Saturday, January 17, 2009

Eunice Randall, Pt. 1

Originally published in the January, 2009, Old Radio Times.(

Eunice Randall - Boston's First Female Announcer/Engineer
Donna Halper

If you had been around greater Boston during the 19-teens and early 20s, you might have heard Eunice Randall referred to as "ER," since radio announcers were not usually allowed to use their names on the air. To her ham radio friends, she was "the OW of 1XE," or "1CDP;" to some of her youngest fans, she was "the Story Lady." Eunice Randall was all of this and more-although she was born in an era when women's options were still extremely limited, she grew up to achieve a number of 'firsts' in the exciting new industry called radio broadcasting.

In the early 1900s, Mattapoisett (a town in southeastern Massachusetts) was still rural, and Eunice's father was a farmer, while one of her brothers ran a mill. As far as I have been able to ascertain, there were no 'radio bugs' in her family, and yet somehow she became fascinated by the rapidly-expanding world of ham radio. Her first station, which she built herself, was called "ER", and her technical skills impressed one of the men who received the code she was sending out – he was the regional director of the ARRL, Irv Vermilya, a man who was very influential in amateur radio.

Irv was surprised that a young woman could build her own station, but he was also immediately supportive; he was the first to write about her radio skills, in the ham magazine, QST.

Not content to stay on her family's farm, Eunice moved up to Boston, with the plan to study art. But she found that she was good at drafting, and when she heard that the American Radio and Research Company needed draftsmen, she applied; in 1918, she became the first woman AMRAD ever hired. I would be lying if I said everyone welcomed her with open arms – it was highly unusual for women to work in technical professions back then..

- Donna Halper is a respected and experienced media historian, whose research has resulted in appearances on Chronicle (WCVB, Channel 5 in Boston), Voice of America, PBS/NewsHour, National Public Radio/Weekend America, New England Cable News, the History Channel, ABC Nightline, WBZ Radio, WNYC Radio, and elsewhere. Ms. Halper is the author of three books, the most recent of which is “Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting.” She is completing her fourth, “Icons of Talk,” a history of talk shows.


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