“Radio Ladies: Canada’s Women on the Air 1922-1975” was first published in 2010 with a Second Edition released in 2012. It is still selling consistently well across Canada. Its market is mainly college, university and public libraries. Why is this book still selling so well? The reason is simple: there is no other book like it. Nobody was interested in writing and researching a book about women’s role in the work of radio broadcasting in Canada. And yet, there they all were – hundreds of women working in radio from the very early days of the medium. I chose to profile women who had actually performed the work of being “on the air”. I began researching in my own province of British Columbia with the thought that I would just focus on the many women who pioneered in radio broadcasting here. But, when I had assembled many, I realized that even though the work was very difficult (and expensive) I had to extend my reach to cover women’s radio work across Canada. I chose the year 1922 to begin with because that is the year the first woman in Canada signed on the air – live. My end date for research was 1975. By that year, many more women were going back to work and radio stations had many female employees – many of whom had on-air shifts. By the time my work was finished, six years had gone by. I had boxes and crates of letters and notes from retired radio broadcasters and profiles and family photos from the relatives of broadcasters who were no longer with us. I had paid hundreds of dollars earned in a part-time job to obtain copyrighted photos from various provincial and federal archives and with that I had permission to reproduce those photos. I had interviewed women in person and by phone and by email. I remember interviewing one woman by public payphone in the downstairs area of a local gym, sitting on a chair, balancing my notebook on my knee, holding the receiver in the other hand. When I began writing “Radio Ladies”, I had a budget of exactly zero dollars. I had lost my employment and had just finished my undergraduate degree in English Literature at Simon Fraser University here in Burnaby, British Columbia. I didn’t even have a telephone of my own. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had worked in radio and loved it, during the early 1970s. I had met many amazing older women who had been radio stars in the province and now, looking back I realized that there were no books at all about women in Canadian radio. Oh sure, there were glossy coffee-table books about radio and in one or two of them women are briefly mentioned, but none of those (male) authors took the time to look at women’s work in radio seriously. So if you look at the work I did, how long it took and how expensive it was, maybe people never wrote a book like this before or since for very good reasons. But, I felt it was important and I persisted, which is basically what those pioneering radio stars did as well. And these are the reasons that “Radio Ladies” is still selling after all these years. There is quite simply nothing else like it. And my guess is, there never will be. Make sure your school library has its own copy!
Craig Dunn is the author of “The Key Valley Railroad” published in 2009. He has developed into an interesting new Canadiana author and Magnetewan Books is proud to announce that Craig Dunn has signed with us. Magnetewan Books will be publishing Craig’s new collection of brilliant short stories, “Toronto Tales (Growing Up In Greenwood) with a release date of early 2021.
Watch this page for Library reading dates upcoming. First in line will be Woodstock Public Library, in Woodstock/Ingersoll Ontario area. Craig will have some freshly published volumes of his short stories available for purchase. It will be an enjoyable break in your usual routine to sit comfortably and listen to Craig Dunn reading some of his short stories from “Toronto Tales”.
What happens to your hard-earned research notes, your interview recordings or transcripts when you are finished with your latest book? One possibility is the Canadian version of the Library of Congress – Library & Archives Canada aka LAC/bac. If your work has historical significance, as was the case with “Radio Ladies”, they may be interested in acquiring notes, research, interviews and so forth – especially if your notes are handwritten. It is worthwhile to contact them and ask if they would be interested in acquiring your research material for future generations of researchers. Once “Radio Ladies” was published I found that I had a two-drawer filing cabinet full of research notes. Some were the notes I made by hand when I was trying to locate the pioneering broadcasters so that I could sit down with them and talk about the early days of radio. Other notes were the actual handwritten interviews themselves together with cds of the transcribed notes. As well, I had sound files of the interviews I had done once I had the money to purchase a voice recorder. I had the recordings saved to cds as sound files. The interviews were backed up with a typed printout. There were also letters – snail mail letters – from women who had worked in radio. These were all so precious to me that I knew they would never be destroyed by me, but what if I was not in control of their destiny? So, I contacted LAC/bac and they were very interested – thrilled actually – and send me a contract form to fill out which will be attached to the storage boxes I send to Ottawa. If you are working on a book of Canadian historical significance LAC/bac is a possibility to consider, once your book is in print. (Peggy Stewart).