Why is “Radio Ladies” still selling 8 years after release?

“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!

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