Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Radio Homemakers - Neighboring over the air

From the 1920s through the 1970s, women in the mid-west could tune into AM broadcasts of fellow homemakers sharing their lives, their recipes and their plugs for certain products. These ladies were among the first female broadcasters. They had regular sponsors and loyal listeners. Isolated farm wives often compared these broadcasters to friends and came to count upon their folksy stories and advice. One of the famous personalities, Evelyn Birkby, considered it "neighboring over the air".

Radio homemakers reached their zenith in the 1950s, with regular newsletter subscribers and publicity photos. Fannie Flagg, author of Fried Green Tomatoes, authored another book with Neighbor Dorothy, a radio homemaker, as the main character (Check out Standing in the Rainbow).

It's an obvious comparison to say that bloggers are the new radio homemakers. I think that there are similarities, but I don't totally agree with that comparison. In my mind, bloggers are more like traders on Wall Street - thousands of voices clamoring to be heard, a cacophony of sounds that readers need to sift through to find the blogs that are interesting to them. The radio homemakers operated in a time before FM radio, before television. Their audience were mostly isolated by geography and distance. Rather than Wall Street, these ladies and their fans were Main Street, neighbors chatting over the clothesline, after Sunday services, at the post office. It was more personal because of the voices, the sounds involved. Some of the radio homemakers did their broadcasting from their own kitchens, involving their families in the songs and stories. Listeners came to know them and their lives.

There couldn't be a true revival of radio homemakers because the world has gotten so much smaller. As connected as the Internet has made things, it has also made it far less personal and more anonymous. I still think that blogs have given a voice to every interest and they can serve as modern coffee klatches or homemaking clubs to those who yearn for connection, but the participants have to work to overcome the anonymity and impersonal nature of the Internet. I try to visit the blogs of every commenter and I check in daily with the blogs I consider part of my circle. I also venture forth and look for new blogs, new people that might want to join in for some cyber coffee and a virtual slice of pie. It might not be the same as neighboring over the air, but many bloggers are my friends just the same.


Lorraine said...

Excellent observations. Although I certainly have had the rather thrilling experience of making blog buddies "real"...something I never expected when I started out.

Heidi said...

I read Standing in the Rainbow and really enjoyed it. :) I found the whole subject fascinating--the idea that just 'anybody' could have a radio station, and the connection that brought to so many women. Have you read The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio? If you haven't, I think you'd like it. It was better than the movie, as usual.

Also I suggested a book a while back called Something From the Oven that I think you'd enjoy. There was a part in there about newspaper columns that ladies used to write in to with household tips, cooking questions, etc. I remember when I was reading it I had the thought that today we have internet message boards--different technology, same function. Women still feel a need to 'connect' no matter what the era.

Kimberly Ann said...

Lorraine - I definitely consider you one of my cyber gal pals.

Heidi: Wonderful suggestions. I'll be looking for your recommendations.

Sling said...

It's just become natural for me to say things like,'My friend in Seattle said this'..or,'I have a friend in Idaho that recently did that'..
As if they were indeed,right next door!
Gotta love it.