1938 Betty Wason

From 1938, Betty Wason broadcast for CBS Radio Hitler’s march across Europe: the surrender of Sweden, the occupation of Norway and the German army’s rampage through the Balkans.
In the winter of 1940, Wason travelled with Greek troops as they repelled the invasion of fascist Italy, pushing them back into the snowy forests of Albania. Sharing their meals and makeshift sleeping quarters, Wason came to know intimately the life of a soldier– the mud-caked bandages, the frequent hunger, the deaths of friends, and above all, the dread of what was to come.  The Greek soldiers knew all too well that even if they could keep Mussolini at bay, the real question was –how would they fare against Hitler’s relentless advance?
But now the Nazis had come to Athens. CBS wanted five broadcasts every day, and Wason was their only correspondent on the scene. Every day, she reported another German victory. And every day, her report was broadcast  by a stand-in, “Phil Brown.”  Despite the fact that Wason was a seasoned reporter, CBS executives believed that Americans found women’s voices acceptable only on commercials or reading literature and that radio listeners strongly preferred hearing war news from a man.
Two weeks later, Greece surrendered.  A voice on the radio warned Athen’s citizens to keep off the streets.  When Wason looked out her window that day, she saw the swastika flying from the Acropolis.
With the Nazis now occupying Athens, Wason was stranded and forbidden to leave. Finally, after nearly two months, she was escorted under Gestapo guard to Berlin and detained as a suspected spy.  The two male reporters arrested with her were quickly released, but Wason was held for another week, released only when Harry Flannery, the head of CBS intervened.
Back home in the United States, Wason naturally turned to CBS for a job, but she was turned down. Regardless of their accomplishments overseas, there was no place for women reporters at home. Her only option was to return to the position she’d left years ago, as assistant food editor at McCall’s, a magazine for women.


Women reporters during WWII were told war reporting was No Job For a Woman. Buy the DVD, available for purchase from Women Make Movies, to find out how these women over came the restrictions and created a new way of telling the story of war.
2011, 61 minutes, Color, DVD, English

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