Scholarship has long demonstrated how a focus on women's roles can reveal vital new elements of broadcasting history, adding critical perspectives on institutional, aesthetic, communicatory, and participatory media narratives. This article asks: What happens if we stop looking at the stories of women in broadcasting as “media history”? What other interpretive lenses and disciplinary traditions might we draw on, and how might we insert media fruitfully within them? The work derives from research on the early years of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) as read from the correspondence of founder Wilhelmina (Lilian) Posthumus-van der Goot (1897–1989), and builds on IAWRT's example to develop methodological considerations for writing entangled transnational histories of gender and broadcasting, absorbing insights from studies of international organizations, collective biographies, and reconsiderations of the archive in the digital age.
No, my dear Gabriele, you cannot have it both ways. If we make an association where a professional camaraderie can develop into friendship, where there is space and air for all to breathe whether they come from the Orient, Africa or the West, where a small group cannot dictate just because they live close by, I am your woman. The exchange of views in the literal and profound sense of the word, on that level is worthwhile and has great grandeur of its own. And it is our duty as women to create such meeting grounds. As you say the world is in need of them. But if you speak to me of absolute formalities, where empty but high-sounding resolutions are to represent the grandeur, you do not realize you are taking on a masculine pattern (and a dangerous one at that, the psychologists and sociologists will tell you), well then you and I live in different worlds.1
In January 1957, Wilhelmina (Lilian) Posthumus-van der Goot, a Dutch feminist, economic historian, and cofounder of the International Archives of the Women's Movement (Internationaal Archief voor de Vrouwenbeweging, hereafter IAV), wrote these stinging words to Gabriele Strecker, a physician, member of the parliament of the German state of Hesse, and German representative in a number of international women's organizations.2 Van der Goot was underlining both her membership in an international organization of which she and Strecker had been founding members some five years previously, and the friendship that had grown over the course of meetings and correspondence within the group. The direct cause of the argument was an organizational restructuring toward a more centralized governing apparatus, but as van der Goot's forceful words make clear, at stake were competing visions of women's nature, role, and agency on the world stage. Thus it seems almost immaterial that the organization in question was the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), and that the “professional” capacity referred to was their work as broadcasters: van der Goot as head of women's radio programming at the Dutch Algemeene Vereeniging Radio Omroep (AVRO), and Strecker as head of women's programs for the Hessischer Rundfunk (HR) in Germany.
The IAWRT was founded and held its first formal conference in 1951, at the initiative of van der Goot and US broadcaster Dorothy Lewis, then coordinator of US station relations to the United Nations radio service, and counterparts from six other nations.3 Through a number of personal contacts, and also by writing “cold” to broadcasters across the globe, they gradually grew the membership among commercial and public service broadcasters. By the 1960s IAWRT membership included nearly one hundred women from more than twenty different countries. Though formally devoted to enhancing professional exchange among all kinds of women broadcasters, most members specialized in programs for women, operating within special departments for women or teams mainly producing women's programs (fig. 1). The organization's discussions quickly came to center on how to address women listeners.
While its size was small compared to many other international organizations, many IAWRT members were pioneering broadcasters in their home countries, and together they reached millions of (mostly women) listeners worldwide. The association's early correspondence reverberates with tensions of women and radio on the world stage—between conceptions of women and radio as both “private” and “public”; between universalist conceptions of women and media technology and social divisions of nation and class; between visions of global geopolitics as exemplified in the universal ambitions of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the increasingly polarized Cold War blocs.4 Geopolitically, its membership in its first decade was limited mostly to Western Europe and the settler-colonial Anglophone world. Broadcasters from the Nordic countries refused to join because the organization seemed too focused on women in the private sphere, and its members too focused on informal kinds of association.5 On the other hand, as is evident from the epigraph above, van der Goot herself largely withdrew from the organization when it took on a structure she considered too formal and too masculine. For her, combining the personal and the professional was not just a means to the end of a closer-knit organization, but an ideological end as a more feminine form of organization and agency.
We ourselves discovered the IAWRT (which exists to this day) while planning a comparative study of postwar women's programs in Britain and Germany.6 A short mention in the papers of Janet Quigley of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) led us to van der Goot's correspondence held at the Atria Institute on Gender Equality and Women's History in Amsterdam, the successor to IAV, where the organization's founding and early years are documented in both minutes and conference programs as well as extensive personal correspondence. We discovered that, through the IAWRT, the women we had been researching separately were on a first-name basis with one another and many other women broadcasters across the globe. What began as a comparative exchange between us evolved into collaborative transnational research, tracing the connections, commonalities, limitations, and frustrations of women broadcasters through the words of this cordial, passionate, and (in her own words) stubborn correspondent, whom we ourselves soon began calling by her first name.7 We took as our point of departure the question of how the twin universalisms noted above surrounding the categories of women and radio technology were negotiated in their entwined border crossings. In this essay, we reflect on what we learned by doing this research and formulate a series of methodological lessons for integrating media histories with women's histories.8 Over the course of our work, the concept of entanglement proved a fruitful frame for making sense of the world we saw emerging.
