Olivia Walton: The makings of a modern woman

"I think Olivia would have been all for women's lib."

Warner Brothers

As Olivia Walton, Michael Learned was able to, in a sense, play a modern woman during a period piece. Olivia Walton was fierce, independent, and intelligent, ideal qualities not just for a wife and a mother, but for a human being.

Learned spoke proudly of the dynamic between Walton family parents Olivia and John during an interview with the Simpson's Leader-Times. "In the Waltons time, men and women had a real partnership," she said. "They worked together, long, hard hours. Today, when someone asks where are the pioneer women, I ask the question, where are the pioneer men?"

Moreover, despite the fact that The Waltons takes place in the past, Learned felt that Olivia Walton would still be right at home during 1974, at the printing of the interview. "I think Olivia would have been all for women's lib," she said. "She had a great sense of her own personal pride. She's not a stereotyped woman of her times, I try not to let her be like that."

Learned was actively involved in Olivia's development, and she helped shape the character into more of an independent one as the series progressed. "The character has changed; she participates more." Learned said in an interview with Gannett News Service, "The first two years I did a lot of coffee pouring and telling children to go to bed. She's a little less rigid now, has a few more weaknesses and strengths, and more of a point of view."

No matter what time period she was in, Olivia Walton served as a mentor to both her on-screen children and the viewers watching on television. In an interview with the Kokomo Tribune, Learned argued that perhaps the Walton family could teach today's kids a thing or two. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if this [The Waltons] had an effect," she asked, "along with living off the land and caring for it?"

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4 Comments

MikefromJersey 23 days ago
I remember back when Michael Learned appeared in a two part "Gunsmoke".
Instead of the plain, dressed down Olivia Walton, she was a babe, who knew?
The Walton's costume department must have worked overtime disguising her attributes.
Matt Dillon was nuts, he should have stayed with her instead of returning to Dodge.
LabLove 23 days ago
I don't get the feeling that Olivia would have approved of the womens lib movement at all.
harlow1313 25 days ago
If The Waltons were made today, Ben would state that going forward he wishes to be known as "Jen," and would raid Mary Ellen's closet.
Bob 25 days ago
"Learned felt that Olivia Walton would still be right at home during 1974, at the printing of the interview."

Earl Hamner's mom was still alive in 1974, so Learned would have known how she felt about 'modern women'.
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