"From The Week in Westminster to What we Pay Rates For: the BBC, Citizenship and Women’s Talks, 1923-1939"

This source preferred by Kate Murphy

Authors: Murphy, K.

Start date: 7 September 2012

On 4 June 1923, the welfare campaigner Lady Emmott gave a wireless talk on ‘How Local Government affects the Home’, the first of many broadcasts in the inter-war years that addressed women as citizens. Initially sporadic, the arrival of Hilda Matheson as the BBC’s Director of Talks in 1927 heralded a golden era of programmes for women, many of which had the specific aim of explaining the workings of local government and parliament. The extension of the franchise in 1928 prompted a number of programmes on citizenship, such as Lettice Fisher’s What we Pay Rates For, and the impending 1929 election, the first at which all adult women could vote, triggered not only nine imposing fortnightly debates in Questions for Women Voters but saw Labour, Conservative and Liberal women MPs invited on air to explain their party’s political stance. The Week in Westminster, first broadcast in November 1929, was specifically aimed at women listeners, presented by a rota of female MPs. Outside the parliamentary session, the feminist campaigner Ray Strachey filled the Wednesday morning slot with her Women’s Commentary reflecting on current affairs and political trends. The 1930s saw far fewer programmes on citizenship and political issues for women; The Week in Westminster, for instance, was redesigned to cater for a more general audience. This paper will consider the BBC’s role in informing and educating women about citizenship and how far this reflected the circumstances of the times and the interests of those who made the programmes.

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