From a perspective of feminist history, as scholars focused at both the international and the national levels have demonstrated, an entangled view can shed important light. Julie Carlier in her work on Belgian feminism before World War I has shown how transnational influences impacted women's rights in Belgium—indeed, how the history of this national movement cannot be fully understood without a transnational perspective. By using an entangled history to focus on interactions of cross-national actors, she argues, out of “the complex interplay of transnational impulses and national contexts emerges a history of connections and contentions that shaped Belgian feminism.”9 In a similar way, an entangled approach might help when researching the history of women in broadcasting, since radio (and television) did not simply emerge out of a national vacuum but were shaped, negotiated, and configured in relation to international developments and transnational influences.10 Our research takes further inspiration from the concept of entangled media histories as developed by Marie Cronqvist and Christoph Hilgert, who argue for the value of transnational and transmedial approaches in media historiography, and the way the media is entangled with other “social systems.”11 This is a call for more integrated media histories that require further integration of disciplines, as will be developed below.
We will return more thoroughly to the archival situation in our final section. But now, the placement of the IAWRT's early archives in the archives of the International Women's Movement suggests a basic methodological question: What happens if we stop looking at the stories of women in broadcasting as “media history,” at least for a moment? What other interpretive lenses and disciplinary traditions might we draw on? In her 2001 sketch of what a transnational feminist media studies might look like, Annabelle Sreberny warned that it “must not become overly media-centric.”12 The concept of a non-media-centric media studies has since been embraced by other scholars in the discipline, particularly those drawing on phenomenological and nonrepresentational modes.13
This point is strongly echoed in Kate Lacey's programmatic call for radio studies that “radically de-center” the medium in their explorations of cultural history. This allows us to “contextualiz[e] ‘radio’ in the broadest terms, understanding how the discourses of broadcasting have been interwoven with—produced by and reproducing—discourses of technology, class, gender, nation, public and private, sense perceptions and so on.”14 While gendered analyses of the media have offered insightful explorations, taking the media as a central node in our inquiry risks essentializing the form of the medium itself, and, crucially, tends to channel our attention to questions and sites that are well entrenched in media history. The questions relate to media production, media texts and forms, and media audiences and reception; the sites include media institutions and particularly domestic reception settings, along with discursive constructions of media technology. In the first instance, not approaching phenomena as “media history” means resisting these channels of inquiry and instead historicizing broadcasting within a number of other cultural histories. A transnational, entangled approach looks more broadly at what flows over borders and the processes of circulation, translation, and adaptation that are involved. Establishing such non-media-centric vantage points allows us then to take a step back toward the media again from new directions, and explore how and to what extent the specificities of broadcasting, considered as a set of professional practices, institutions, technologies, and texts, shape the interactions we observe.
This article performs this movement away and back toward the media to highlight three different forms of transnational entanglement. First, it explores the role of women broadcasters within studies of gender and international expert organizations, from international feminists to diplomats and engineers. Second, it considers the entangled history of gender and media from a perspective of transnational generation formation, exploring actors from the parallel socializations within media and social landscapes. Third, and finally, it considers the archival landscape for developing such histories, and reflects on the relevance of non-media-centric archives for such histories as well as the emerging sphere of digital heritage, and how to create suitable environments for exploring these kinds of entangled histories. Taken together, these moves allow the IAWRT correspondence to reveal new dimensions of women's history with broadcasting.
