Behind the Wireless
A History of Early Women at the BBC
Palgrave Macmillan 2016
New Books in British StudiesNew Books in CommunicationsNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in JournalismNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network March 22, 2017 Tal Zalmanovich
From the early days of the BBC in 1922, women were everywhere in the broadcasting company’s offices. They were absent, however, argues Dr. Kate Murphy from most of the historiography devoted to this illustrious institution. In this vibrant monograph, Murphy sets out to find these hidden female figures. A former producer of the long-running program Woman’s Hour and currently a Senior Lecturer at Bournemouth University in the UK, Murphy is cognizant both of women’s contribution to the BBC and of the challenges they face working there. In Behind the Wireless: A History of Women at the BBC (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), Murphy delivers on the titles promises. First, she offers a detailed portrait of the BBC in the interwar period as a unique workplace complete with medical services, a subsidized canteen, and a country-club for its workers. She demonstrates why the fact that the company was created around on a new technology made it especially suitable for women in general, and ambitious ones in particular. Second, she illuminates the daily routines, challenges and opportunities for the scores of female typists, secretaries, clerks and telephone-operators who labored for the company. Murphy supplements this institutional history with four case studies of outstanding women, who rose to the top echelons of the organization. These three components make for a fascinating read. The book will complement the scholarship about the BBC but also add to the current exploration of the participation of women in the workforce in the interwar period. I expect that the book will be of great interest for scholars of media, gender, modern Britain and labor relations. It is a wonderful example of how to bring all these concerns into conversation.
Tal Zalmanovich is a historian of modern Britain and media. She’s currently researching the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Britain, and the impact its activists had on domestic politics in Britain. Prior to being an academic, Tal was a journalist. Podcasting is the fruitful convergence of the two. You can contact Tal at [email protected]