While the world knew Betty White as a comedic genius, only three people – the children her late husband, Allen Ludden, had from a prior marriage – knew her as a devoted stepmother.
Betty White, who passed away on Dec. 31, 2021, at the age of 99 from natural causes, never had any biological children of her own. However, she was a caring mother figure to Allen Ludden’s three children from his first wife, Margaret McGloin. Betty and Allen married in 1963, two years after Margaret died following a battle with cancer. Suddenly, Betty was a wife and mother to three stepchildren: David, Martha, and Sarah Ludden.
“It turned out great,” Betty told PEOPLE when discussing her time as a stepmother. The Golden Girls star said she was “blessed” to have such a family. In a 2012 interview with CBS, she explained why she never chose to have children with Allen. “I’m so compulsive about stuff, I know if I had ever gotten pregnant, of course, that would have been my whole focus,” she said. “But I didn’t choose to have children because I’m focused on my career. And I just don’t think as compulsive as I am that I could manage both.” Betty added that she didn’t regret the decision since she spent nearly seven decades as a loving stepmother.
In honor of Betty’s 100th birthday, here’s a look at Betty White’s family, and the three stepchildren she helped raise:
Betty’s eldest stepchild, David, was reportedly born in 1948, according to Closer Weekly. The publication also reports that David got his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978 and that he taught South Asian history at the institution until 2007. David is also reportedly a published author, having written India and South Asia: A Short History. He also won the Guggenheim Fellowship for Humanities Award, and according to Closer Weekly, as of 2022, he teaches Asian History at New York University.
Sandra Bullock, who starred opposite Betty on The Proposal, shared with PEOPLE about how Betty loved being a stepmom. “Betty said, ‘You know what? I never had children biologically. I married someone who had three children. And how blessed I was to have those three stepchildren.'”
Martha Ludden was reportedly born in 1950, which meant she was 11 when her mother passed away from cancer in 1961. After Betty and Allen married in 1963, Martha allegedly clashed with her father over the marriage, putting a strain on Martha’s relationship with Betty. However, time healed all wounds, as Closer reported in 2020 that Betty spent her 98th birthday with all her stepchildren.
Like all of Betty White’s stepchildren, Martha has lived a life outside the spotlight. She has reportedly forged her own path in the legal world. Closer reports she got her law degree in 1990 and worked with people who have disabilities.
Martha’s father, Allen Ludden, was Betty’s third husband. She was previously married to Dick Barker and Lane Allen. Allen Ludden passed away from stomach cancer in 1981, and Betty never remarried. Betty reportedly called out Allen’s name just before she passed away.
Born in 1952, Sarah Ludden was just nine years old when she lost her mother. Unlike Martha, Sarah didn’t have a poor relationship with her stepmother, with Closer claiming that the youngest often stepped in during arguments between the two. Sarah reportedly pursued a career as an audiologist and dancer. This passion for movement supposedly led to a career in karate. She opened the Thousand Waves martial arts school with partner Nancy Lanoue. Sarah earned a fifth-degree black belt in the World Seido Karate Organization and Kajukenbo Kung Fu. She also founded the Thousand Waves Scholarship Fund, which has given more than $100k in tuition assistance to her students.