In the first section, viewing the IAWRT's entanglements with other international women's organizations reveals a strong alignment of Western domestic broadcasters with specific international feminisms. From this standpoint, and moving in more closely toward the correspondence itself, it sharpens our view of broadcasting professions as a site of ambiguity between public and private subjectivity, and reveals how a rootedness in international bourgeois feminism informed women's programming in a wide range of countries and settings. Such considerations inform the generational approach developed in the second section. Considering the biographies of the IAWRT women together reveals a number of intriguing commonalities, including the fact that broadcasting was often neither the sole, nor even main, professional activity for a number of women with key roles. It further raises the challenge of considering broadcasting as part of a professional emotional landscape for the women involved in it. The insights of these two sections, finally, form the basis for our consideration of the IAWRT material—including its very materiality—in the age of digital archiving and research. We argue, expanding on arguments from Rachel Moseley and Helen Wheatley, that following the transnational paths of women in broadcasting requires a prioritization of print sources as vital mediators of women's presence and experience of broadcasting, if the marginalization of women in broadcasting in the analog era is not to be replicated in the digital archive environment.15
ENTANGLING ORGANIZATIONS: INTERNATIONALISMS, PROFESSIONALISMS, FEMINISMS
One stream of this inquiry into women and broadcasting grew out of a series of projects developing a transnational history of Europe by following the paths of technology, developed as part of the Tensions of Europe research network.16 A core concern of that agenda was expanding the scope of European integration to include technological processes apart from the formal political ones that had been a standard focus in the region. The inquiry centered on a range of mediating actors that helped drive the circulation of technology in Europe.17 These general observations led us to questions about the role of specific forms of professional expertise in traversing national boundaries, and complicated our understanding of how various social domains are constituted. What becomes visible if we cast the IAWRT in the light of the reemerging international community after World War II?
Scholarship on international relations and international organizations also offers insights into ways in which gender is key in structuring both professional expertise and international agency. More than two decades ago, historians of international relations such as Emily Rosenberg argued that closer attention to gender would work “across, or in defiance of, the supposed divisions of ‘private’ (gender roles) and ‘public’ (international relations).”18 Regarding international relations as gendered culture has since become a key paradigm for understanding the work of the international community. Such perspectives have also proven useful in incorporating informal processes in the work of such organizations into our scholarly inquiry. With regard to broadcasting, in her study of the International Broadcasting Union in the interwar years, Suzanne Lommers has shown how much of the body's collaborative work was based implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, around its being “between gentlemen.”19 Between all of these gentlemen stood the sole figure of Isa Benzie of the BBC, who in 1933 became the corporation's foreign director.20
Looking at the IAWRT in this light, it is noteworthy that many interpersonal contacts were initiated and developed through members’ active participation in other (inter)national women's organizations, as opposed to broadcasting organizations. For example, van der Goot had contacted Belgian journalist and broadcaster Betty Barzin after reading the Bulletin of the National Council of Women in Belgium, which Barzin edited. In a letter, van der Goot explained that she reached out because “I liked what [Barzin] said.”21 Of the links that did come from broadcasters, international broadcasters such as Voice of America (VOA) and United Nations Radio—that is, organizations very much caught up in the world of international relations and cultural diplomacy—were unsurprisingly strongly represented (fig. 2).22 From this internationally engaged core network, further national contacts were made, for instance in Germany, where via Gabriele Strecker and Anne-Luise Ollendorf of the Saarländischer Rundfunk, further heads of women's broadcasting became involved in the organization.
Framing the IAWRT as an explicitly gendered international professional organization then raises questions about how these three aspects of its identity were entangled. How did each of these terms structure the others? What forms of expertise and what forms of networking underpinned the IAWRT's work? How did the entanglement of these identities shape its agency on the world stage? A key discovery was of the members’ multiple ties to the International Council of Women (ICW) and its related organizations. The ICW was founded in the late nineteenth century and was, according to feminist historian Leila Rupp, one of the most general, and often most conservative, international women's organizations.23 The interwar period generated international feminist activity with the growth of organizations such as the ICW, the International Alliance of Women, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.24 This flurry of what Rupp describes as “feminist internationalization” and the expansion of a transnational women's movement continued after World War II.25 Rupp makes clear that these women's organizations shared not only certain common goals and themes, such as working for international peace and cooperation or equal rights for men and women, but also an interest in their status as women, seeing women as a group with certain interests separate from those of men.
