Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

MAKERS Moment

How Big Bird Was Born

How Big Bird Was Born

More From Joan

In this video

Tagged as

Cooney shares how the Muppets came to live on Sesame Street based on the research that children paid more attention to a mixture of fantasy with reality.

Joan's Biography

Childhood Ambition:A nun, a mother, or an opera singer

First Paying Job:A clerk typist in the State Department

The Best Medicine:"I would rather laugh than do anything in the world... So I watch Jon Stewart every night to get some laughs."

All-Time favorite Sesame Street Segment:Herry & John John Count 20

A founder of the Sesame Workshop and co-creator of Sesame Street, Joan Ganz Cooney knew that educational television was her calling the moment she walked into Channel 13. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Cooney moved out east after college working as a publicist for the likes of RCA, NBC, and CBS's United States Steel Hour. It was at CBS when a colleague told her about educational television and her new career took off.
 
At a dinner party with Lloyd Morrisset, an executive at Carnegie Corporation, a conversation on whether children could learn from watching television spurned into a study on the topic funded by Carnegie Corporation and conducted by Cooney. The final report suggested a show like Sesame Street. With $8 million in funding, the Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) was founded to produce the show. The first episode of Sesame Street premiered on PBS on November 10, 1969 to critical acclaim and high ratings, and after four decades remains a beloved children's television show.
 
Cooney was the first female non-performer to be inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame, was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton, was awarded an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and in 2007, the Sesame Workshop founded The Joan Ganz Cooney Center, named in her honor.

Related Videos

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
First Latina Elected to Congress

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen fled Castro’s Cuba with her family when she was eight. She was educated in Miami’s Little Havana and earned her Bachelor’s degree in 1975, bef...

Vivian Stringer
Vivian Stringer
Champion College Basketball Coach

“Work hard and don’t look for excuses, and you can achieve anything.” This was the lesson that legendary college basketball coach, Vivian Stringer, learned from ...

Dena Simmons
Dena Simmons
Educator

Dena Simmons is an activist, an educator, and also a student. Born to a resilient mother who escaped Antigua to come to the US, Simmons was raised in the Bronx and hopes to stay th...

Marian Wright Edelman
Marian Wright Edelman
Founder, Children's Defense Fund

Marian Wright Edelman is a renowned activist who has been fighting for the rights of children for the last 40 years. Through the Children’s Defense Fund that she established ...