March is Women’s History Month. That’s all the excuse I need to talk about the most influential female writer in the history of American broadcasting. (And I bet you never heard of her.)
Irna Phillips single-handedly created the soap opera, a story- telling format of enormous cultural and economic impact.
For Chicago radio station WGN, Phillips in 1930 created “Painted Dreams,” a daily 10-minute drama aimed at women. This is considered America’s first soap opera.
In 1937, Phillips created the NBC radio serial “The Guiding Light.” Today, an amazing 72 years later, “Guiding Light” is going strong on CBS. It is television’s longest-running daytime drama.
Irna Phillips also created “As the World Turns” and co-created “Days of Our Lives” and “Another World.” Her protégé Agnes Nixon created “All My Children” and “One Life to Live.”
Ms. Phillips also mentored William J. Bell, who went on to create “The Young and the Restless.”
That’s what I call influential.
I recently downloaded a free 1950 episode of “The Guiding Light” from the Old Time Radio website. To hear a 3½-minute excerpt on my Vox blog, click here.