As we began to look closer at the work of the IAWRT, many overlaps with the dynamics of international feminism, in particular the activities of the ICW, became apparent. Many members had either met or heard of one another through such organizations, and subsequent research has shown that prominent broadcasters like Elizabeth Long of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), also a member of the ICW, was connected to the organization.26 At the ICW conference in Athens in March 1951, Long was the convener for “Broadcasting,” and IAWRT's Barzin was the convener for “Press and Publicity.”27 Strecker also attended the Athens conference as a visitor, and she wrote in May to van der Goot about Long's lukewarm response to the IAWRT:
I went indeed to Greece and happened to be in the radio-committee, which was headed by Miss Long, Canada. I tried to bring up the subject of the Internat. Organiz. of radio women, but met with little enthusiasm. Miss Long rated it a professional topic which would not fit exactly in the planned program. Anyhow, I met my good friend, Betty Wason of the Voice of America who like me is cherishing very much yours and Dorothy Lewis’ idea. We were talking a good deal on how to do it and how to support it.28
This extract reveals some of the ways the organization was promoted, how the women networked, and potentially how further contacts were made. Interestingly, Wason of the VOA was already by this stage in contact with van der Goot, and the VOA would be a continued presence at their meetings.29 Not long after the Athens conference, in October 1951 the IAWRT held its founding meeting in Amsterdam. Barzin and Strecker were both there, and even if Long was reluctant, Canada was still represented in the form of commercial Canadian broadcaster Kate Aitken.30 Even though she might have appeared unenthusiastic, Long stayed in contact, as some years later van der Goot noted that Long was “looking out for us.”31
These links to women's organizations such as the ICW and its affiliated national councils of women provided a key lens through which we began to make sense of what we were dealing with. First, understanding the IAWRT through this lens allowed us to see the organization's implicit political connections. The ICW was strongly connected with bourgeois feminism, and particularly in the context of the emerging Cold War, this in many ways limited its ostensibly universalist appeal. The IAWRT was very much located in the West, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. It was not until the 1970s that East-West relations developed. This, in turn, tracks back into national contexts to shed some light on the political valence of women's programs and programmers, which were often of course ostensibly apolitical.32
Second, this invites us to consider how professional practice and expertise translated between countries to form a common identity among members (more on this soon) and among the broader international community. For the IAWRT this process was a source of constant tension: Was it a professional organization, an informal circle of friends, or an organization for advocacy and education? In 1951 the Swedish representative from Radiotjänst, Kerstin Axberger (also the vice convener for the ICW broadcasting committee in 1951) wrote to van der Goot regarding the reluctance she and her Swedish colleagues felt toward this new association: “There are so many women's organizations already! Couldn't we have some kind of informal circle of radio-women that could meet from time to time just to discuss common problems?”33 Here, too, comparisons with international women's movements, and in particular ICW feminism, proved a fruitful lens for understanding not only the organization, but its members’ professional identities and views of the medium. It quickly became clear that their particular professional expertise involved access to, and competence to address, an audience of women. Outwardly, this meant that they also appeared as a conduit for reaching women in education campaigns, and integrating them as consumers and citizens into the emerging postwar societies (fig. 3).
While it is only the study of one group, this also allowed us to the see the emergence of what Karen Lee Ashcraft and Catherine Ashcraft have referred to as the “glass slipper” of occupational identity, that is to say, “how tasks congeal into a recognizable line of work whose collective ‘brand’ radiates from association with certain practitioners.”34 In this case, their association with female audiences and their professed expertise in addressing those audiences became the defining occupational trait of women broadcasters within the group's international network. Notably, this profile excluded much of the actual day-to-day work and skills of the profession to instead focus on the “nature” of women as audiences and as broadcasters. As we saw at the start of this article, negotiating the tensions between the work's public and private aspects shook the organization to its very foundations in its early years.35
The two-edged nature of that identity became visible in interactions with UNESCO in the 1950s. In 1957 the IAWRT held its conference at UNESCO's Paris headquarters. The director of mass communications at UNESCO, Tor Gjesdal, was invited, and in his address to the radio and television women he praised their work:
It is a well known fact that the strongest advocates of peace in the world are the women—because they are mothers. By combining your professional and personal interests, you may become—in fact you are already—a very active force for world peace. Few individuals are in a better position than you, when you talk as women to women through radio, to promote the cause of international understanding and thereby the cause of civilisation itself.36
Gjesdal's speech reflected widely held beliefs about women and radio at the time regarding the ability of the technology to connect listeners and therefore work internationally for peace, and how women, given their public and private roles, were particularly suited for this cause. Not long after, the group contracted with UNESCO to prepare what seems to have been the first-ever global survey of women's roles in broadcasting, including a survey of what was also known of female audiences. Once the report was produced, however, UNESCO was not clear on how to use it. In a letter to IAWRT's Dorothy Lewis, Pierre Navaux, UNESCO's head of mass communication, explained:
I must at once say that I think you have done the maximum that was possible with the available information obtained in the course of the survey. … The fact remains however that the result is not what I had expected and the question is now if the study in its final form corresponds to the type of material normally included in our series. My own feeling is that it is of more restricted interest, mainly for directors of broadcasting organizations, house-organs, etc. and national and international organizations concerned with women's interests.37
What followed was an exchange of letters of how best to publicize and distribute the material. Ultimately, while they had funded the research, UNESCO did not pay to have the survey printed, and the correspondence does not make clear if material from it was ever published or distributed.38 Thus far, copies of it are proving difficult to trace.
