Ann Hutchinson on Trial
Linda Richards was America's first trained nurse
Susan B. Anthony
Norman Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter
Throughout the relatively young history of The United States of America, from the earliest explorations of the 'new world' to the fight for independence, the wars, and the economic struggles that often befell our young republic, women, while playing an equally instrumental role the entire time, too often took a 'behind the scenes' or 'supporting role' footnote in the pages of American History.
There's certainly no excuse for the omission over the years. Men, despite the size of their egos or self-delusion, have always been at the least aware of the pivotal, partnering role women have played throughout our history. Men may have all too often felt the need to dismiss that feminine partnership. Or perhaps it was often the women themselves that too readily took a back seat to their male counterparts' contributions in various fields.
Perhaps it was simply men expecting the women of the nation to do what they'd always traditionally done throughout civilization: cook, clothe, feed, and house the men and children in their lives--and if they could still steal a bit of time for their own personal, artistic, or intellectual pursuits, so much the better.
Ah, but were it so easy. And yes, the females throughout history have always been known for their inherent ability to multitask. That talent is not only part of their biological makeup, it's an imperative of Life, itself--if Man as a species is to continue, in any case. One could almost understand how this imbalance in recognition of the sexes as equal partners in civilization perpetuated itself through the turn of the 20th Century. For rural women, basic survival was a matter of division of labor, albeit an unfair division at times, but those were the realities.
For urban women, survival was a tenuous balancing act--if they wanted it all. And even if women achieved a modicum of individual success, professionally, artistically, or intellectually, those successes were never, it seems, seen in the same light as the accomplishments of their one-for-one male counterparts. The tired old generalization that "it's a man's world," presumptively sweeping away all inequalities with each utterance.
But then it really wasn't ever simply a man's world at any time, was it? Not in the beginning of mankind and not to this day. Women have always been shoulder to shoulder with men throughout history. If not personally toiling in the fields, they were back in the house, turning raw resources into food, fuel and income to keep the family unit going. If not personally commuting into the city each day to earn their family's fortune, they were doing what the wage earner couldn't possibly do himself--and still keep that wage earning job. And indeed, during the most severe periods of American History, women all too often had to perform in both roles, along with their men, or without them as the case be.
And invariably, at least up until the mid-20th Century, the truly gifted women of society--professionals, artists, business people, philosophers, and scientists--were continually forced to take a back seat to their male counterparts. Females had always had the option to push back, naturally. And in rare, history-making situations many of them did. But as has been a woman's inherent biological gift since the dawn of Man, the vast majority of them simply moved on, either ignoring the slights altogether, mourning them until they passed, or simply leap-frogging over them to the next Life issue to be faced. Women have been nothing, if not resolute throughout history--at once both their strength and shortcoming.
Men, by contrast throughout history, had no shortcomings whatsover, or so it was to be believed. Either through a process of continually propping each other up--or being propped up--either intentionally or inadvertently by their female partner(s), men somehow managed to perpetuate the notion that they were superior. And indeed, all too many women throughout history were more inclined to simply let men believe what they needed to believe to continue to be good providers.
And quite predictably, women never truly let it go at that. Those with power, employed it equally ruthlessly until the mid-20th Century. Those without power formed often humbler and occasionally quite extensive networks, with which to further their causes. An example in point would be the underground railroads of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. One is also reminded of the many civic and religious leagues of late 19th Century America and the explosion of such activities throughout the post-Industrial era.
Indeed it was in the wake of The Great Depression that American women seemed to almost spontaneously unite in spirit, through circumstances great and small, to begin to fight for their own due in American society. One of the more sophisticated such networks of the era was the American Association of University Women. The Association had long maintained detailed archives of their sisters' accomplishments throughout American History, continually revising those archives and gathering even more archival material to support those archived findings and accomplishments.
With the winding down of the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) and its extensive network of federally funded projects, the landscape began to change dramatically as America neared War. For one, the W.P.A. changed its name very subtlely to Work Projects Administration. For another, the WPA has more openly funding Radio programming in the public interest of one kind or another--with the proviso that another sponsoring agency in either the private or public sector would co-sponsor the production.
In the case of, first, Women In the Making of America, and its expansion and rebroadcasts as Gallant American Women, it was the United States Office of Education and the Federal Security Agency that stepped up to partner with the American Association of University Women--through the WPA--to produce the series. This was no small feat, given the raging debates at the time over whether--or not--to enter the War in Europe.
Women In the Making of America and Gallant American Women
No sooner had Women In the Making of America, a fifteen-minute format, debuted on May 18, 1939, than literally hundreds of professional women across America came forward with both updated material in support of the program, and ideas for further installments. The production regrouped and was reintroduced in October of 1939 as Gallant American Women, in a 30-minute format as a series that ran, off and on, over the next three years in one Radio venue or another. This, in spite of America's forced entry into the War after December 7, 1941.
The various dramatizations were highlighted with brief historical vignettes of the topic of the episode, cited the various women and their accomplishments in that sector of society or history, and occasionally introduced contemporary female representatives of that sector to speak on the topic at the close of the program.
The historical citations hold up well to this day, offering a rare spotlight on the accomplishments and contributrions of American women throughout our history. While it's unfortunate that such programming was, indeed, rare during the Golden Age of Radio--and since--it's a wonderfully insightful, educational and inspirational series, as important today as it was in the early 1940s.
Announcement of Gallant American Women series from November 06 1939
Spot ad for Gallant American Women from
June 16 1940
|RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide.
Notes on Provenances:
The most helpful provenances were the log of the radioGOLDINdex and newspaper listings.
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