Bea Arhur is best known for her role as Maude on Golden Girls. She made the world laugh through her talent and her wit. Comedy and performance, however, is not all that Arthur will be remember for.
During her life, Bea Arthur was a constant advocate for support of the LGBTQ community. In 2005, Arthur put on a performance of her one-woman show in order to raise money for the Ali Forney Center, a shelter for LGBTQ youth. She raised and donated $40,000 that night.
"These kids at the Ali Forney Center are literally dumped by their families because of the fact that they are lesbian, gay or transgender — this organization really is saving lives," Arthur explained to Next Magazine.
"I honestly don’t know how we would have made it through the recession without that extraordinary gift. Bea Arthur truly meant it when she said she would do anything to help our kids," Carl Siciliano, the executive director of the Ali Forney Center, wrote in a Huffington Post piece.
Another cause Arthur supported was helping to raise money for HIV-AIDS research. Although she gave back to the organization during her life, her donation after her death of $25,000 to the AIDS Services Foundation Orange County made a truly invaluable impact.
After hearing about the donation, ASF co-founder Ken Jillson said, "I can’t believe it. After all these years she’s still doing wonderful things for ASF."
Monetary donations are not Arthur's only impact on the world. She was always a strong feminist that many believe paved the way for the current rise in feminism. Throughout all of her acting career, Arthur managed to bring difficult topics such as abortion or women's rights to the forefront of conversation.
"I think, in both of those shows, we really did change the perception of a woman’s role. I don’t think anybody thought that it was okay to be a feminist back when she was doing Maude," Rue McClanahan told Entertainment Weekly about Arthur.
Many episodes of "The Golden Girls" tackled issues of sexuality, ageism, and feminism and the show wisely used Arthur’s wit and spirit to hit home with these issues.
"She really taught me and every other woman my age how to be a feminist at a time when that was a dirty word," Rosie O'Donnell told Playbill of Arthur. "And without her, I think, there would not be as many funny women on television today."
Arthur cared. She lived her life by fighting for the causes that mattered to her. Whether it was equal rights for women, support for LGBTQ teens, or research for AIDS, Arthur lived with a purpose.
In 2017, Arthur's legacy will continue to grow with the completion of the Bea Arthur Residence in NYC to house and protect homeless LGBTQ youths. Although she is gone, she has never stopped giving.
"I thank you for your compassionate heart and your noble spirit", Siciliano wrote the Huffington Post. "I thank you for recognizing that LGBT youths are deserving of love, and speaking out for them. I thank you for your amazing generosity that got us through tough times. From the bottom of my heart, Bea, I thank you for being a friend."
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