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Bea Arthur, Actress Marine Corps vet

Women and Adversity: Memorial Day Tribute

Bea Arthur, Actress and Marine Corps Veteran

Few people know that actress Bea Arthur of “All in the Family,” “Maude” and “The Golden Girls” enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943 when she was 21. She was stationed in Washington, D.C. and later at bases in North Carolina and     Virginia. She was a typist and drove a truck while in the service. She reached the rank of staff sergeant, and was one of the first members of the Women’s Reserve. In interviews she denied being in the military, yet records show she spent 30 months in the Marine Corps.

Born in New York City as Bernice Frankel, she grew up in Maryland where her parents ran a dress shop. She dreamed of being an actress but feared her parents would disapprove.

She changed her name to Bernice Arthur when she married fellow marine, Robert Arthur. They divorced and she entered the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research in New York in 1947, with her parents’ approval, and changed her name to Bea Arthur.

She started out in dramatic roles although her true talent was comedy and sarcasm. She became a hit in 1964 when she played Yente the Matchmaker in “Fiddler on the Roof.” Success followed when she played Vera Charles in “Mame” in 1966 under the direction of her second husband, Gene Saks. They adopted two sons but divorced in 1978.

Bea Arthur died of lung cancer in 2009.

More about Bea Arthur:

Article By: Jo Ann Mathews

I published three ebooks in 2020: Women and Adversity, Honoring 23 Black Women; Women and Adversity, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers; and Women and Adversity, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. These books are meant to be study guides for all students from grade school through college to help in choosing topics for assignments and to learn more about these noteworthy women. Go to, and to learn more.

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