Celebrating the legacy of Sheila Barrett, the first woman to announce at the BBC

Monday, July 28, 2008 - 12:00 AM

Seventy-five years ago, on July 28, 1933, Sheila Barrett became the first woman to make a national broadcast on BBC Radio. The anniversary got us here at the Takeaway thinking, how have American women shaped the tone and distinction of the radio waves?

Across the decades, their varying and rich contributions have ranged from the logical...
Barbara Walters interviews President Gerald Ford, Sept. 27, 1979

to the evangelical...
Aimee Semple Macpherson, from an early 1930's broadcast

and from the humorous...
Eleanor Roosevelt, at WNYC Radio in New York City, Feb. 6, 1967, in a March of Dimes fundraiser

to the portentous...
NBC Radio correspondent Dorothy Thompson recounts Germany's decision to invade Poland, September 1, 1939

Broadcasting women have been public health advocates...
Margaret Sanger speaking to WNYC's audience, May 10, 1961

sex advocates...
Dr. Ruth Westheimer promotes her television show.

and advocates of common sense...
"First Lady of Radio" Mary Margaret McBride, who conducted over 30,000 interviews, talks to Mike Wallace.

Obviously, these are just a few clips of the many available. If you're looking to dig a little deeper into the history of women in broadcasting, here are two great online resources:

The Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of TV and Radio) has a decade-by-decade online database of audio and video clips of female broadcasters. Some famous clips include Fanny Brice, Linda Ellerbee and Dr. Joyce Brothers. http://www.shemadeit.org/

And at the archive of "The Mike Wallace Interview" at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, you'll find streaming video of Mary Margaret McBride, Eleanor Roosevelt and Pearl S. Buck — not to mention a sudden urge to smoke Philip Morris cigarettes. http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/collections/film/holdings/wallace/

Sources: WNYC, Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, The Paley Center for Media


Kent DePinto


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