Loretta Swit became a familiar face in the 4077th during M*A*S*H‘s 11-season run. She played the iconic role of Maj. Margaret Houlihan and was the only woman to be a regular cast member on the series.
Swit was credited in 251 episodes and was equally versatile in comedy and drama. Following behind Swit was Kellye Nakahara, who played the role of Lt. Kellye Yamato and was only credited in 44 episodes.
Pursuing a dream career in acting is already tough business, but being one of the only women among dozens of men? That’s intimidating!
While Swit was on M*A*S*H, she felt she had a big responsibility to represent women across the country. Her dedication and love for Maj. Houlihan could be seen in interviews, on our TV screens and even on Swit’s Instagram, where she still posts about M*A*S*H.
In a 1982 interview with Asbury Park Press, Swit said she often felt invisible as a female actor. Working in a male-dominated industry was difficult for Swit, which is why she kept doing it.
“I like to play a strong character,” Swit said. “I don’t like to see women portrayed as inferior or weak.”
There were times Maj. Houlihan wasn’t afraid to throw a punch, get dirty or even be outspoken. These were all things that helped normalize women on TV.
Swit’s mindset would help her land future gigs, too.
“Little girls don’t grow up playing team sports. Little boys do. They grow up with a spirit of camaraderie,” Swit said. “Little girls are set against each other, and they are taught that daddy knows best.”
Despite Swit’s success and her love for the M*A*S*H cast… she said she struggled with feeling heard in Hollywood. According to the interview, Swit often made suggestions that would go ignored. During a meeting in 1981, Swit suggested something and was met with this response: “Thank you very much dear, that won’t work.”
“The meeting went on. A couple of minutes later, McLean Stevenson repeated my suggestion, and everyone said what a good idea it was,” Swit said. “Then Mack told everybody, ‘You know, guys… Loretta made the same suggestion 10 minutes ago.'”
Even with the hurdles Swit went through, she has a lot of love for the M*A*S*H cast and crew. They were her friends and people she developed close bonds with during the 11 seasons.
“There will never be another M*A*S*H,” Swit said in a 1982 interview with The Burlington Free Press. “We were a very unique bunch. When I contemplate not going to set every day, I get teary and emotional. I know I will not lose this connection with these people. We are family forever.”