Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting

Article excerpt

Halper, Donna L. Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2001. 368 pp. $39.95.

Invisible Stars:A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting by Donna Halper is a discovery. It is history of broadcasting that was left in the past: the story of women in broadcasting. Traditional histories of broadcasting rarely mention women, but she has brought them back.

Halper does an exemplary job at chronicling women's roles as writers, performers, engineers, program directors, station managers, and network executives. Thus, she reveals the social history of women's changing roles throughout the decades since the start of radio, describing the trends and attitudes of each era and their impact on women and broadcasting. This book also records the growth of broadcasting and the transformations it went through with time. Each of these transformations impacted women's roles in broadcasting.

One of the critical eras for women that has been left out of traditional history books was the inception of radio. Halper notes that women were crucial participants in the early years. Before radio was a commercial venture and as it grew into a viable industry, women were important to the industry, especially as performers and program directors. Some women radio pioneers included Eunice Randall, Bertha Brainard, Eleanor Nesbitt Poehler, Vaughn De Leath, Ada Morgan O'Brien, and Marie Zimmerman.

Randall was the first woman of radio. In 1918, years before the first radio station was licensed, she was a radio engineer and announcer on station 1XE in Boston, which would later become WGI. Brainard hosted a popular radio show, "Broadcasting Broadway," on WJZ in which she reviewed Broadway theatre performance and interviewed actors. Later she was an executive at NBC. …