The Broadcast 41: Women and the Anti-Communist Blacklist
How forty-one women—including Dorothy Parker, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Lena Horne—were forced out of American television and radio in the 1950s “Red Scare.”
At the dawn of the Cold War era, forty-one women working in American radio and television were placed on a media blacklist and forced from their industry. The ostensible reason: so-called Communist influence. But in truth these women—among them Dorothy Parker, Lena Horne, and Gypsy Rose Lee—were, by nature of their diversity and ambition, a threat to the traditional portrayal of the American family on the airwaves. This book from Goldsmiths Press describes what American radio and television lost when these women were blacklisted, documenting their aspirations and achievements.
Through original archival research and access to FBI blacklist documents, The Broadcast 41 details the blacklisted women's attempts in the 1930s and 1940s to depict America as diverse, complicated, and inclusive. The book tells a story about what happens when non-male, non-white perspectives are excluded from media industries, and it imagines what the new medium of television might have looked like had dissenting viewpoints not been eliminated at such a formative moment. The all-white, male-dominated Leave it to Beaver America about which conservative politicians wax nostalgic existed largely because of the forcible silencing of these forty-one women and others like them. For anyone concerned with the ways in which our cultural narrative is constructed, this book offers an urgent reminder of the myths we perpetuate when a select few dominate the airwaves.
Praise for The Broadcast 41: Women and the Anti-Communist Blacklist
...this history is a valuable correction.—Ms Magazine—
...an impassioned, indignant documentation of the 1950s “war over popular culture,” highlighting the work of some particularly talented women heroes who could have shaped television programming to reflect real American values and diversity.
The Broadcast 41 offers an insightful, persuasive history of the American conservative movement that united to suppress the voices of progressive women in broadcasting, and how their perspectives continue to remain relevant today. Stabile's frequent connections between the environment of the 1950s and contemporary US politics – such as the #MeToo movement and the FBI's targeting of 'black identity extremists' – may offer a way into this lesser-known history for a broad audience of readers. This ongoing effort to recover the voices of women, immigrants and people of colour in broadcasting offers a vibrant alternative to what she terms the continuing 'historical amnesia' surrounding the anti-communist blacklist.
—LSE Review of Books—