Reading the IAWRT as an international rather than a broadcasters’ organization has thus revealed some important facets of its activity—and indeed, some of the ways in which its members’ professional lives were shaped on the world stage. What can an understanding of media feed back into the study of international organizations? For one, it offers us a glimpse of a longer account of feminism's engagement with media, in this case radio. This became clear through our survey of the IAWRT, its work for various broadcasting institutions, and its connections to various women's organizations, including the ICW. In the early 1950s the ICW prided itself on having already recognized the important role played by the mass media in the 1930s, when it had set up special subcommittees on cinema and broadcasting. The ICW had urged national councils to “form a Committee of representatives of the leading women's organizations to co-operate with the Broadcasting Authority of the country” so that women could both influence programming and ensure that programming reflected and promoted the women's movement. Calls were also made for “international exchange of broadcasts.”39 This points to the long-standing relationship between the women's movement and broadcasting, on the national and international levels.
Studying the IAWRT has allowed us to make visible the networks and contacts that flowed outward and inward from the organization and international feminisms. We have uncovered a thorough entanglement of the radio women in international organizations, and this allows us to ask new questions about these organizations’ conceptions of the uses and dangers of the medium. It also invites closer scrutiny of the ways in which networks themselves were mediated. Leila Rupp's study of international feminism contains valuable work on how these networks were maintained via correspondence and particular terms of endearment.40 We also see the IAWRT women using the medium itself as a means of establishing contacts and modeling their own self-identities. Their meetings often began with recording and recorded greetings that they would be able to take back with them and work into their domestic programs.
Taking a transnational perspective on gender and broadcasting certainly has not led us to conclude that the IAWRT as a body was particularly effective on the international stage. But that is not the claim for their value as a source for historiography. Indeed, what an organization like this can do is show the contours of—and barriers to—women's circulation in broadcasting, and open up a view to the transnational horizons of their activity that would otherwise remain hidden.
In tracing the formation and development of the IAWRT in its early years, we shifted our focus away from the broadcasters, the “institutional contexts,” to the women themselves, in other words their biographies. The sharing of biography was interestingly also a common practice of the IAWRT, as found in their Bulletin (founded in 1963), correspondence, and conference proceedings. The Bulletin often included a “Who's Who” section where individual members introduced themselves via their own personal stories, their educational and professional backgrounds, and how they ended up in broadcasting.41 Exploring the biographies of individual IAWRT members proved fruitful, but also challenging, as we will discuss.
To focus on people or networks is of course not new or unique.42 Michele Hilmes's research on transnational television history shows that tracing the career trajectories of key individuals can make visible the “transnational flows of creative influence.” A focus on an individual “has the potential to reveal the complexity of the transnational negotiations underlying an entire body of work,” and how these (and a person's identity) are shaped by national contexts, for example national policy and institutional needs.43 These negotiations are neither fixed nor stable, but rather highly complex. On a deeper level, David Hendy has raised important methodological points on the role of biographies and emotions as part of media history. He suggests that if we reconstruct the social circles in which a person moved, we better understand their motivations, and the “harmonies and the divisions” that might have shaped broadcasting institutions and their output. Hendy argues in relation to the BBC in the interwar period that many programs of the 1920s and 1930s should be understood as “highly personal responses to the artistic and political world trends of the period.” It was, after all, a generation of men and women touched by the war who helped found the BBC in the early 1920s. This approach can thus deepen our understanding of broadcasters such as the BBC as not just institutions, but “complex emotional communities.” This also raises interesting points and questions for the study at hand. As Hendy argues, by studying an individual's private life and delving into biography, acknowledging the significance of networks and social groupings, “one part of the media can be seen as an entity strongly shaped by the individuals who created it.”44 This observation seems pertinent to our work on the IAWRT. What common experiences shaped them? And how did this in turn shape their network, and their use and understanding of broadcasting?
