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American Women: Resources from the Recorded Sound Collections

Radio Broadcasts

Ann Rosener, photographer. Women in essential services. Ruth Anderson, San Francisco's only woman radio news reporter, has entered a field formerly open only to men. 1943. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The Library of Congress holds the largest and most important collection of radio broadcasts in the United States. Spanning the mid-1920s through the present day, these broadcasts include all types of radio genres—comedy, drama, public affairs, propaganda, interviews, news, and musical variety. Among these programs are many containing information about American women's history and culture. The radio collection comprises many “special collections”—donations from radio networks, performers, writers, and producers.

The two largest collections are the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) Collection and the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) Collection. Dozens of collections are devoted to a single performer—often donated by that performer—or a particular company. Broadcasts by Arthur Godfrey and singer Jessica Dragonette (1910-1980), soap operas and variety programs sponsored by General Foods Corporation, and programs by interviewer Larry King are among these broadcasts. Others concern anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978), the poetry and literature series New Letters on the Air, the Original Amateur Hour, Phil and Evelyn Spitalny's All-Girl Orchestra, and soprano Helen Traubel (1899-1972). These radio broadcasts, which offer several different paths for studying American women, are a largely underused resource.

Researching Radio

The great depth and breadth of the Library's radio holdings allow us to observe evolving societal attitudes toward women and assumptions about them. To use the division's radio collections for such research, you should consult primary and secondary sources in other divisions for topics and programs of interest; then you can search the Library of Congress Online Catalog and SONIC, the Recorded Sound Section catalog, to locate programs held by the Library.

Although it is impossible to cover all of the radio collections in this site, a few of the largest collections are described here in terms of content, cataloging, and access. Reference staff members can assist you in finding and examining smaller radio collections.

Finding Audio Recordings at the Library of Congress

Audio recordings at the Library of Congress are described in two Library of Congress catalogs:

Please note: catalog records found in SONIC does not have a permanent linking feature. In these cases, a search in SONIC of the call number, title, or persons involved will turn up the catalog record for the recording.