Sonia Manzano has spent 44 years entertaining and educating children as Maria, one of the longest-standing adult characters on Sesame Street. She announced her retirement while speaking at the American Library Association Annual Conference. Although the show has yet to make a formal announcement, Manzano has been retweeting fans’ outpouring of love and support over her departure.
In her four-decade tenure on the show, Manzano’s character has taught lots of important things to children across generations. Luckily, her life lessons will live on, thanks to YouTube. Take a look back at what Maria has taught us over the years.
1) Maria taught us about feminism
From arguing with Oscar the Grouch when he called her “little lady” to taking on a variety of jobs around the Street that were not your typical “woman’s work,” including stints as a construction worker and building superintendent, Maria showed us that women can do whatever they wanted, including dreaming about working for NASA, even while being a wife and a mother.
2) Maria taught us about love—and about staying friends with your exes
That’s right, Maria had two different love interests during her time on Sesame Street. First, in the ’70s, she was dating David, but in the ’80s she eventually fell in love with and married Luis. The show told us all about how to tell the pair were in love, and also about how Maria and David could stay friends even though they were exes.
3) Maria taught us about motherhood
Maria became a mom on the show, teaching kids about topics related to being a mom, including explaining how breastfeeding works while openly breastfeeding on the show. It’s a wonder there’s still national debate about a woman’s right to breastfeed in public when Maria did it without any qualms way back in the ’80s.
4) Maria taught us about loss
When one of the stalwarts of Sesame Street, Mr. Hooper, passed away in 1983, Maria was pivotal in a group scene that helped Big Bird understand the meaning of death. It’s a real tear-jerker, but terribly important.