Women have worked in commercial radio almost as long as radio has been in Australia.

From the mid-1930’s female voices were heard on air and women worked as producers. Radios were an essential household item, and organisations such as the National Council of Women, the United Associations of Women and the Housewives Association had regular on-air programs on issues of national and international significance.

Radio dramas were often produced, directed, written and performed by women.

Women were pioneers in media production techniques and were integral to the shaping of Australian cultural identity.

During the years of World War II, many women joined the workforce as part of the ‘all-in’ war effort. By this time, women in Australian radio were contributing to the production of shows such as: Leave It to the Girls, Aunt Jenny’s Real Life Stories, When a Girl Marries, and Portia Faces Life. These shows were key to boosting the morale of working women nationwide.

Here are just some of the trailblazers who led the way for women in Australian radio today:

Gwen Meredith
Gwen Meredith was a household name as author of around 10,000 episodes of radio serials from 1940 to 1959. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1929 from Sydney University, Meredith worked as a freelance writer before becoming a radio scriptwriter in 1940. She travelled around Australia to research her serials, including the Lawsons, which started as a propaganda medium to introduce new agricultural methods to Australian farmers. It became the most popular drama series on Australian radio and ran for 1,299 episodes.

Queenie Ashton 
Queenie Ashton featured in radio from the 1930s, including the long-running role of Granny Bishop in the radio serial Blue Hills, written by Gwen Meridith, for the entire 27 years of the serial’s run (1949–1976)

Grace Gibson
opened her own production company in 1944 and became one of the biggest producers of radio drama with broadcast productions that would air in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong and Canada. Gibson’s company produced over 30,000 programs for Australian radio.

Dorothy Crawford
was co-founder of Crawford Productions with her brother Hector, producing many successful radio programs. She was honoured in 1973 by the Australian Writers’ Guild with a special award for encouraging Australian writers.

Andrea (Dorothy) Jenner
was the first “queen of Australian radio” and from the late 1950’s co-host of a morning show on 2UE and later 2GB. As a chorus girl, dressmaker, film extra and stuntwoman, market research concluded Jenner’s own experiences ‘allowed her to transport the session into a world remote for the ordinary housewife’.

Mama Lena
was one of the first dual language females on air, with a weeknight radio program from 1957 – 1985 on 2CH, 2KY and 2SERFM keeping the Italian community informed on current news, social and entertainment events in Australia and Italy.

Gwen Plumb 
referred to as the ‘Grand Dame of Australian entertainment,” started her radio career in the 1930’s as a radio advertising copywriter, and worked as a producer, scriptwriter and performer before hosting her own radio show on the Macquarie Network from 1945 – 1974.

Mary Hardy
became the co-host of mornings on 3UZ in 1964, and then became the host of the afternoons, which became the most popular afternoon radio program for five years. Hardy was the great aunt of Australian writer Marieke Hardy.

Robyn Slater
worked at 2WL (now Wave FM) in 1966 and was one of the first women in talkback radio, after becoming the first woman on WIN television in 1961 and working at the BBC in London.

Muriel Cooper
became the first woman in Australia to rate Number 1 in prime time talk radio for her 1980’s afternoon talk program on 3AW Melbourne. Cooper is now a successful author and psychologist.

Cherie Romaro
was the first female to hold the roles of Music Director, Program Director and General Manager in Australian commercial radio. She has worked in every format in every major market for commercial radio. Dr Romaro now advises the national broadcaster on how to improve local and regional programming.

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