Beatrice "Bea" Arthur (May 13, 1922 - April 25, 2009) was an American actress, comedienne and singer whose career spanned seven decades. Arthur achieved fame as the character Maude Findlay on the 1970s sitcoms All in the Family and Maude, and as Dorothy Zbornak on the 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls, winning Emmy Awards for both roles. A stage actress both before and after her television success, she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Vera Charles in the original cast of Mame (1966).
Arthur was born Bernice Frankel to Jewish parents Philip and Rebecca Frankel in New York City on May 13, 1922. In 1933 her family moved to Cambridge, Maryland, where her parents operated a women's clothing shop. She attended Linden Hall High School, an all girls school in Lititz, Pennsylvania, before enrolling in the now-defunct Blackstone College for Girls in Blackstone, Virginia, where she was active in drama productions. During World War II she served 30 months in the Marine Corps, where she was one of the first members of the Women’s Reserve and spent time as a typist and a truck driver despite publicly denying any military service. When she enlisted, Arthur was described as "argumentative and "over-aggressive." The recruitment officer concluded, however, that she is: "Officious—but probably a good worker—if she has her own way!"
From 1947, Bea Arthur studied at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with German director Erwin Piscator. Arthur began her acting career as a member of an off Broadway theater group at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City in the late 1940s. On stage, her roles included Lucy Brown in the 1954 Off-Broadway premiere of Marc Blitzstein's English-language adaptation of Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera, Yente the Matchmaker in the 1964 premiere of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway, and a 1966 Tony Award-winning portrayal of Vera Charles to Angela Lansbury's Mame. She reprised the role in the 1974 film version opposite Lucille Ball. In 1981, she appeared in Woody Allen's The Floating Light Bulb. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1994 portraying the Duchess of Krakenthorp, a speaking role, in Gaetano Donizetti's La fille du régiment.