‘All in the Family’ Star Jean Stapleton Died on This Day in 2013

ALL IN THE FAMILY, Jean Stapleton, 1971-1979 Season 7
Everett Collection

Jean Stapleton, best known as the good-hearted Edith Bunker on All in the Family, had a long and successful career before her death on May 31, 2013. She was 90 years old and proved that she was a lot like her character in real life as her former co-star Sally Struthers once called her “a walking, living angel.” Stapleton began her career at 18 years old, inspired by her uncle and brother. She made her New York debut in the Off-Broadway play American Gothic, later appearing on Broadway in musicals such as Damn Yankees, Juno, and Funny Girl.

As many do, she made her way to television and got roles in shows such as Dennis the Menace, My Three Sons, Woman with a Past, and The Patty Duke Show. It was in 1971 that she got her big break as Edith on All in the Family, a role that would earn her three Emmys and two Golden Globes. Her character appeared in the spin-off series Archie Bunker’s Place until Stapleton asked to be written out of the show, feeling as if her time as Edith was over.

ALL IN THE FAMILY, (clockwise from top): Rob Reiner, Sally Struthers, Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, 1971-1979

Everett Collection

After All in the Family and Archie Bunker’s Place, she appeared on The Muppet Show and in TV movies Tail Gunner Joe and Aunt Mary. She also portrayed Eleanor Roosevelt in the TV movie Eleanor, First Lady of the World. Stapleton reportedly turned down the starring role in Murder, She Wrote and the role went to the late Angela Lansbury. She did however star alongside Whoopi Goldberg in the ’90s show Bagdad Cafe and played Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in a children’s series.

BAGDAD CAFE, Whoopi Goldberg, Jean Stapleton, 1990-91

Everett Collection

Stapleton continued to work in the ’90s and very early 2000s, and even voiced a video game character for the game KinderActive. Her final acting role was in the 2001 TV movie Like Mother, Like Son: The Strange Story of Sante and Kenny Kimes alongside Mary Tyler Moore. In her personal life, she was active in the Christian Science church and was married to William Putch from 1957 until his death in 1983. They had two children together, John and Pamela. Both now work in the entertainment industry as well.

MICHAEL, Jean Stapleton, 1996

New Line Cinema/Everett Collection

All in the Family creator Norman Lear once said, “No one gave more profound ‘how to be a human being’ lessons than Jean Stapleton.” It seems that she was just as much of a gem as she appeared to be on television. May she continue to rest in peace.

Favorite TV Families
Want More?

Favorite TV Families

April 2019

Celebrate the best of the best of TV families!

Buy This Issue