The New York Times‘ Overlooked series, which provides obituaries for individuals whose deaths were initially overlooked by the newspaper, has recently turned attention to psychologist Margaret McFarland. McFarland, a consultant to the classic children’s television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, has come to the fore more than 30 years after her death in a moment where there has been a resurgence of interest in Fred Rogers and his television legacy (including a podcast, documentary, and feature film dedicated to the man and his influence).
As the New York Times writes,
Rogers was ordained as a minister and was invited to appear as Mister Rogers on a show in Canada in the early 1960s. He returned to Pittsburgh in 1966 to start “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” on WQED-TV. The show aired for the first time nationally, on public television stations, in 1968. McFarland became his chief consultant.
She and Rogers met nearly every week to discuss scripts and songs that Rogers had written. Her advice became so valuable to Rogers that he took “extensive handwritten notes” and recorded their meetings on audiocassettes, “which I often overheard him replaying in his office,” recalled Arthur Greenwald, a producer and writer who worked with Rogers.
She would work on the show for 20 years, and spoke regularly with Rogers until around her death in 1988. (Rogers died in 2003.)
The full Overlooked obituary can be read online here.