Marlo Thomas

Posted by Arab American Institute on June 02, 2015 in Blog

Marlo_Thomas_-_1968.jpg.jpegMarlo Thomas is an award winning actress, author, and activist best known for her role in “That Girl.” Breaking ground not only in show business, Thomas leveraged her fame to shed light on gender inequality, and continues to empower women worldwide. 

Thomas was born on November 21, 1937 in Detroit, Michigan to the famous comedian Danny Thomas and Rose Marie Cassaniti. She and her two siblings, Terre and Tony, continue to follow in the footsteps of their Lebanese father, not only in their careers in entertainment, but also continuing the sense of community and the importance of giving back that their father instilled in them by opening St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Raised in Beverly Hills, California, Thomas graduated from the University of Southern California with a teaching degree. Soon after, Thomas began performing in regional theaters around the United States, and landing television shows such as Bonanaza, McHale’s Navy, Ben Casey, Arrest and Trail, The Joey Bishop Show, and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis - to name a few. Her big break, however, came in 1965, when Mike Nichols cast her as the lead in the stage production of Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park.

One of Thomas’ most memorable roles was as star of the sitcom That Girl. The first show of its kind, That Girl centered on a single, working class woman who did not live with her parents. The show is largely credited for leading the way in changing the perceptions of women through the medium of television.

In 1972, Thomas released a record album and illustrated book, later transforming into television specials, titled Free To Be…You and Me. Featuring songs and stories from prominent celebrities, Thomas encouraged gender neutrality with the overarching concept that any individual - boy or girl - can achieve their dreams.

A year later, Thomas became one of the founders of the Ms. Foundation for Women, a non-profit organization created to deliver funding and other resources to worldwide organizations focused on empowering women.

Thomas’ talent is apparent not just through the countless movies and Broadway shows in which she appears, but also in her writing. Thomas is the author of six best-selling books: Free To Be…You and Me, Free To Be… A Family, The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2: Your Turn, Thanks & Giving All Year Long, and Growing Up Laughing.

Over the course of her career, Thomas has been the recipient of a Grammy award, four Emmy’s, nine Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe, the George Foster Peabody Award for Television Excellence, the American Women in Radio and Television Satellite Award and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for exceptional humanitarian efforts and outstanding contributions to our country. Recently, in 2014 President Barack Obama awarded her the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

At the age of 77, Thomas not only follows in her father’s footsteps in giving back to the community, but continues on that path by encouraging others to do the same. Ever mindful of her roots and the country that opened its arms wide to her family of immigrants, Thomas serves as National Outreach Director for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, highlighting the groundbreaking research St. Jude provides on NBC. Thomas’s work is inspiring to all, and from the looks of it - she is far from finished. 


Read more stories about Arab immigrants and their descendants on the "Together We Came" main page.