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How M*A*S*H Actress Loretta Swit Helped Turn Her Character Into a Feminist Symbol

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Actress Loretta Swit was best known for playing Maj. Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan on the popular 70s TV show M*A*S*H. Loretta helped shape Margaret into a strong, complex woman long before such characters were commonplace in television.

"The, of course, writers are getting to know us better and are starting to take from our personalities and use that," Loretta tells WhereAreTheyNow.Buzz. "But we now have the freedom to say, 'Well I don't think I would say that.' There was an excitement, a creativity, you don't find on every job."

As Loretta tells it, she shaped the trajectory of her character from being married to surgeon Frank Burns to moving to Tokyo and falling in love with a West Point graduate. On a conference call with the writing team, Loretta said she feels Margaret had "run the gamut with the relationship with Frank Burns." As they were writing her more intelligent," she says, "they were writing him sillier, and the audience was having trouble finding a way to make that compatible." In a way, she says, the relationship had become "demeaning."

Ultimately, Margaret discovered her new husband is cheating on her, prompting her to leave him. When she comes back to her stomping grounds, she says, she "realizes that she doesn't really need another person to complete her life as she had it there. She was busy, she was ambitious, she was caring, she wanted to be the best damn nurse in Korea, and that was her ambition. She was a real first.

Next, Loretta is releasing a book of watercolor paintings of animals called SwitHeart: The Watercolor Artistry & Animal Activism of Loretta Swit, with the proceeds of the sales being donated to a host of animal-rights organizations. Additionally, in February, she stars in Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks at the Annenberg Theater in Palm Springs, California.

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