Patricia Reichardt (1966-)
Patricia Reichardt’s birthday is October 4th, but she was “born” on August 22, 1966 when she was eight years old. She was introduced as the girl who lived across town from fellow eight-year-old Charlie Brown and was dubbed “Peppermint Patty” to differentiate her from another “Patty” who had been hanging out with Charlie since his birth on October 2, 1950.
Peppermint Patty was one of several characters created by cartoonist Charles Schulz for his popular “Peanuts” comic strip. The comic featured the antics of Charlie, Linus, Lucy, Schroeder and Snoopy the dog. When Patty made her debut, it was quickly apparent she wasn’t like other girls: For one thing, she wore shorts and a T-shirt (All other cartoon characters dressed as proper ladies in skirts or dresses) and she “didn’t act like a girl” to repeat the frequent criticisms of the time.
Schulz has said he created the character in response to the “Women’s Lib” movement of the 60’s and wanted to create a strong, outspoken female character who defied gender stereotypes. Originally, he planned on Peppermint Patty being featured in a new, stand-alone strip but decided that this character might better serve as a role model in his already popular Peanuts strip which was widely read by children and adults alike. She eventually became one of the strips most-loved figures and her popularity caused The York Peppermint Pattie to make its national debut on candy counters in 1975. Patty was NOT named after the candy, and the candy wasn’t named after the character- the Peter Paul Company had been quietly making and selling the candy in the Northeast and her popularity, particularly in the Peanuts TV specials, caused them to roll out the treat nationwide.
Patty was indeed a pioneer, unlike any character before her and still pretty much unmatched. She was the product of a single-parent home. Her mother had died when she was quite young and her father was raising her alone. Patty had trouble sleeping, unable to drop off until her father returned home from his late shift at a factory, and so she often fell asleep in school and had trouble with her grades. She was quite obviously the best athlete in town and a natural leader. She led a rebellion against her school’s dress code and took the school to court for her right to wear pants. And despite these tomboyish traits, she was accepted by the group and was never once questioned or teased. Despite her powerful presence, she was depicted as easy going and non-judgmental, accepting of all, including Snoopy who for many years she thought was a “funny looking kid with a big nose.” And, she went to an integrated school and brought her African-American friend “Franklin” around to meet the gang- a storyline which earned Schulz a mountain of hate mail from bigots across the country.
Patty served as a role model for generations of girls who didn’t fit in, didn’t want to act “ladylike” and had “boy trouble” as a result. Patty had an unrequited crush on “Chuck” as she fondly called him, despite her knowledge that she could “could strike him out on three straight pitches.”
Peppermint Patty broke many barriers in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, introducing the idea of female equality in a way that proved endearing and ingratiating.
Charles Schulz retired from cartooning on January 3, 2000, citing his failing health. The final Peanuts strip ran on February 13, 2000; Schulz had passed away the day before.
The strip lives on in syndication, however, and new television specials are still produced. Many of them feature Peppermint Patty, still 8, still serving as a talisman for girls who don’t fit in and a role model for the strong women they will become.
Despite being an eight year old girl and a cartoon character, Patricia Reichardt (Peppermint Patty) is an extraordinary woman.
December 14 2010 03:31 pm | Extraordinary Women