‘M*A*S*H’: One Nurse Left the Set To Become a Boxing Referee

Though she wasn’t a series regular, Gwen Farrell appeared on the classic TV show MASH on 19 separate occasions. She once played an anesthetist, but her primary role was that of a nurse. Her time on MASH stretched all the way from 1972 to 1983, and though she enjoyed her time as a TV nurse, Gwen Farrell’s true passion lied with boxing, per MeTV.

The actress loved boxing so much that in the late ’70s, she became the only licensed female boxing referee. And as her role as a nurse on M*A*S*H was only part-time, Farrell was able to easily switch between the two jobs.

“There is no trouble going from one to another,” Farrell explained to the San Bernardino County Sun in 1982. “In the ring, I’m more watched than in a commercial. You’ve got to know what you’re supposed to be doing. When you make a mistake, you’ve got to keep going. I’m the type of person who has to stay busy.”


The actress’ passion for boxing began during childhood, when she realized that she found the grace of a talented boxer to be captivating. Rather than a sport, the M*A*S*H nurse views boxing as an art form.

In an interview with the Associated Press in 1980, Gwen Farrell talked about her ambitions as a boxing referee. “I want to be one of the greatest referees,” Farrell said. “And I want to work a championship fight someday. I want to be good. I know I’m going to be good, I feel it, and now I want to prove it.”

‘M*A*S*H Nurse Loretta Swit Expresses Pride in Legacy of the Show

The producers of M*A*S*H clearly admired Gwen Farrell’s acting prowess, as she’s one of the only nurses to ever get a speaking role. The true star of the show, however was Loretta Swit, who played Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, the highest ranking female in the 4077th.

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Swit looks back on her time as the iconic nurse with immense fondness, not only because it was a life-changing role but also because the show’s legacy still impacts viewers to this day. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, the fictional nurse recounted a touching letter she once received from a fan of MAS*H.

“I’m going to paraphrase what someone wrote in a telegram when we ended the show,” Swit began. “It said, ‘Dear M*A*S*H folk: You made me laugh. You made me cry. You made me feel. Thank you.’ I’ve never forgotten that. That’s one hell of a legacy.”

Alan Alda, actor behind fan-favorite character “Hawkeye” Pierce, couldn’t agree more. “We’re all proud of what we did,” Alda said. “The show was so remarkable that we all get asked about it all the time. Everybody includes it in every interview.”

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