‘M*A*S*H’: How Loretta Swit Inspired Real-Life Nurses

When the classic TV show M*A*S*H hit the small screen decades ago, fans were drawn to the unique comedy series almost immediately. Based on the massively successful film of the same name, M*A*S*H follows the 4077 medical unit during the Korean War.

Premiering in 1972, the series spoke to audiences despite the fact the Korean War was part of history at that point. In fact, one of the core reasons television’s M*A*S*H resonates with audiences, even to this day, is that while the series follows events depicted in the Korean War, it unfailingly addresses the horrors of war that any generation faces.

Additionally, M*A*S*H’s cast of characters became so quickly beloved by audiences from the jump. Many of whom were instantly appealing to audiences, even inspiring viewers in their own lives.

And, among these characters is Loretta Switt’s Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan. Swit’s Houlihan serves as a nurse for the M*A*S*H 4077 medical unit which is the center of the show’s plot. A character, Houlihan notes, that has inspired a number of viewers to enter a similar field…even decades after the show has ended.

“Half the fan mail I get says things like, ‘I became a nurse because of you,’” Loretta Swit explains of her iconic M*A*S*H character.  

“So, I’m really thrilled,” the actress says.

Loretta Switt’s ‘Hot Lips’ Character Had ‘A Lot To Prove’ On M*A*S*H

The iconic sitcom series MAS*H is set in the 1950s, an era often thought of as the days gone by. And, the popular series certainly was not short of strong female characters. Especially that of Nurse Margaret “Hot Lips” Hulihan. However, she has always believed her character had a lot to prove during the show’s successful run.

“The thing about Margaret was that she was living in the ‘50s,” Loretta Swit explains in a recent interview.

“I don’t think ‘feminist’ was even coined yet,” the actress continues.

“I think she existed before any kind of major movement took over,” she adds. However this, Swit says, is what makes Hot Lips “so spectacular.”

She was “feminist” strong even before the movement even began, years after the sitcom was supposed to have occurred. Swit notes that Houlihan was looking for a career following in her parents’ footsteps, while also finding a passion for what she does.

“The character was ambitious,” the M*A*S*H star explains.

“She’s very strong, very passionate,” Swit continues.

“Her mother was a nurse and her father was a general,” Swit explains “And he always wanted a boy.”

Knowing full well that her father wanted a boy, Margaret “Hot Lips” chose a path that would please both of her parents. So, her general father, General Alvin “Howitzer Al” Houlihan was quite pleased when she became a major. And, one of the top-ranking women serving in the M*A*S*H 4077th.

“She had a passion for life and saving life,” the actress notes. “[But] she had a lot to prove,” the actress notes.

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