Today in media history: In 1939 Mary Marvin Breckinridge Patterson became one of the first female CBS broadcast journalists

October 2, 2014
Category: Uncategorized

Mary Marvin Breckinridge Patterson, one of the first female CBS broadcast journalists, was born on October 2, 1905. At the beginning of World War II she served as part of Edward R. Murrow’s team for the CBS radio program, “World News Roundup.”

In the following 1940 audio recording she reports on Adolf Hitler.

The following excerpt comes from a Library of Congress exhibit.

“When World War II broke out in 1939, freelance photojournalist Marvin
Breckinridge Patterson took the first pictures of a London air-raid
shelter
. She was, however, new to radio when friend Edward R. Murrow
hired her as the first female staff broadcaster in Europe for CBS.

….One of only a handful of American women in Europe working in radio,
Patterson was among the first correspondents to use a new short-wave
transmitter to broadcast on location. Of her early broadcasts, Murrow
told Patterson: ‘Your stuff so far has been first-rate. I am pleased,
New York is pleased, and so far as I know the listeners are pleased.
If they aren’t to hell with them.'”

In a 1994 “Journalism History,” article titled, “Mary Marvin
Breckinridge Patterson: Case Study of One of ‘Murrow’s Boys,'” Maurine
Beasley writes:

“….She proved more pathbreaking, however, as a radio broadcaster,
since it was even harder for women to become regular radio network
foreign correspondents in the late 1930s than to be accepted as
photographers. As a broadcaster for Edward R. Murrow, Patterson gained
a unique place for herself in communications history.

Murrow, hailed as the single most famous figure in the history of news
broadcasting, initially achieved recognition for his reports from
Europe in the tense pre-World War II period when he put together the
first team of overseas radio correspondents for a United States
network. Today the team still is referred to as the ‘Murrow Boys‘ in
books on mass communications history. What has been overlooked is the
fact that Mary Marvin Breckinridge Patterson, who made about 50
broadcasts for the ‘World News Roundup’ of the Columbia Broadcasting
System in 1939 and 1940, was one of the team’s first members.”