Valerie Harper (born August 22, 1939) is an American actress, known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern on the 1970s television show The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and for her starring roles on the sitcoms Rhoda (a spin-off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and Valerie.
Harper was born at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, Rockland County, New York. Her Canadian-born mother, Iva (née McConnell), was a nurse, and her father, Howard Donald Harper, was a lighting salesman. Harper is of French, English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry, and was raised Catholic. The family would move every two years because of her father's promotions, living in South Orange, New Jersey. St. Andrews in Pasadena, California (where Harper attended the school St. Andrews); Monroe, Michigan, at age 10, where she attended St. Mary's Academy; then Ashland, Oregon "at 11 to 13"; and then Jersey City, New Jersey from eighth grade through age 18. When her family returned to Oregon, Harper remained in the New York City area to study ballet. She has an older sister, Leah; a younger brother, Don (originally Merrill); and a half-sister, Virginia, from her father's second marriage. Harper based her future character Rhoda Morgenstern both on her Italian stepmother, Angela Basilico, and Penny Ann Green (née Joanna Greenberg from Brooklyn), with whom she danced in the Broadway musical Wildcat.
Early TV-comedy influences included Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, Joan Davis, Your Show of Shows, and, later, Mary Tyler Moore in The Dick Van Dyke Show. She attended Lincoln High School in Jersey City, and finished high school at the private Young Professionals School on West 56th Street, where classmates included Sal Mineo, Barbara Dana, Tuesday Weld, and Carol Lynley. She has been married to Tony Cacciotti since 1987.