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     In 1918, Aimee Semple McPherson and her mother--Minnie Kennedy, were the first women to travel across the country alone in an automobile. She saw that (especially in the Midwest) Americans flocked to her tent revivals and loved her dramas and plays about religion. So she traveled across the country 9 more times between 1919 and 1923, raising money to build her church on land she had bought in 1919 and to develop a radio station so that she could spread her message. (Lewis par 8)

    In 1921, broadcasting history was made when- " An effervescent young woman was escorted from the darkness of a clear California evening into the studio at the Oakland Rockridge radio station. Once inside the building, she found herself in a strange world filled with glowing vacuum tubes and humming electrical transformers, interconnected by miles of wires. She surveyed her eerie surroundings. Beyond the riser on which she stood sat a small studio audience. In the back of the room a newspaper cameraman sent to cover this important event paced the floor. At her side sat the requisite radio engineer, his eyes riveted on the large clock on the wall.

    Meanwhile, in the comfort of their homes, thousands of listeners anxiously awaited the start of the female speaker's message. Entire families gathered in their parlors. Some fiddled with the knobs on their console-sized radios, hoping to find a quiet spot among the crackles, pops and the squeals so prevalent in those early days of radio.

    Finally, the second hand stood straight up, and the radio operator pointed to the woman, the signal indicating the start of the program. She stepped up to the large black horn attached to the microphone, cleared her throat, and began to speak forcefully. At that moment Aimee Semple McPherson became the first woman in history to preach a sermon over the 'wireless telephone.'" (Taylor par 1)

    Almost immediately after the opening of her church, she became the first woman to be granted a license by the FCC for radio station KFSG (which stands for Kall Four Square Gospel). This was the first Christian radio station to ever operate (others having applied for licenses, but KFSG was the first on the air).

    She brought revivalism to mainstream media, and set the pattern for radio religion that continues to this day. Despite her vast knowledge of the bible she did not do anything new with that end of the spectrum, but her delivery was what was unique and new. She somehow appealed to the everyman and woman.

    "She gave them the best of both worlds--a simple, hopeful, authoritarian faith and 'whoopee' salted with just the right amount of sex. They {her audiences} thrived on news of Aimee's risqué personal life and at the same time joined her in deploring jazz age morality. Aimee put sex and spectacle in a safe container where people who did not dare to be modern could join them. She dressed old ideas and new clothes. She was grandmother and flapper simultaneously. Characterizations of her as the 'Barnum of Religion' and the 'Mary Pickford of Revivalism' hit precisely. She rose to popularity on the wings of ambivalence." (Nash 152-3)

    Aimee continued on KFSG for many years and did occasional guest appearances even when she slowed down. After her death in 1944, her son ran the station until 1988. