Valerie Harper (born August 22, 1940 in Suffern, New York) is an American actress, best known for the 1970s television role of Rhoda Morgenstern-Gerard, which she played on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and its spinoff, Rhoda.
Harper was born in Suffern, Rockland County, New York, to a mixed Catholic/Protestant family, and raised in Oregon, and started out as a dancer/chorus girl on Broadway in the late 1950s and early 1960s in such shows such as Take Me Along and Subways Are for Sleeping, as well as Wildcat, on which she performed with Lucille Ball.
She also appeared in bit parts in several films beginning with Li'l Abner (1959), when she was a teenager. During the late 1960s, however, Harper worked somewhat less, though she appeared in Carl Reiner's play Something Different in 1968. She also wrote an episode of Love, American Style with her then-husband, actor/writer, Richard Schaal, whose daughter, actress Wendy Schaal (who voices "Francine Smith" on American Dad), was her stepdaughter.
Things changed when Harper got the role of the wise-cracking yet vulnerable uber-Jewish New Yorker, Rhoda Morgenstern, on two CBS TV sitcoms of the 1970s: The Mary Tyler Moore Show (she was a regular from 1970 - 1974) and its spin-off Rhoda (1974 - 1978), in which she played the title role. She won four Emmy awards and a Golden Globe for her work as Rhoda Morgenstern on both series.
She also won a Golden Globe for "New Star of the Year" for her role in 1974's Freebie and The Bean.
She also played family matriarch Valerie Hogan on the 1986 sitcom Valerie. It was renamed Valerie's Family in 1987 and finally The Hogan Family in 1988 after Harper abruptly left the series (following a dispute with the producers) and was replaced by Sandy Duncan.
Harper has worked almost exclusively in television, and has also had roles in made-for-TV-movies and guest spots on a number of series, including Sex and the City. In the 1990s, she advocated hormone replacement therapy for the Eli Lilly company.
Harper is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and ran for President in the 2001 election, losing to Melissa Gilbert.
A 2000 project, Mary and Rhoda, was planned as a reunion series for Harper and her friend and longtime co-star, Mary Tyler Moore, but the project instead appeared as a made-for-TV movie on the ABC network.