Sound Citizens

Sound Citizens

Australian Women Broadcasters Claim their Voice, 1923–1956

Authored by: Catherine Fisher

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In 1954 Dame Enid Lyons, the first woman elected to the Australian House of Representatives, argued that radio had ‘created a bigger revolution in the life of a woman than anything that has happened any time’ as it brought the public sphere into the home and women into the public sphere. Taking this claim as its starting point, Sound Citizens examines how a cohort of professional women broadcasters, activists and politicians used radio to contribute to the public sphere and improve women’s status in Australia from the introduction of radio in 1923 until the introduction of television in 1956. This book reveals a much broader and more complex history of women’s contributions to Australian broadcasting than has been previously acknowledged.

Using a rich archive of radio magazines, station archives, scripts, personal papers and surviving recordings, Sound Citizens traces how women broadcasters used radio as a tool for their advocacy; radio’s significance to the history of women’s advancement; and how broadcasting was used in the development of women’s citizenship in Australia. It argues that women broadcasters saw radio as a medium that had the potential to transform women’s lives and status in society, and that they worked to both claim their own voices in the public sphere and to encourage other women to become active citizens. Radio provided a platform for women to contribute to public discourse and normalised the presence of women’s voices in the public sphere, both literally and figuratively.


ISBN (print):
ISBN (online):
Publication date:
Jun 2021
ANU Press
Arts & Humanities: History; Social Sciences: Gender Studies


Sound Citizens, a clever and catchy title, challenges the traditional presentation of women’s radio programming as reinforcing domesticity and restricting Australian women’s roles to those of wife, mother and homemaker. It is a welcome addition to a growing body of historical work—variously transnational, British and Australian—on women and broadcasting (especially radio). Sound Citizens is crisply written and easy to read. ANU Press is to be applauded for taking on and disseminating the scholarship of younger Australian scholars, some of them, like Fisher, from the ANU. Catherine Fisher’s Sound Citizens is a valuable contribution to the fields of women’s and feminist history, radio and broadcast history, reception history, and Australian cultural and political history.’

– Bridget Griffen-Foley, Journal of Australian Studies 46:2, 269–270 (2022).

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