She denied it for years, but now the truth comes out. Bea Arthur was a Marine. She was born in 1922 in New York as Bernice Frankel. Her parents owned a woman's clothing store and she went to an all girl's high school where she'd acted in high school plays. She then went to an all women's college, and in 1943, she joined the U.S. Marine Corps. as a typist and truck driver.
She was one of the first women reservists, as a matter of fact. She stood 5 foot 9 inches tall, had brown hair and eyes, and weighed 158 pounds.
She was known to be argumentative and over-aggressive and her recruitment officer wrote in the record and was “officious—but probably a good worker—if she has her own way!"
She did have one 'misconduct' in her record, which was a case of venereal disease, which kept her out of work for five weeks, and which reduced her pay during that time. She was given an honorable discharge with the rank of Staff Sergeant.
She married a fellow marine, Robert Alan Aurthur, who was also a screenwriter, director and producer, and she took his last name, but changed the spelling to Arthur, and was known as Beatrice Arthur.
After the Marines, she studied acting at New York's The New School, then began acting on stage.
Before her most famous TV roles, she won a Tony for her role in the original Broadway cast of Mame. She divorced Arthur and married Gene Saks. Arthur and Sake adopted two sons during their marriage.
Aaron Spelling wanted her to guest star in All in the Family as the timid Edith Bunker's outspoken feminist cousin, Maude Findlay. Arthur's height, deep voice and personality made her well suited for this role.
She then starred in Maude as Maude Findlay, in the famous spin off TV show, and later in The Golden Girls. She won Emmys for her roles in both TV shows. Bea Arthur also had a sister who looked a lot like her. Upon her death, she bequeathed money to various youth groups.
She also described in a handwritten note in her Marines file, that she had studied lab technique and worked in a lab and in a hospital, but that she didn't like lab work. She took another job, but found she didn't make enough to support herself. She notes that she had dabbled in dramatics in high school. She studied piano and orchestra for 13 years, and sang contralto. She enjoyed hunting with a 22-caliber rifle.