Review: Radio Girls, by Sarah-Jane Stratford
Jan from the Virtual Silent Book Club recommended Sarah-Jane Stratford’s Radio Girls to me, and I’m glad she did.
This historical fiction is an account of MI-5 agent Hilda Matheson, told from the viewpoint of a fictional member of her team at the BBC, during the ramp-up to World War II. At the same time, it’s about the entry of women into other than secretarial slots in broadcasting, and — indeed — the changing events in many women’s lives, such as gaining the vote, standing for political jobs, etc, as well as the resistance of many men to these changes.
As an ex-college-radio-engineer myself, I was fascinated by the work Hilda, Maisie (the fictional team member) and the other women at the BBC did to break into broadcasting — clearly a boys’ club — with shows and stories about/of interest to women. And this was long before the women’s movement of the 70s, so these (and the women they represent) are the true foremothers of women in broadcasting.
One of the best things I found in this book was the way that many of the characters who were actually sympathetic to the changes also had to recognize (or not) their own resistance to them, and their own hypocrisy.
All in all, it was an interesting take on a heroine I had never heard of before, and I want to find out more abut her, so I recommend this book not just for the excellent writing, but for introducing me to aa new heroine and piquing my interest to learning more about her.
I think that this book would be great for anyone interested in Ms. Matheson, the history of the BBC, Britain’s ramp-up to WWII, the history and uses of radio, and women’s history.