Lori Rogers-Stokes, PhD

“Suspense” and Sexism in Popular Radio Dramas After WWII

Suspense was one of the longest-running radio shows in American history. It began its weekly programs on June 17, 1942 and ended on September 30, 1962, delivering 909 episodes of radio mystery and drama.

As it progressed into the early post-war years, “Suspense” underwent a radical change in tone and content, shifting to male-centered episodes with lopsidedly throwaway or abrasive female characters, a definition of love that was explicitly connected to hate, and a focus on men murdering women—usually their wives.

By July 1948, a new sponsor introduced a definitive male-only culture to a show that had previously been surprisingly egalitarian. In its small way, Suspense is a window into the campaign to drive women back to purely domestic roles after the war, and the relatively undisguised hostility that accompanied that campaign. You’ll listen to sound clips from the show “before” and “after” this switch.

Lori Rogers-Stokes, PhD

Lori Rogers-Stokes, PhD, (lori.stokes@comcast.net | LinkedIn) is an independent scholar, public historian, and contributing editor for New England’s Hidden Histories, a digital history project making thousands of pages of colonial-era Congregational church records available through digitization and transcription. She is the author of Records of Trial from Thomas Shepard’s Church in Cambridge, 1638-49: Heroic Souls (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). Lori studies the history of Woodland New England, particularly the founding decades of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, during which time the Indigenous people of the Eastern Woodlands began to preserve and protect their history and identity as English puritans created New England, and forms of church and state that would shape American history for better or worse for centuries to come.

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