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Sources: Steve Smethers, 785-532-5286,
Dave MacFarland, 785-537-1505,
News release prepared by: Emily Vietti, 785-532-2535,

Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010


MANHATTAN -- From the 1920s to the 1980s radio homemaker programs were a necessity on rural, Midwestern radio stations. Kansas State University's Great Plains Radio History Symposium, Friday, Oct. 22, will feature a panel of three women who worked in radio during this era.

The panel discussion "Homemaking Programs: Radio's Recipe for Attracting Women Listeners" will be from 9-10:45 a.m. in Room 212 of the K-State Student Union. The panel includes Evelyn Birkby, historian and program host on KMA radio in Shenandoah, Iowa; Vernadell Yarrow, former radio program host from Clay Center; and Deanne Wright, professor emeritus, K-State Extension.

"We shared our lives," Birkby said. "Radio homemakers basically were good friends. I neighbored on the air."

The panel will discuss how the radio homemaking programs helped guide the lives of farm women and how women's roles have changed over time, according to Steve Smethers, event organizer and K-State associate professor of journalism and mass communications.

"These shows started out helping women keep the family farm running," Smethers said. "They were mostly cooking and canning tips, managing family finances and raising children. But over time they often became something even more personal to the listeners."

Birkby, who said she had to learn how to cook so she could test the recipes she shared on the air, started her radio homemaking show in 1950; 60 years later she is still on the air.

"We answered letters and talked about anything because women are interested in everything," Birkby said. "Even in the early days we picked up on what was going on in the world and organized the fixing up of boxes of items for orphanages or getting food together for people in the community who needed it."

The symposium is sponsored by the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications, the Huck Boyd Institute for Rural Development and the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media.

The registration fee is $10, and registration is accepted in advance or at the door. Students will be admitted to any of the presentations at no charge. Registration is available at: