Margaret Ross Cuthbert
12 May 1887
|Died||25 July 1968 (aged 81)|
|Occupation||Radio broadcaster, executive|
Margaret Cuthbert (12 May 1887 – 25 July 1968) was a Canadian-born pioneer radio woman in the United States. After earning a degree in fine art from Cornell University, she worked briefly at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., and at Cornell, before embarking on a radio career in 1924. She was initially the Director of Speakers and was promoted to Director of Talks when NBC took over WEAF from AT&T. She became known for the range of celebrities she was able to secure to broadcast readings and presentations. Later, she was promoted to Director of Women's Activities, Director of the Children's Department and Director of Public Affairs.
Among the programs Cuthbert produced were Peabody Award-winning NBC Theater, as well as its precursor World's Greatest Novels. She also produced Consumer Time, Echoes of History, Gallant American Women, Round the World, Stories to Order, and Tales of our Foreign Service. In addition to her production, Cuthbert gave lectures, wrote books and articles, and worked with organizations to develop programming that would be beneficial on both local and national levels for women and children. She received numerous honors from Women's organizations throughout her career for her pioneering career in radio.
Early life and education
Margaret Ross Cuthbert was born on 12 May 1887 in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada, to Charlotte and Major Albert Edward Ross Cuthbert. She had two brothers and was raised with a love for nature and horseback riding. Her father served in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as an assistant commissioner, causing the family to move often. Among their residences were Dawson City and Whitehorse in the Yukon and Edmonton, Alberta. She completed her secondary schooling at Dawson City High School. Though her father opposed Cuthbert obtaining higher education, she attended Cornell University and earned a degree in fine arts in 1908. During her time at Cornell, she met Alice Blinn, who would become her life-long partner. Returning to Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, where her parents were then living, Cuthbert bowed to her father's wishes for her to spend a year learning to cook.
In 1917, Cuthbert moved to Washington, D.C., to work at the British embassy. After a year, she began working as a secretary in the Home Economics department at Cornell. After 18 months, she resigned and moved to New York City, with the ambition of becoming a writer. She resumed her relationship with Blinn and the two women lived together with Cuthbert's widowed mother and a housekeeper in an apartment. Spurred by a radio broadcast in which a reader with a droning monotone reported, "Alabama casts 24 votes for Oscar W. Underwood", she decided to work in radio. In 1924, she went to work at American Telephone and Telegraph Company's (AT&T's) affiliate WEAF, as Director of Speakers. She produced shows and also announced speakers, and ensured that various segments of the live productions continued without interruption.
When the National Broadcasting Company's NBC Radio Network was organized and took over WEAF as its flagship station in 1926, Cuthbert was made an executive of the firm and Director of Talks. Drawing on her experience from Cornell when she organized campus speakers, she organized a range of authors, doctors, educators, explorers, philanthropists, scientists, and women leaders to present on NBC. Guests included Lady Astor, Amelia Earhart, John Galsworthy, Vachel Lindsay, Emily Post, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many others. In 1932, Cuthbert convinced Edna St. Vincent Millay, a friend she had corresponded with since 1926, to read her poetry on the airwaves. It marked the first time that a literary figure with an international reputation was broadcast on equal footing and pay with actors and singers. In 1934, Blinn and Cuthbert bought a summer home in Connecticut and the following year, Blinn assisted Cuthbert in attaining naturalization as a US citizen.
In 1935, she was placed in charge of the new Women's Activities Department. She produced four weekly programs: Stories to Order, featuring storytellers; Tales of our Foreign Service, providing intrigue from the archives of the Department of State; Consumer Time, aimed at providing information from the War Food Administration; and World's Greatest Novels, part of the University of the Air series. She also made regular appearances at conventions, women's club meetings, and educational gatherings to teach women about the uses of radio and to gain ideas of programming that would be beneficial on both local and national levels for women and children. Cuthbert focused on women because she felt that their voices had previously been underrepresented.
Cuthbert was chosen in 1936 as one of 24 honorees as Women of Achievement by the New York League of Business and Professional Women and in 1941 she was honored by the General Federation of Women's Clubs. In the 1940s, she produced a program called Round the World and was known for her production of Echoes of History, and Gallant American Women. In 1942, she was given the additional responsibility for children's programming. She organized programming for NBC's United Nations Series in 1946 and that year was honored by the National Women's Press Club for her pioneering contributions. In 1948, she retooled World's Greatest Novels, developing and producing NBC Theater, which won a Peabody Award for its adaptations of literature. That year, she was also promoted to Director of Public Affairs.
In addition to her radio work, Cuthbert published articles and books for women and children, about radio. When the Association of American Women in Radio and Television (AAWRT) was founded in 1951, she was selected as its inaugural president. She used her network of contacts to assist Alma Vessels John, one of the first black women to become a radio commentator, to develop contacts to broaden her reach. Cuthbert also nominated John as the first black member of the AAWRT, which was approved in 1953. She retired from NBC in 1952 and she and Blinn moved to Captiva, Florida. They wintered in Florida and spent their summers on Cape Cod.
Death and legacy
Cuthbert died on 25 July 1968 at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Massachusetts, after a month-long illness. A collection of her and Blinn's letters exchanged over the years from 1924 to 1965 with Eugen Boissevain, Millay, and their family members are housed at Vassar College. An endowment to Cornell's library of $27,500 to purchase books was made in 1983 in Cuthbert's honor by Blinn.
- Cuthbert, Margaret (1941). Women and Radio. New York, New York: National Broadcasting Company. OCLC 28361377.
