Woman Who Reinvented Soap Operas Dead at 93

Agnes Nixon dealt with dicey topics never before seen on TV
By Daniel Kay,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2016 1:45 PM CDT
Woman Who Reinvented Soap Operas Dead at 93
Agnes Nixon arrives at the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards on Sunday, June 27, 2010, in Las Vegas.   (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Agnes Nixon, the woman who helped create the soap opera as we know it, is dead at age 93. Nixon rose to prominence during the '60s and '70s, and NPR describes her as one of the only powerful women in the entertainment industry during that era. Just like Nixon herself, two of her more famous creations were well-loved and and long-lived: All My Children ran for over four decades, while One Life To Live aired for 44 seasons. Both ended in 2011. Nixon was well-known for using her shows to draw attention to controversial social issues. Her plots addressed everything from cancer to abortion to homosexuality, issues often elided by many TV shows of the era. As the New York Times notes, Susan Lucci's character on All My Children was the first on TV to have a legal abortion—in 1973, just after Roe v. Wade.

"I wasn't trying to change the genre, I was just trying to write what I thought, what was interesting to me," Nixon told NPR in 2010. The Washington Post asserts that she "quietly made soap operas relevant," noting that a story line she wrote about a Guiding Light character's uterine cancer in 1962 is considered the first health plot in a daytime drama. Alumni of her shows have responded to Nixon's death with an outpouring of love, support, and admiration, notes the Los Angeles Times, which rounds up examples of the tributes to the woman known as "Amazing Agnes." Lucci, for instance, writes that she is "devastated" but "forever grateful." Nixon died of pneumonia, a complication of her Parkinson's disease. (Read more Agnes Nixon stories.)

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