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The Facts of Life/Edna Ann Garrett
Edna Ann Garrett is a fictional character on the series The Facts of Life. She was portrayed by actress Charlotte Rae from her introduction in Diff'rent Strokes in 1978 to this series to 1986 and the 2001 reunion movie. Her character originated from the hit sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, and she was spun off to The Facts of Life in 1979.
Mrs. Edna Garrett is a sensible salt-of-the-earth type. Edna Garrett was the youngest child in a large family, born and raised on a farm near Appleton, Wisconsin. Her exact age was never disclosed during the series, but on several occasions, it was hinted or implied that she was somewhere in her fifties. Mrs. Garrett was married twice, divorced (first marriage), and widowed (second marriage); one early episode showed Mr. Garrett coming to town to woo her and reconcile, but he was unsuccessful because Edna felt that his gambling problem would always be an obstacle. She had two sons, a singer/songwriter/carpenter named Alex (Tom Fitzsimmons) (b. 1953) and an accountant named Raymond (Joel Brooks). Mrs. Garrett is a Democrat. She is also against censorship, such as book banning.
In 1978 Edna was the housekeeper for the Drummond Family in Upstate New York to help Mr. Drummond take care of his two adopted sons, Arnold and Willis; and his daughter Kimberly. Upon visiting the school Kimberly attended (Eastland), Edna found that the dorm was needing a housemother as the place was in disarray. She then left the Drummonds in 1979 to become housemother at Eastland Academy in Peekskill, New York in the season finale episode.
Housemother and Mother Figure
When The Facts of Life began, Edna was the housemother to several girls in her charge in a dormitary. She was a friend and authority figure to the big cast of girls: the all-American girl Nancy Olson, rich snob Blair Warner, tomboy Cindy Webster, cute and boy-crazy Sue Ann Weaver, resident gossip Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey, impressionable Natalie Green, and singing activist Molly Parker. Edna, along with headmaster Steven Bradley and teacher Emily Mahoney, helped to keep the girls in line each week.
In the fall of 1980, Edna became the school's dietitian, and had her hands full with Blair, Natalie, Tootie, and a new girl Joanna "Jo" Marie Polniaczek. The girls were settling in the dorms when Jo suggested they steal the school van and go to a bar and pick up guys. Eventually, the four girls got arrested and were placed on probation. Since the school van was totalled, Mrs. Garrett had Jo, Blair, Natalie and Tootie work with her in the school cafeteria to pay off the damages. The girls liked working with Mrs. Garrett and remained with her even when the van was paid off and well until Jo and Blair graduated Eastland.
Feeling tired and run down by the demands of headmaster Mr. Parker, she left Eastland in 1983 and opened her own gourmet food shop (with the help of her son, Raymond) in Downtown Peekskill called Edna's Edibles. Natalie and Tootie were separated when they went back to the dorms and wanted to live with Mrs. Garrett and work with her. Then Jo, who lost a college dorm and a job, was looking for a place to stay. Mrs. Garrett hired her to be a bookkeeper and to watch the store. Blair, however, decided to live in a sorority house (Gamma Gamma), but due to the snobby ways of the group, moved in with Mrs. Garrett. Edna later enrolled in nearby Langley College in 1984.
Over Our Heads
In the fall of 1985, Edna's Edibles was extensively damaged by fire; it was rebuilt as a gift shop called "Over Our Heads." Since the insurance on Edna's Edibles had lapsed by the time of the fire, the girls contributed their insurance claim checks to help rebuild, effectively making Mrs. Garrett and the girls equal partners in the business.
Edna Garrett was a mentor to the girls at Eastland, functioning in loco parentis. At times the girls would take her for granted, and forget that Edna herself had problems. Many times Edna would lash out at the girls when they got careless with her. In one episode, she actually fires them from "Edna's Edibles" when their irresponsible behavior ends up costing her $500 in fines after a dismal health inspection. She hires them back the next day when the girls promise her that they will be more responsible at their jobs. She also fires George, when he falls behind on his work constructing "Over Our Heads," but they later make up.
Departure and Later Return
Mrs. Garrett re-married in the fall of 1986. She and her new husband, Bruce Gaines, rejoined the Peace Corps to work in eastern Africa. Edna was replaced by her sister, Beverly Ann Stickle. However, in the reunion movie that aired in 2001, Mrs. Garrett reunited with the three girls (Blair, Natalie, and Tootie) at a hotel owned by Blair and which was run by her son Raymond. It was also revealed that Mrs. Garrett and Tootie were widows.