When Women Invented Television

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
6:30 pm

**NOTE: The Library's weekly events email on March 21 mistakenly listed this program as taking place on Tuesday; the correct date is Wednesday, March 24. We apologize for any confusion.

Like most industries of the era, television in the 1940s and ‘50s was largely a male monopoly. Four visionary women nonetheless began carving out singular legacies, overcoming sexism, racism, and red-scare McCarthyism to help shape the TV we watch today. 

In a discussion of her newly released book When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today, author and TV cultural critic Jennifer Keishin Armstrong recounts the careers and contributions of these four trailblazers.  

  • Irna Phillips drew from real-life tragedy in creating the longest-running broadcast program of all time, the daytime (and female-dominated) serial Guiding Light.  
  • Gertrude Berg created, wrote, and starred in the first TV show to feature Jewish-American characters, The Goldbergs, which was adapted into a 1950 movie. 
  • Jazz and classical pianist Hazel Scott became the first African American to host a national evening variety program, The Hazel Scott Show, in 1950. 
  • Betty White broke in as a daytime talk show favorite; became one of the first women to gain full creative control of a show in producing, writing, and starring in the comedy Life with Elizabeth; and ultimately put together the longest career in TV history, spanning 80 Emmy-decorated years. 

Armstrong, who lives in New York City, is a former senior writer for Entertainment Weekly and author of the bestselling Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything, among other books. She also has written for The New York Times Book Review, Vice, New York magazine, Billboard, and BBC Culture. 

Her presentation marks Women’s History Month in March. Watch it live online at YouTube.com/kclibrary