By Meredith Lepore
Updated Dec 29, 2014 @ 7:15 am
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Credit: Andy Kropa/Getty Images

One of America's favorite sweethearts Mary Tyler Moore turns 78 today. And the TV icon is still turning the world on with her smile.

Born in Brooklyn, she originally got work as a professional dancer and had a very successful run as "Happy Hotpoint," a tiny elf dancing on Hotpoint appliances in TV commercials during the 1950s series Ozzie and Harriet. But it wasn't until the early 1960s that she began to really pursue acting as a career. Her big break came in 1961 at the age of 23 when she was cast as Dick Van Dyke's wife, Laurie Petrie, in the very popular Dick Van Dyke Show.

But that was just a warm-up. In 1970, she made her name as Mary Richards, a young, single woman working in a newsroom with a moody boss and a zany group of friends and neighbors, in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It was a ratings hit and an important part of the women's movement the country happening at the time. Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, author of Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And All the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic, called the show "TV's first truly female-dominated sitcom." It was the first time a woman's perspective was as important as a man's on a TV show. The Mary Tyler Moore show aired for seven seasons and won a record number of Emmys during its run.

Moore also became well-known for her charity work and is the International Chairman of JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). She has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of diabetes mellitus type 1, which she was diagnosed with at 33. She is also an animal rights activist. Cheers to the impressive Moore on her special day!