Celebrating, informing and entertaining women...

...is the tagline for this long-running BBC Radio 4 programme which is broadcast every week day from 10-11am, and at the weekends can be heard from 4pm. It's now become a British classic, and is even listened to by the occasional man!

The early days:
The first programme was aired on 7th October 1946. In these early days, it was almost always live. The programme is the brain-child of Norman Collins, and the first presenter was Alan Ivimey. The BBC decided that the right time for the programme was 2-3pm, because this was presumed to be one of the few moments mothers had to themselves. Because they would be doing the washing up after feeding their family lunch. The initial aim of Woman's Hour was to cover such challenging issues as "keeping house, health, children, beauty care and home furnishing". It's easy to mock such subject-matter, but we do have to remember that the typical 1940s woman led a very different life from that of the typical 21st century woman. Indeed, even in the early days, there was more than talk of needlework and nappy rash. Woman's Hour dealt seriously with the issue of the menopause in 1947, cancer in 1950, and contraception in 1962.

For a start, the broadcast time has changed, along with the agenda for a typical British woman's day. In the 1990s, Radio 4 rescheduled many of its programmes. It's unclear how successful the move to the morning slot has been.

There has been a number of presenters over the years - all of whom have been female since Alan Ivimey first packed it in. Jenni Murray is the current hostess during the week, with Martha Kearney presenting the Saturday afternoon round-up edition.

The subject-matter has also changed along with the target-audience. The first fourty-five minutes of the programme are filled with discussions on topical issues. Often, rather famous interviewees (David Cameron and David Davis, the two candidates for Leader of The Conservative Party were recent guests) are invited onto the programme. There are also plenty of reports on events in Britain and around the world. Most of these have some relation to women: women in African politics, for example, or the education of girls in the Middle East, or perhaps abortion law. The reporting is of a high standard, and most of the sections are of general interest: not solely aimed at an all-female audience. After this magazine-style majority of the programme, it's time for the Woman's Hour drama serial. This lasts for fifteen minutes, and then it's time for the six pips and the 11am news. Is this the signal to start preparing the mid-day meal for the whole family?

And I listen to it almost every day.

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