Indelible Images: Women of Local Television / Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting / Women and Radio: Airing Differences

Article excerpt

Indelible Images: Women of Local Television. Mary E. Beadle and Michael D. Murray, eds. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 2001. 260 pp. $49.95 hbk.

Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting. Donna L. Halper. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2001. 331 pp. $39.95 hbk.

Women and Radio: Airing Differences. Caroline Mitchell, ed. New York: Routledge, 2000. 290 pp. $26.95 pbk.

For far too many years the many and varied roles of women in the development of American media have been understudied and therefore have too often been misunderstood. Too many general histories either skip over the specific contributions of women or focus on the same few figures. It is good to see a redressing of the problem finally developing, of which the three titles reviewed here are all excellent contributions, each of them quite different. The first two focus on women working in American broadcasting, while the last reviews more broadly the role of women both in and on British radio.

Beadle and Murray detail the professional lives of nineteen women selected from different parts of the country, each of whom made a success of being a journalist, producer or director, writer or program official. The editors, at John Carroll University (Cleveland) and the University of Missouri (St. Louis) respectively, have gathered a team of contributors, each of whom focused on one subject. Including people from both commercial and educational stations makes this a most readable survey of what some women can and have accomplished in a business often harsh on females.

Some of those selected are already recognized in broadcast history, perhaps the best known being Frieda Hennock, the first woman to serve as a member of the Federal Communications Commission (named by President Truman), who helped to pioneer the creation of educational television generally and more particularly, KUHT (the first such station), in Houston, Texas. Another subject, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt, was the long-time head of the KING empire in Seattle. Marty Gable worked at an experimental Philadelphia television station before World War IT (when even men working in television were rare) and resumed her video work after the war. Carole Kneeland made great progress with Austin, Texas, television journalism despite her early death from breast cancer at age 49. Gayle Sierens became the first woman to offer National Football League play-by-play, in a 1987 game from Seattle. Marcia Yockey kept people tuned to weather in Evansville, Indiana, for decades. Bobbie Wygant worked at the same Fort Worth television station for a half century ("they poured me in with the foundation" as she put it). And Marciarose Shestack became a Philadelphia legend, using only her first name on KYW-TV.

These chapters reminded this reviewer of a sound and light show-shedding bright light on a selected few pioneers and leaders, some journalists, but many not. The collection may point the way to similar regional efforts that can rescue the record of varied women's roles in both radio and television before that record dies with the pioneers. The stories presented are just that-the often fascinating lives of selected people in different places that help to illustrate a rich historical record that has only begun to be plumbed.

Halper's history takes a different tack and helps to fill a huge hole-an overall survey history of the varied role of women across American broadcast history. A broadcast consultant and historian based in Boston, Halper rescues the memories of many exemplary women from the earliest days (1920s) into the 1970s. Her focus and special expertise is on the early period when both tradition and bias sharply limited what women could do in a business many thought of as a "man's world." Halper goes a long way to set the record straight-women played a variety of roles in radio from the very beginning. While studies of women journalists are fairly common, the focus here is more on women working in a variety of everyday positions (including technical roles) both on mike and off the air. …