When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today

When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today

The New York Times bestselling author of Seinfeldia tells the little-known story of four trailblazing women in the early days of television who laid the foundation of the industry we know today.

It was the Golden Age of Radio and powerful men were making millions in advertising dollars reaching thousands of listeners every day. When television arrived, few radio moguls were interested in the upstart industry and its tiny production budgets, and expensive television sets were out of reach for most families. But four women—each an independent visionary— saw an opportunity and carved their own paths, and in so doing invented the way we watch tv today.

Irna Phillips turned real-life tragedy into daytime serials featuring female dominated casts. Gertrude Berg turned her radio show into a Jewish family comedy that spawned a play, a musical, an advice column, a line of house dresses, and other products. Hazel Scott, already a renowned musician, was the first African American to host a national evening variety program. Betty White became a daytime talk show fan favorite and one of the first women to produce, write, and star in her own show.

Together, their stories chronicle a forgotten chapter in the history of television and popular culture.

But as the medium became more popular—and lucrative—in the wake of World War II, the House Un-American Activities Committee arose to threaten entertainers, blacklisting many as communist sympathizers. As politics, sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, and money collided, the women who invented television found themselves fighting from the margins, as men took control. But these women were true survivors who never gave up—and thus their legacies remain with us in our television-dominated era. It's time we reclaimed their forgotten histories and the work they did to pioneer the medium that now rules our lives.

This amazing and heartbreaking history, illustrated with photos, tells it all for the first time. 

Title:When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today
ISBN:9780062973306
Format Type:

    When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today Reviews

  • Niamh

    What an excellent book about television and the women who, ultimately, pioneered its evolution as the prominent little box in the corner. So much of television and film studies is dominated by men, be...

  • Matthew Galloway

    Even though I'm not much of a tv watcher, I found this completely fascinating. I had no idea that television started out with such an opportunity to be more diverse and equal (though the women in this...

  • Natalie

    Such an interesting book about early television. The author cleverly focuses on a few women and their impact on television. Armstrong has also woven in the background of the tumultuous post WWII years...

  • Annette

    Interesting account of four women who pioneered early television. Two are mostly forgotten, one defined daytime tv, and one still shows up on the airwaves.Gertrude Berg brought her sitcom from radio t...

  • Susan

    3.5 stars. I think the title is somewhat misleading. Armstrong focuses on four women who were pioneers in the early days of television, but I wouldn't say they were solely responsible for its developm...

  • Amy

    ⭐ 4.5 stars!I'm delightfully surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. A lot of the non-fiction I've picked up this year has ranged between awful and okay, but finally I've found one of my favorite...

  • Steve

    I loved this book. I loved the detailed biographies that never got bogged down in minutiae. I loved the details of the early history of television. Jennifer Keishin Armstrong writes in a wonderful, co...

  • Suzanne

    Absolutely remarkable! The book focuses on 4 women that made their careers in entertainment, specifically television. Seriously, they did it themselves by sheer determination and talent. Hearing about...

  • Ang

    I didn't know ANY of this, so from that angle, this book was a hit! However, it felt weirdly lopsided, and seemed to spend the most time on Gertrude Berg (who, admittedly, was a great subject!), and w...

  • Jeffrey

    While I admire the author’s dedication to uncovering female histories that have been largely forgotten, I didn’t find the stories as compelling as the premise suggests. In fact I found that the au...