This article examines how the writers and publicists behind the pioneering radio serial Clara, Lu 'n' Em circulated representations of gendered labor in early prime-time and daytime network radio. Through their satiric impersonations of “syntax-scrambling” midwestern housewives, the careful promotion of the three young stars, and their sale of Super Suds to American housewives, they established gender norms for both the production and the consumption of commercial messages in early radio. The creative team supporting Clara, Lu 'n' Em helped write the script for how broadcasters and sponsors could negotiate economic pressures and cultural concerns about women's paid work in the young medium. By embracing domesticity, the program negotiated the division then developing between prime-time and daytime programming, modeled modern consumer behavior for a mass female audience, and pledged its support for gendered spheres of labor.
Producing a Radio Housewife: Clara, Lu 'n' Em, Gendered Labor, and the Early Days of Radio
Jennifer Hyland Wang is a broadcast historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she also received her PhD. Her research largely focuses on the relationship between gender and broadcast history, specifically in the areas of radio, daytime programming, and women's work. She has written for the Velvet Light Trap, Radio Reader, and Cinema Journal. Her most recent publication, on the radio star Allen Prescott and his show The Wife Saver, was featured in the special 2015 issue on “Reconsidering Gender, Genre, and Race in Broadcast Radio and Television” of the Journal of e-Media Studies.
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Jennifer Hyland Wang; Producing a Radio Housewife: Clara, Lu 'n' Em, Gendered Labor, and the Early Days of Radio. Feminist Media Histories 1 January 2018; 4 (1): 58–83. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2018.4.1.58
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