- Cuthbert, Margaret, ed. (1945). Adventure in Radio. New York, New York: Howell, Soskin. OCLC 592808536.
- Cuthbert, Margaret (1946). Your Career in Radio. New York, New York: National Broadcasting Company. OCLC 318457262.
- Cuthbert, Margaret (April 1947). "Treasures in the Air". Today's Woman. Greenwich, Connecticut: Fawcett. OCLC 633160508.
- Naturalization 1935, p. 811.
- The Gazette 1968, p. 34.
- The Ithaca Journal 1983, p. 8.
- LeCocq 1946, p. 45.
- The Pensacola News Journal 1939, p. 18.
- LeCocq 1946, p. 13.
- The Cornell Daily Sun 1937, p. 1.
- Smith 2016, p. 15.
- The Boston Globe 1968, p. 20.
- The Brooklyn Daily Eagle 1933, p. E8.
- Thomas 1933, p. 7.
- Macdougall 1952, p. 249.
- Clarke 2007.
- Butterfield 1935, p. 15.
- NBC Transmitter 1946b, p. 3.
- Kerr 1947, p. 13.
- LeCocq 1946, p. 44.
- Bliss, Jr. 2010, p. 103.
- NBC Transmitter 1946a, p. 14.
- Bliss, Jr. 2010, p. 104.
- Bliss, Jr. 2010, pp. 103–104.
- NAEB Newsletter 1948, p. 14.
- The Buffalo Courier-Express 1945, p. C14.
- Adams 1947, p. 3:10.
- Cromer 1953, p. 4.
- Trade News 1952, p. 48-50.
- The News-Press 1955, p. 10.
- Cornell Alumni News 1983, p. 65.
- Adams, Magee (13 April 1947). "Listening In". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Cincinnati, Ohio. p. 3:10. Retrieved 12 June 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
- Bliss, Jr., Edward (2010). Now the News: The Story of Broadcast Journalism. New York, New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-52193-2.
- Butterfield, C. E. (19 November 1935). "Radio Day by Day". The Daily Sentinel. Rome New York. Associated Press. p. 15. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
- Clarke, Elizabeth (April 2007). "Guide to the Edna St. Vincent Millay Collection, 1892–1988". Archives & Special Collections Library. Poughkeepsie, New York: Vassar College. Archived from the original on 23 April 2020. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
- Cromer, Lucille (31 January 1953). "Pioneering Is Old Story for Alma Vessells John". The New York Age. New York, New York. p. 4. Retrieved 12 June 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
- Kerr, Frances Willard (1947). Women in Radio: Illustrated by Biographical Sketches. Women's Bureau Bulletin. Washington, D. C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. OCLC 36477874.
- LeCocq, Thelma (1 August 1946). "Career Woman". Maclean's. Vol. 59 no. 15. Toronto, Ontario: Maclean-Hunter Publishing Company. pp. 13, 44–45. ISSN 0024-9262. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
- Millay, Edna St. Vincent (1952). Macdougall, Allan Ross (ed.). Letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay. New York, New York: Harper and Brothers. OCLC 247475857.
- Smith, Judith E. (2016). "Literary Radicals in Radio's Public Sphere". American Studies Faculty Publication Series. Boston, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts. 7. Archived from the original on 10 June 2020. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
- Thomas, William J. (20 May 1933). "Celebrities Are Her Forte". Radio Guide. Chicago, Illinois: Plymouth Printing and Publishing Company. 11 (30): 7, 21. OCLC 930389892. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
- "70 National Organizations Cooperate with NBC's United Nations Project". NBC Transmitter. New York, New York: National Broadcasting Company. 11 (5): 14. May 1946. OCLC 47886377. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
- "Book Fund Established". The Ithaca Journal. Ithaca, New York. 21 March 1983. p. 8. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
- "From the Fund" (PDF). Cornell Alumni News. Ithaca, New York: Cornell Alumni Association. 85 (10): 65. June 1983. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
- "Margaret Cuthbert Marches Noted Speakers to Mike". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, New York. 5 February 1933. p. E8. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
- "Margaret Cuthbert to Retire from NBC after More Than 25 Years with Net". Trade News. New York, New York: National Broadcasting Corporation: 48–50. 1 April 1952. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
- "Miss Cuthbert, Award-Winning Radio Pioneer". The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts. 27 July 1968. p. 20. Retrieved 11 June 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Naturalization Petitions, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York: Margaret Cuthbert". FamilySearch. New York City, New York: National Archives. 16 October 1935. pp. 811–812. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
- "NBC Personalities: Margaret Cuthbert". The Pensacola News Journal. Pensacola, Florida. 30 April 1939. p. 18. Retrieved 11 June 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
- "NBC Shakes Up Public Service Department". NAEB Newsletter. Ames, Iowa: National Association of Educational Broadcasters: 14. 20 March 1948. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
- "NBC – UN Series Starts". NBC Transmitter. New York, New York: National Broadcasting Company. 11 (6): 3. June 1946. OCLC 47886377. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
- "Notes about New Books". Buffalo Courier-Express. Buffalo, New York. 23 September 1945. p. 14C. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
- "Obituaries: Margaret Cuthbert". The Gazette. Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Canadian Press. 27 July 1968. p. 34. Retrieved 10 June 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
- "To Speak at Annual Conference Today". The Cornell Daily Sun. Ithaca, New York. 17 April 1937. p. 1. Retrieved 10 June 2020 – via Newspaperarchive.com.
- "(untitled)". The News-Press. Fort Myers, Florida. 4 December 1955. p. 10. Retrieved 17 June 2020 – via Newspaperarchive.com.