Wednesday, November 14, 2007

BOOK WEEK Pt. 3: The Radio Girls

The Radio Girls by Margaret Penrose (Stratemeyer Syndicate)
1: The Radio Girls At Roselawn
2: The Radio Girls
on the Program
3: The Radio Girls on Station Island

4: The Radio Girls at Forest Lodge

After the mild-to-moderate success of the Radio Boys, the Stratemeyer Syndicate decided that girls shouldn't be left out of the radio-themed fun.

The two primary authors of the Radio Boys series were Gerald Breckenridge and Allen Chapman. The Radio Girls series was all under the single pen name of Margaret Penrose. Of courses there were only four books.

Margaret Penrose was yet another pen name used by the The Stratemeyer Syndicate. They used it for two other series, The Motor Girls, and Dorothy Dale. In reality almost all of them were written by Lilian Garis. But not the radio girls. the first three of those were written by W. Bert Foster, the fourth by lizabeth M. Duffield Ward.

The Radio girls are unique in juvenile fiction as the first radio-centric series to be marketed specifically toward girls. As noted yesterday, books for boys were a decade old by then. It was an interesting angle, very few women worked in radio. In 1920 most people didn't' know what radio was. The typical radio listener had built their own radio.

M But only two years later the advent of prefabricated sets had wildly increased listenership.. Magazines and newspapers were hiring "radio editors" to write about radio personalities and entertainers. It was about then that women began to penetrate that job market. Radio historian Donna Halper wrote a great book on the role of women in this era titled "Invisible Stars."

Ultimately the radio girls were much softer on the technical hands-on than The Radio Boys. The Radio Girls were radio performersas often as they were operators. But it was only 1922 long before the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin.
I'll quote a passage where they actually use the device.

"She opened the receiving switch and fastened on the head harness. Amy came over and sat down, likewise affixing one of the phones. Jessie turned the machine with a practiced hand. At first the chattering noises in the air meant nothing intelligible. "but it's awfully loud, " murmured the puzzled Amy. "Why jess!" I never heard your set so loud." "Goodness! that isn't' radio, " Jessie declared suddenly. "Wha-a-a-at?" drawled the puzzled Amy. "that's an airplane!" cried Jessie. "It must be coming right this way!"

The Radio Girls books were reissued by Goldsmith Publishing in 1930 rebranded as the Campfire Girls. Goldsmith kept the Margaret Penrose pseudonym though. They were marketed more specifically toward Brownies and girl scouts. My personal copy of the "on the program" is the original Cupples and Leon Co. printing from 1922. It is however a tad beaten up as it was a discard from the Junior Department of Ambler Presbyterian Church Library.