JAMESTOWN, N.Y. — Born and raised in Western New York, Lucille Ball was known as the queen of comedy.
"And certainly the daughter of Jamestown," said Therese Avedillo, curator of the Fenton History Center.
The center has a collection dedicated to Ball which spans the time before she became an actress, up through her visits to Jamestown, after she became famous.
"Lucille Ball not only had a career in front of the cameras, but behind them," Avedillo said. "An integral role in TV production history — she played a very important part in that."
Ball paved the way for other high-powered women in the industry.
"She showed a true business acumen being the head of a studio," said Avedillo.
"It's pretty groundbreaking. Fewer people know what a powerhouse she was and a force in the industry behind the scenes," said Journey Gunderson, executive director of the National Comedy Center.
Lucy was the first female head of a major Hollywood studio, Desilu, acquiring it outright after she and her husband Desi Arnaz split up.
"She took it over out of a sense of duty to the employees, the Desilu family as they called it. And she knew that her brand and her leadership were key to the livelihoods of everyone at Desilu. And so her taking over the company, saved everyone's jobs frankly," said Gunderson.
Her job was also challenged as she often had to overrule decisions made by her all-male board of directors.
"So, it wasn't like it was an easy road for her. And I think even though she had reached A-list stardom, in that time period a woman at the helm, was questioned every single day," said Journey.
To its credit, or credits, Desilu produced a number of successful TV series like "Star Trek," "Mission Impossible," "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "That Girl."
"She created opportunities for other women at a time in entertainment when those opportunities were few and far between," said Gunderson.
Ball, who died at age 77 in 1989, eventually sold Desilu in 1968 to Gulf Western for $17 million. Gulf Western then transformed it into a production arm of Paramount Pictures.
She did it while being a mother, on top of the wealth of industry experience and an extraordinary work ethic that Avedillo says makes her a role model for all women.
"Without her, women wouldn't have the confidence to challenge the industries, particularity those run by mainly men," said Avedillo.
It's a history well-documented in her hometown of Jamestown, where America's favorite redhead never forgot her roots.