We found many common themes and elements in the IAWRT women's biographies. Most were born around 1900 and had entered some kind of professional life by the mid-1930s. Many gained the right to vote shortly before or after they came of voting age, and others (re-)received it in 1945. Most, if not all, appeared to be university educated. Van der Goot held a PhD in economics, Quigley was an Oxford graduate, Strecker had gained her medical degree in 1943, and Aleksandra Stypułkowska of the Polish Section of Radio Free Europe (RFE) had been a practicing lawyer before entering broadcasting. Other members were university educated in the humanities or the social sciences. Several were not primarily broadcasters, but saw broadcasting as part of a range of activities. As mentioned earlier, Belgian journalist and broadcaster Betty Barzin had come into contact with van der Goot via her activities in the National Council of Belgian Women (fig. 4). Barzin was also an active member of the ICW, having been the convener for the ICW's Press and Public Relations Committee from 1951 until her death in 1962.45 She was also IAWRT president from 1959 to 1962. Importantly, not all had started their careers in women's programs but had drifted in that direction, not least because it was an area where they could be professionally effective. Quigley, for example, began her career in publishing and bookselling before joining the BBC in 1930 as an assistant in the Foreign Department, then moved to the BBC's Talks Department in 1936, where she was soon developing informative talks for women.46 Quigley developed women's programs during the war. She left the BBC after getting married in 1945, but returned in 1950 as editor of the popular Woman's Hour.47
Many of the women belonged to the intellectual elite, and most were capable of corresponding in multiple languages. Nearly all were well traveled, whether as part of their ordinary lives, thanks to war mobilizations, or both. Stypułkowska had been a practicing lawyer in the 1930s, and together with her husband had managed a law firm in Warsaw. During World War II the two of them were involved in the Polish resistance, and in 1943 the Gestapo arrested her and sent her to a concentration camp. In April 1945 she was saved by the Swedish Red Cross and sent to Sweden. There she began a career in journalism, which eventually took her to London, where she was reunited with her family. Before moving on to Munich, as editor of women's programs in the Polish Section of RFE she worked as a freelance journalist and also contributed to the BBC's Polish Service.48 Her talks at the BBC touched on a range of topics, such as “Polish Teaching in Modern Poland,” “The Handbook of Polish Literature,” and “The Rights of Women behind the Iron Curtain.”49
This all stands in stark contrast to the story of Stypułkowska's colleague Maria Tumlirova, who also worked for RFE, but for its Czechoslovakian Service. An academic and politician, Tumlirova was a parliamentary representative of the Czech Agrarian Party, which was banned after the war due to its collaboration with the Germans.50 She left Czechoslovakia after the Czech coup in 1948 and ended up in Munich at the RFE, where she broadcast on a range of topics, for example “Housekeeping Features” and “Women and Politics.”51 Stypułkowska and Tumlirova did have some common experiences—both fled their countries and both ended up working for RFE—although these were clearly shaped by very different circumstances.
Peering deeper into the biographies of the IAWRT women, it became apparent that they shared a lot of common ground—as noted, many had enjoyed professional careers before they entered broadcasting—but their journeys differed and revealed a history of entangled identities where broadcasting was just one of their many public engagements and activities. The IAWRT brought them together in their capacity as radio professionals and broadcasters, but they emerged from a range of circumstances and connections shaped by far more than broadcasting: World War II, the boom of postwar internationalism, and the rise of international feminism in the first half of the twentieth century. Most were also involved in other international organizations reflecting their interests beyond broadcasting.
Re-entangling these biographies allowed us both to tie the group together and to look for the broader involvements and implicit and explicit platforms for generation formation. The women shared the belief that programs for women should be informative, but first and foremost educational, aimed at improving and strengthening women's citizenship and emphasizing women's domestic roles and qualities. As scholars have shown, the concept of citizenship was often used in the postwar period as a means to justify female activism, agency, and gender equality.52 The IAWRT also shared the idea that radio could build bridges between women broadcasters and listeners, and communities of women listeners across national boundaries.53 Also here, discussions on how to speak—or regulate emotion—emerge, particularly when viewed in a Cold War context, as Gabrielle Strecker pointed out in 1952: “If we want to sustain our friends through the dark years of Russian occupation, we will have to express our feelings of concern, interest and love.”54 Considering the role of the medium more carefully within this context, we see it not only as a form of transnational connection but also, interestingly, as an instrument of emotional “regulation.”
Through promoting professional exchange and sharing of women's programs, broadcasters created an international conversation with one another and with their listeners. IAWRT correspondence and conference reports and minutes further reveal the idea of both the association and women's programs as a friendly forum, private in nature, that blurred the boundary between the professional and the personal, broadcaster and listener. To put it simply, it was women talking to women (fig. 5). Meetings and conferences included opportunities for socializing. The 1955 Paris conference included a “fascinating slice of Parisian activities,” for example visits to fashion shows, shopping, and the Louvre. “This is not work of course,” the conference report noted, but “still it is part of our work to appreciate the beauty, the history and the social and economic efforts of the hostess country. Besides all this moving about promotes our own mixing up, our getting and talking together which after all is the main objective of our association.”55 In her exploration of “cosmopolitan sociability” and the British and International Federations of University Women in the 1950s, Stephanie Spencer argues that “female friendship rituals were a significant part of women's active citizenship in the post-war world.” Tea parties or picnics “should not be dismissed simply as ways of passing time for well-heeled 1950s women,” but instead be considered as important moments of contact on the local, national, and international levels, which would enable and feed more formal social and political activism (fig. 6).56 This observation seems particularly relevant to the IAWRT women and their forms of socializing, and again helps place them in a broader context of women's networking practices and activities in the 1950s.
