“Tune in Again”: How Three Northwestern Co-eds Created One of Radio’s First Soap Operas
From 1930 to 1946, the daily conversations of three ordinary, working-class housewives—exchanged over the back fence or during a kitchen-table kaffee-klatsch—fascinated thousands of radio listeners across the U.S. Clara, Lu ‘n’ Em, with its midmorning timeslot and sponsorship by a dishwashing detergent, also inspired the name “soap opera” for this genre of radio broadcast, aimed at an audience of women.
But the true drama of Clara, Lu, ‘n’ Em lay in the fact that these gossiping gals with their prosaic lives and sloppy grammar were invented and portrayed by accomplished alumnae of Northwestern University’s School of Speech (now School of Communication). A further plot twist: Clara, Lu ‘n’ Em was the first radio show created and performed by women, who wrote every script and negotiated the complex world of sponsorships and contracts.
“Tune in Again” features scripts, newsclippings, posters, photographs, audio, and artifacts from the Clara, Lu ‘n’ Em show, received as a generous donation to the University Archives from “Em’s” family. While documenting the life of the program and its creators, the exhibit also illustrates how radio stations publicized their programs and how sponsors pushed their products. Audio wands give visitors the opportunity to listen in and laugh along with original broadcasts of Clara, Lu ‘n’ Em programs.
Tune in to Clara, Lu ‘n’ Em in the lobby of historic Deering Library from February 3-March 21, 2014. The exhibit is free and open to the public during Deering Library’s regular hours