tyler Moore was diagnosed with diabetes at age 33 and she embraced being a person with type 1 diabetes during her career.  For me, when I was diagnosed in 1974 I learned something about how to say I have diabetes from Mary Tyler Moore.  I can say that when I saw such a successful person with type 1 diabetes I related to her career and causes.

In later years I followed Mary Tyler Moore’s struggle with retinopathy and I always marveled at what a remarkable figure she was both for the diabetes community and as a woman who never let diabetes get in her way as an actress or human being.

More than diabetes

But she was about more than just diabetes.  She embraced animal rights organizations and commented that she wished to be remembered as an animal rights activist.  Most of us are content to be remembered for one thing, let alone two major causes.

Most of my readers know that my mother was very ill with complications from type 1 diabetes beginning in the 1960’s until 1986 when she passed at age 46.  When I was 13 and heard Mary Tyler Moore had diabetes it gave me hope that my mother might be ok, hope for my mother’s health was in short supply then.  When I heard that Mary Tyler Moore had retinopathy and was using laser treatments like my mother she gave me a belief that my mother might one day see again.    When my mother died, Mary Tyler Moore’s advocacy for diabetes causes gave me an example of what I, as a person with type 1 diabetes, should do for my community.    When Mary Tyler Moore died last week I cried and said thank you for her 50+ years of service to my community.

I know we have lost a friend of our community, but like many of us who loved her advocacy I feel like I have lost a friend of the family.

Rick Phillips.

4 thoughts on “Rick: What Mary Tyler Moore meant to my mother”

  1. A psychiatrist I worked with thought that Mary Tyler Moore’s portrayal of a bereaved mother in Ordinary People was the most accurate depiction of grief that he had seen on film.


  2. And thank you Rick for your article. It is good that Mary had a long and meaningful life despite her diabetes which was more difficult to manage when she was diagnosed. For instance there was no blood sugar monitoring available.


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