Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive

Soap Operas

Soap Operas originated during the Great Depression on radio. These dramatic serials were designed to appeal to women and aired during the day so that women working from home could listen while they work. Since several soap and household products were advertised on these shows were called soap operas.

One of the driving forces behind the success of soap operas was Irna Phillips, a former schoolteacher turned actress. Phillps got her start working as a radio host before transitioning to script writing. She is credited for the creation of several successful soap operas that aired both on radio and television including Painted Dreams, The Brighter Day, Guiding Light, and As the World Turns. It was through her vision and guidance that soap operas made the transition from radio to television and were well received. Through her protegees her shows and the soap opera genre continues today.

With the emergence of television as a new format of entertainment several of the radio soap operas were brought over to television in the 1950s. These soap operas were extremely popular both on radio and television which accounts for the numerous series and the longevity of many soap operas. The shows in this collection were created during the heyday of television soap operas and dominated daytime television.

During the 21 century, soap operas began a rapid decline with several long-running shows being canceled. A reason for this decline was that more women had professional careers and were not at home to watch soap operas. Along with high production cost and other factors, soap operas are either being canceled or being relegated to the sidelines.