Here it is worth pointing back to Hendy on the importance of biography and emotion in media history, since, as he argues, a “person's life-story is the nexus through which larger structures might be revealed and understood.” By unveiling a person's biography and emotional life we gain insight into the motivations driving radio (and television) women, which allows us to see the larger structures between “self and society.”57 Taking these common experiences into account offers a lens to start to try to understand the sensibilities that gave rise to their conversations. This, in turn, also gives insights for our study of the national organizations and programming.
On the ground, however, exploring individual IAWRT members’ biographies has proved challenging—not least because of language barriers and national and geographical distances in terms of access to archives and special collections (something we are still pursuing), but also due to the marginalization of women in broadcasting and women's programming, and as a consequence of this, their fleeting, scattered, and sometimes nonexistent traces in archival records.
RE-ENTANGLING THE ARCHIVES
In a recent keynote address, “How to Disappear from History,” Michele Hilmes, who has done much for making the study of gender central to broadcasting history, argued that “the places and spaces where transnational and transmedial communication take place tend to be located on the margins of mainstream histories, and often on institutional and social margins as well.” She particularly underlined gender as a significant factor in further marginalizing specific histories.58 On one level, as noted above, women have often carved out transnational places in the mediasphere deliberately outside of established institutions. On a broader level, as we have seen, a transnational perspective demands that we read the two histories from each other's archival margins. Whereas national broadcasting institutions often deemphasize transnational activity, particularly by women, in their histories and archival practices, mainstream broadcasting and media organizations are not necessarily central in archives of women's movements or indeed international organizations.
We are used to broadcasting institutions marginalizing women in terms of resources, pay, and appreciation, but this also extends to the realm of archiving.59 In an archiving landscape often driven by issues of production reuse or internal administration rather than historical concerns, broadcasters’ own personal collections have long played an important role in preserving material. Barbara Freeman has shown that Canadian broadcaster Elizabeth Long “fully understood the historic significance of women's programming; it was just that other people didn't.” Indeed, Long lost much of her personal archive when she was vacating her office upon retirement: “I was not told the weekend on which I was to be moved and arrived Monday morning to find all my precious historical material dumped into a carton with the contents of two ink wells dripping all over it.” Freeman's history of Long thus necessarily relied on Long's correspondence with friend and fellow broadcaster Marjorie McEnaney—the “richest source” on Long's life and career. The letters provide details not only about her personal life, but also her broadcasting career and experience as well as activities and work for various women's organizations.60
Women's marginalization in the archives of broadcasting institutions has also been highlighted by television historians Rachel Moseley and Helen Wheatley, who ask the crucial question: “Is archiving a feminist issue?” They identify gendered gaps in the archives and histories of British television, where daytime television programs that were mostly aimed at a female audience are often missing, partly because some of this programming was produced live, but mostly because it was perceived as lacking cultural value and therefore not preserved.61
In this sense the “lessons from Lilian” and the IAWRT might prove useful in developing an entangled history of women in broadcasting. Stepping outside the media frame and exploring women's biographies, membership in national and international women's organizations, and support for the (inter)national women's movement takes us outside broadcasting institutional settings and opens up new archival opportunities and directions. Exploring the IAWRT women's biographies also revealed how scattered their archival traces are. Some appear in the archives of their respective broadcasting institution, some in the International Women's Movement archives, and sometimes both, as in the case of van der Goot. Some led very mobile lives, often due to the war, and some, as we have highlighted, were not first and foremost broadcasters, and hence their paths and archival traces span several countries as well as different archives and collections.62
The point is that non-media-centric archives have real value for such histories, and that personal correspondence and women's and feminist archives might be sites where individuals, and patterns and examples of transnational broadcasting, can be successfully traced and explored. We are now able (or, rather, in a better place) to make visible and map the connections and flows between women broadcasters and women's organizations on the local, national, and transnational levels. For example, in the May 1950 minutes from the “Broadcasting and Television” committee of the National Council of Women in Great Britain, it is noted that Catherine King from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, a key figure in educational broadcasts and organizer and presenter of ABC's Women's Session in 1944, was to be offered a temporary “co-option” (membership) because of her interest in the NCW and since she was visiting the UK.63 King was also at this point in touch with van der Goot, in fact helping her prepare for the first meeting of the IAWRT.64 While in London, King met with van der Goot and Dorothy Lewis, and it was here that the IAWRT started to take shape before its official founding meeting in 1951.65 Mapping out the circles and networks the IAWRT was connected to, and the flows among these—re-entangling the archives—reveals direct contact between people, their minuted discussions, and in some cases, as a result of these, their actions and activities.
