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USING THE COLLECTIONS
RECORDED SOUND EXTERNAL SITES
Beginning in the 1930s, women dominated daytime programming both as creators and as listeners. Radio programs aimed at women's perceived needs and interests filled the airwaves between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Programs dealing with topics such as cooking, childcare, health, fashion, civic news, and women's business news competed with soap operas and light musical programs for women's attention. As a means of sharing information about common problems and issues and offering encouraging messages, these programs enabled homemakers to communicate indirectly with one another.
The Rise of the Soap Opera
The rise of the radio soap opera in the mid-1930s demonstrated the power of the female audience. Before that time, little research went into program development for the daytime lineup, which was made up of “throw-away hours” and therefore considered unworthy of much attention. The popularity of the soap opera and the serial drama proved that daytime radio had a devoted audience and could be extremely profitable for sponsors whose products appealed to these listeners. The number of serials burgeoned to such a degree that in the spring of 1941 a women's serial could be heard during all but a single quarter-hour between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.4
The importance of the radio soap opera to American women cannot be overemphasized. Indeed, according to Muriel G. Cantor and Suzanne Pingree, “soap operas, more than any other genre, have reflected the economic and social conditions under which they were produced. Individualistic values are interspersed with problems and suffering most likely to be encountered by women . . . regardless of their similarity and diversity as to subjects, soap operas are about women and their place in the social world.”5 During the golden age of the radio soap operas, that social world for the most part revolved around the home.
The “soaps” offered the homebound listener a dramatization of the conflict that she might be expected to have in her own mind about the nature of men, marriage, and the woman's role. They also suggested that they might have useful answers to such questions [as were heard in a soap opera introduction], “To hold a man's love, what should a young wife be? . . . Should she place her home and her children above all else? . . . These are some of the questions the modern woman faces . . . when a girl marries.”6Hummert, Phillips, and Carrington
Anne Hummert (1905-1996), Irna Phillips (1901-1973), and Elaine Sterne Carrington (1892-1958) were three of the most creative and prolific women writing soap operas during the genre's heyday on the radio.
Homemaker or talk shows, educational programs, and variety shows were some of the most popular daytime genres produced for and by women. Alma Kitchell (1893-1997) and Nellie Revell (1872-1958) both had talk shows that provided women with pertinent news, information, advice, gossip, and topical discussions, and the Library holds a selection of their shows from the 1930s and 1940s. Isabel Manning Hewson hosted Morning Market Basket (1940, 1942), a consumer-information show for women. Nutritionist and chef Mary Lee Taylor tried out recipes and shared tips on shopping and cooking. Her program, The Mary Lee Taylor Show, (1948-49) was the longest-running cooking program on radio. Pickens Party (1951-52), starring Jane Pickens (1908-1992) and her sisters, featured musical variety and light entertainment.
Women took the lead in creating and producing educational and entertainment programs for children. Madge Tucker (b. 1900), who headed up NBC's children's programming department, produced the children's show Coast-to-Coast on a Bus (1937-41). Helen Walpole (b. 1911) and Margaret Leaf (1909?-1988) wrote Adventures in Reading (1939-40), an educational series for children. Dr. Katharine Lenroot (1891-1982) [picture], head of the United States Children's Bureau, hosted two programs on child rearing, The Child Grows Up (1938-40) and Children in Wartime (1942), the latter of which examined the effects of war on children. Madge Tucker directed and Jean Peterson wrote for Our Barn (1936-41), a children's storytelling program.[Top]
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