"Woman's Hour" Turns 60

By Christine Cupaiuolo — October 2, 2006

You’ve probably heard by now that Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and friends have launched GreenStone Media, a national radio network that broadcasts a variety of women’s talk shows. Meanwhile, in the UK, a radio program on women’s issues is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Over at the BBC, Martha Kearney writes about the history of “Woman’s Hour” — a program that when it first aired in 1946 was hosted by a man.

Kearney is the political editor of the BBC’s “Newsnight” and a “Woman’s Hour” host. The show often covers current political issues, such as the gender wage gap and violence against women in Afghanistan.

“Early items included ‘cooking with whalemeat’ (still a time of rationing), ‘I married a lion tamer’ and my favourite, ‘how to hang your husband’s suit.’ But some of the elements of the programme are the same today,” writes Kearney, explaining how fashion and cooking are still part of the mix.

“But Woman’s Hour in the early days wasn’t quite as cosy as you might think,” Kearney continues. “When the word “vagina” was used in 1946 in an item about women’s health, there was uproar and for decades the more decorous ‘birth canal’ was used instead.”

For those tired of the media asking, “Is there a future for feminism?” know that the question was raised on “Woman’s Hour” in 1948. Some talk-show topics, it seems, never go out of fashion.

Kearney notes that a program called “Woman’s Hour” would probably not be green-lighted today, “yet Woman’s Hour remains a successful part of the Radio 4 schedule and 40% of its audience are men.”

If a show called the “Women’s Hour” can almost the bridge the gender gap, who knows where GreenStone might lead.

Plus: If you’re looking for other UK media on feminist issues, I highly recommend The F-Word, a terrific online magaizne that “exists to help encourage a new sense of community among UK feminists, and to show the doubters that feminism still exists here, today, now – and is as relevant to the lives of the younger generation as it was to those in the 60s and 70s.”

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