Monday, August 21, 2006


I was issued a challenge to write about the women of radio for a week. The research was harder than I thought. Very few women go into radio. My theory is that they are repelled by the unattractive men who do... or maybe its the smell in the transmitter shack.

As the character Ma Perkins, Virginia Payne was called “America’s mother of the air,” a benevolent, self-sufficient widow who owned and managed a lumber yard in the fictitious town of Rushville Center. The radio soap premiered in August of 1933 on the powerhouse Cincinnati station WLW-AM. Within four months it had garnered such listenership that it had moved to WMAQ-AM Chicago and officially joined the NBC network.

The character Ma Perkins was kind and sometimes trusting to a fault. She offered homespun philosophy to any and all who needed it, including her children Evey and Fay, Evey’s husband Willy and Ma’s business partner, Shober. The show was the brainchild of soap opera creators Frank and Anne Hummert. Payne, was only 23 when Ma Perkins first went on the air. She continued to play the title role until the show ended 27 years later. It was one of the longest, running radio dramas ever broadcast. It was imitated for decades, thus paving the way for modern soap operas

It was sponsored by Proctor & Gamble under their dishsoap Oxydol (later Lava Soap). The show ran on NBC and CBS until 1960. Under NBC is ran on both Red and Blue network staitons [47 NBC Red stations, 10 NBC Blue stations] At it's peak of popularity it was airing in Canada and all over Europe. Virginia Payne died on February 10, 1977. She and Ma Perkins were inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1988.

The shows are still available here: