December 7, 2003 by

Ethel Winant

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Categories: Hollywood

ewinant.jpgEthel Winant, the first female executive of a major television network, died on Nov. 30 of complications from a heart attack and stroke. She was 81.
Winant began her career in show business in the 1940s as a production assistant on the Broadway plays, “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Death of a Salesman.” i Her interest in television blossomed after her first visit to a studio rehearsal. She returned the following day to learn everything about making a TV show — from running errands to directing productions.
In the “Golden Age of Television,” most women worked as secretaries or assistants. Winant, however, broke through the glass ceiling when she was made senior vice president of talent, casting and special projects at CBS. There she babysat “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” a project others at the network disliked. Winant loved its premise and personally cast the ensemble series. The sitcom became a ratings hit from 1970 to 1977, generated three spin-offs and won 29 Emmy Awards. During her years at CBS, Winant also worked on “The Twilight Zone,” “Lost in Space,” “Green Acres” and “Hogan’s Heroes.”
Winant later served as the vice president for program development at the Children’s Television Workshop, and as the senior vice president of mini-series and novels for TV at NBC. She won numerous awards, including a special Emmy for her work on the show, “Playhouse 90,” two Peabodys, the Humanitas Prize and the Crystal Award from Women in Film. In 1999, Winant was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

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