Lynn Liccardo, author of the book, As the World Stopped Turning, writes a profile on the woman who birthed the soap opera genre, Irna Phillips, for Harvard Magazine:
If ever a writer embodied Thornton
Wilder’s observation that “art is not only the desire to tell one’s
secret; it is the desire to tell it and hide it at the same time,” it
was Irna Phillips.
In 1930, Phillips—a 29-year-old, unemployed Chicago schoolteacher and
part-time radio actress—was asked to write and act in radio’s first
serial drama, Painted Dreams. She jumped at the chance. In the
next 43 years, she would create or co-create 18 radio and television
serials; four were still on the air when she died, including Guiding Light and As the World Turns, the two longest-running daytime dramas on television....
Her need for Oakdale began in the mid 1920s when Phillips, who never
had a date in high school or college, met an English doctor, “not
handsome,” but “with charm and intelligence,” and decided he was the man
she would marry. Things didn’t work out as she hoped. She became
pregnant but the doctor abandoned her, and she then lost not only the
baby but any chance for another. The resulting sterility led her to
decide “to never become involved with an unmarried man,” thus sparing
herself “the pain and embarrassment of telling a man I couldn’t have
children.” That vow played out through characters like ATWT’s
jilted Edith Hughes, who later fell in love with her brother’s unhappily
married law partner. Phillips presented the story through characters
neither all black nor all white, forcing viewers, writes La Guardia, “to
grieve over the heartbreak of the human condition rather than hang on
to a fixed value judgment.”
In 1964, Phillips created Another World, and the
character through whom she would both tell and hide her own story: Pat
Matthews, who would murder the man who impregnated her and then coerced
her into an illegal, botched abortion that left her sterile. In her
memoir, Phillips wrote that her own pregnancy ended with a
stillbirth, followed by an infection. What really happened will likely
remain a mystery, but her efforts to exorcise her demons through Pat’s
story took its toll on Pat’s portrayer; after 18 exhausting months, the
actress asked to be released from her contract.
Read the entire piece at: http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/01/vita-irna-phillips
For more on Irna's life and how it pertained to the characters she created, especially on ATWT, click here.
And to watch Irna's induction into the Soap Opera Hall of Fame, go here.