Phillips, Irna

Phillips, Irna

(1901–73) radio/television writer; born in Chicago. After graduating from the University of Illinois (B.S., 1923), she taught speech and drama at the college level. In 1930, for Chicago radio station WGN, she created and performed in Painted Dreams (1930–32), generally regarded as the first "soap opera." She moved on to the National Broadcasting Company and wrote Today's Children (1932–38), the first network daytime serial. In 1937 she began two more, The Road of Life and Guiding Light; by 1943 she had five serials on the air and was one of the highest paid women in America. The coming of television did not faze her; in 1949 she wrote the first TV "soap," These Are My Children, and she went on to write or co-author several more during the next two decades, including As the World Turns (1956), one of the most enduring daytime serials. She is credited with devising many of the now standard elements of soap operas. Although her female characters went through a wide range of experiences, marriage and family were always central to her stories. She herself never married but she adopted two children.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.