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Jean Stapleton Disliked Her Role in 'All in the Family' & Never Married after Her Husband's Death

Bettina Dizon
May 18, 2021
11:00 A.M.
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Most known for bringing to life "All in the Family" character Edith Bunker, Jean Stapleton hated her role and hoped most housewives were nothing like Edith. Like her character, she was also a married woman but remained single after her husband's passing.

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Known as one of America's most famous housewives, Archie "Edith" Bunker was well-portrayed by actress Jean Stapleton in the hit television series "All In The Family." Unlike today's depiction of strong and independent women, Edith was a slow-witted and oppressed woman who brought humor to viewers.

Although it brought her fame, Stapleton disliked her character on the show and spoke against Edith in interviews. However, it was the role that she was most associated with until her demise.

The cast of "All in the Family" including Jean Stapleton and Carroll O'Connor, image uploaded on August 30, 2013 | Photo: Flickr/Kipp Teague

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ROLE AS EDITH

Born as Jeanne Murray on January 19, 1923, Stapleton was a graduate of Wadleigh High School and trained in off-way productions at the American Theater Wing. Her time in Hollywood brought her much success and recognition, including eight Emmy Award nominations, of which three she won.

While she is grateful for the opportunities that came her way, she spoke about her role as Edith on "All in the Family," hoping that she wouldn't be the typical American housewife. Stapleton said:

"What Edith represents is the housewife who is still in bondage to the male figure, very submissive, and restricted to the home. She is very naive, and she kind of thinks through a mist, and she lacks the education to expand her world."

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Jean Stapleton in Beverly Hills, California on September 27, 2000. | Photo: Getty Images

Since portraying Edith, Stapleton received several fan mail, of which not many were complaints. Still, some were angry at how the housewife was portrayed. According to the actress, her character was neither a put-down of women. 

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Stapleton's unrelenting love for her late husband remained, and so she never remarried. She remained a widow for 29 years until her last breath.

To Stapleton, Edith was just her true and honest self. "She has her good points – she is very human, very honest, very compassionate, very intuitive, and in most situations, she says the truth and pricks Archie's inflated ego," she said.

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STAPLETON'S HOLLYWOOD SUCCESSES

Stapleton was already in her forties with many acting credits to her name when the classic CBS sitcom brought her fame. "All in the Family" aired from 1971 until 1979. Shortly after, she appeared as a regular on the sitcom "Archie Bunker's Place" but did not stay long.

It took one season for the star to grow tired of the role and eventually leave for better opportunities. In 1982, she starred on "Eleanor, First Lady of the World" and appeared on "Grace Under Fire," bringing two more Emmy nominations.

Her other acting credits include "Damn Yankee," "Those Were the Days," "Cold Turkey," "Route 66," "Studio One," and "Dr. Kildare," "Something Wild," "Bells Are Ringing," "Up the Down Staircase," and more.

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LIFE AS A WIFE

When the camera stopped rolling, Stapleton went home to her husband, William H. Putch, and their two kids, Pamela and John. Putch also works in the entertainment industry as a producer and director at Totem Pole Playhouse in Fayetteville. According to Stapleton, her married life is different from Edith's.

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"My husband doesn't have the male chauvinist attitude that the woman's place is in the kitchen," she shared. "He likes to be married to a woman who has more interests outside the home. He thinks that makes her more interesting."

Stapleton is not a stereotypical housewife. In fact, her loving husband cooks and takes care of the children. The couple, who met during her tour in Maryland, became pen pals and had a courtship that lasted eight years. In 1957, they tied the knot and lived happily.

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PUTCH'S ILLNESS

Their daughter, Pamela, followed in the entertainment industry as a television producer. Meanwhile, John pursued a career as an actor, writer, and director. Sadly, their time together was cut short when Putch died of a heart attack at 60. 

He was previously diagnosed with cancer of the lymph system and entered an experimental program at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda to find a medical cure. He said:

"It may be that her [Stapleton's] supportive faith is the reason why I'm the one of the 15 [people who enrolled for the experimental program] still alive."

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STAYING SINGLE

He was directing "The Showoff" at a Syracuse theater, where his wife starred during his death. Stapleton continued to appear in the play they collaborated on, knowing it was a way to honor him. 

Stapleton revealed that her husband went out that morning and experienced chest pain after his death. "He got in a cab and went to a hospital three blocks away to get help. He was gone in half an hour," she said.

Naturally, Stapleton found it challenging to cope with grief but endured the everyday pain. She and her kids tried to keep Putch's theater alive, knowing it was what he would have wanted.

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Stapleton's unrelenting love for her late husband remained, and so she never remarried. She remained a widow for 29 years until her last breath. On May 31, 2013, Stapleton passed away at her New York City home in 2013. She was 90 years old.

After Stapleton's death, several colleagues paid tribute, including "All in the Family" director Norman Lear. Stapleton undoubtedly lived a long and beautiful life, and although she will always be remembered as Edith Bunker, her reality as a loving wife and mother will always be honored.

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