We also need to consider that broadcasters are sometimes marginalized in other institutions and disciplines. Maggie Andrews and Sallie McNamara have argued that the media is essential to the study of women in the twentieth century, arguing for a further integration of media and women's/feminist histories.66 Women's organizations such as the ICW clearly identified broadcasting (and other forms of media, including press and cinema) as vital tools for the women's movement. However, within women's and feminist histories, the media, particularly broadcast media, have remained at the margins. Generally speaking, in their quest to provide accounts of women's agency and balance out their invisibility in mainstream institutions, explorations of the links between (international) feminisms and media have tended to focus on how and where women have taken control of the means of production. In this regard, a fair amount of attention focuses on print sources, from early suffragette pamphlets and periodicals to publications such as Spare Rib.67 Broadcasting enters the picture as it increasingly came into the hands of women to advance their own cause, usually outside mainstream institutional frameworks of broadcasting.68 Community radio expert Caroline Mitchell has shown that digital archives of women's (community) radio document and provide access to women's and feminist activism on both a local and a global scale, and help to “re-sound” women into history.69 The further integration of media histories and women's and feminist histories will aid the development of an entangled history of women in broadcasting.
Moseley and Wheatley's vital point, that archiving is a feminist issue, also raises a material point. The push to get broadcasting online often aims at audiovisual documents—and often there are no sounds of women or examples of their programming, which further marginalizes their histories. Despite all of her important work, only very scant traces of van der Goot's voice remain at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the Dutch audiovisual archive (see sound clip). This emphasis on the audiovisual bypasses print sources, as Josephine Dolan has highlighted.70 And as we have likewise shown, correspondence, bulletins, and various other printed documents are vital to tracing the entanglements of women in broadcasting, and not least their transnational dimensions. Hence the preservation and digitization of (and provision of access to) print material is also a feminist issue. Even where audiovisual material is available, primary or secondary contextual printed material can make it more findable and interpretable. And as we have shown, the printed materials often reside in archives outside of broadcasting institutions.
Studying entangled media histories requires access to many archives, libraries, and collections—often across national boundaries—and thus an engagement in the “discussion about the role of archives and digital platforms.”71 Digitization and the emerging sphere of digital heritage that includes suitable environments for exploring these kinds of entangled histories should also be foregrounded. A good example and model is New approaches to European Women's Writing (NEWW) Women Writers, a network, tool, and digital repository that facilitates research on women's authorship from the Middle Ages to the 1930s. Its focus is on international collaborative research exploring female authorship and connections among women authors.72 Scholarly networking (and funding) should therefore also be considered a feminist issue. The importance of transnational scholarly collaboration to access and interpret material—especially when language is a barrier—is of real value. And workshops and meetings (such as the one that laid the foundation for this special issue) are vital for such work to flourish.73
This article has sketched some key directions in developing an entangled history of women in broadcasting, taking as a point of departure the need to decenter the media themselves in trying to grasp these entanglements, and instead place them within other key fields of women's history. As Kate Lacey has observed, decentering the media in our research also goes a long way toward de-essentializing them, and we begin to see how these different contexts reconfigure how we understand what the media are and what they do.74 We have situated the role of women broadcasters within studies of gender and international expert organizations, in particular international feminisms. Viewed in the light of international organizations, broadcasting appears as part of an ensemble of skills, often not considered so much as a form of technical expertise but as incidental to other forms of knowledge. When viewed in the light of transnational generation formation, radio in particular seems to be an ideological extension of certain forms of social networking peculiar to women's organizations. Women's biographies and entangled identities have illuminated connections and networks, and their life stories shed further insight on the motivations and conversations that shaped organizations such as the IAWRT and its individual members. Radio was for most of these women a tool for improving and strengthening women's citizenship and stressing women's domestic roles. It was a means of bridge building. We finally considered the archival landscape for developing such histories, and reflected on how non-media-centric archives are relevant for such histories as well as the emerging sphere of digital heritage. Reemerging from entangled archives, we revealed important intermedial entanglements that help make sense of women's broadcasting from a transnational perspective. Indeed, to an extent, the approach we have outlined here has largely bypassed any view of broadcast content at all.