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Image: “CocoBettie” by Lucille Ball/ CC BY 2.0/Edited from original

For over sixty years, Lucille Ball has been regarded as one of the original “Queens of Comedy,” and rightfully so. From I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show to such classic movies as The Long Long Trailer and Yours, Mine and Ours, Lucy has constantly provided the world with laughter (thanks in part to the magic of reruns). But Lucy did more than just make people laugh: she showed the world that a woman could do anything a man could do — and she could be successful at it, too.

In the 1950s, it was unheard of for a woman to have a prominent job behind the scenes of a television show, let alone being a vice president of a production company. However, Lucy broke the barrier by becoming Vice President of Desilu Productions, the production company she created with her then husband and I Love Lucy co-star, Desi Arnaz (later, after divorcing Desi, Lucy would buy his shares of Desilu and become the first female president of a production company). As Vice President, Lucy not only had a say in the shows that their company produced, but she was able to exert creative control over her own show. Today, now that more and more actresses are running their own shows and owning their own production companies (Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler, etc.), that notion doesn’t seem so radical; but, for the ‘50s, it was. It’s terrible to think, but the idea that a woman could be more than a housewife wasn’t really a popular idea back then as sexism was rampantly distorting the perception of a woman’s role in society.

Not surprisingly, then, not many television shows in the 1950s depicted strong female leads. But Lucy’s show did. Since Lucy had creative control, she made sure that her character, Lucy Ricardo, was not only portrayed as a loving mother and wife, but also as a strong, independent woman (think of all the times she tried to follow her dreams and become a star!). Sure, Lucy Ricardo may have never made it big, and she may have always had some “splainin’ to do” — as Ricky would say whenever Lucy got caught in one of her schemes — but she was a much-needed presence in a medium that lacked strong female leads. And Lucille Ball was a much-needed role model in an era that lacked belief in a woman’s capabilities.

As women, we’ve come a long way since the prejudice and discrimination of the 1950s, yet we still struggle sometimes for respect and equality. Whenever we’re feeling like we just can’t win, all we have to do is be reminded of Lucille Ball. If Lucy could achieve all she did in spite of the terrible discrimination in the ‘50s, then we can achieve anything we want in 2014. All we have to do is stand strong in our belief in ourselves and stand firm in our knowledge that we can do anything we set our minds to.


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