While young, her family relocated to Cambridge, Massachuttes and she attended the Linden Hall School for Girls in Lititz, Pennsylvania.
In early 1943, she enlisted in the U.S Marines and was assigned to office duties and truck driving. She received an honorable discharge 1945.
Staff Sergeant Arthur began working as an actress after her service, beginning with the off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theater, quickly moving to Broadway performances, including the 1964 premiere of Fiddler on the Roof.
Moving to television, she became known for playing the outspoken feminist Maude (Edith's cousin) in the series All in the Family. The character Maude was ultimately spun off to its own sitcom, which earned her several Emmys and a Golden Globe. Her most famous role began in 1985 which she was cast as Dorothy in the Golden Girls.
After the Golden Girls sitcom ended, she continued to act, mostly as a guest star. Her acting career of seven decades is admirable in an industry known to churn through people quickly.
A committed animal rights activist, she was also a well-known feminist and advocate for the elderly. Staff Sergeant Beatrice Arthur died on April 25, 2009, from cancer. Her ashes are spread throughout Miami, Florida.
There has been some conjecture about her denials of service, including the occasional slur regarding a very common military infraction. Aside from Staff Sergeant Arthur's commitment to maintaining her privacy in a very public job, it was not uncommon for women who served during that period of time in the state-side assignments to deny or diminish their service, with the feeling that, because they didn't see combat or deploy overseas, they didn't really "serve". I think this trend needs to be reversed and these women need to be proud of their decision to enlist.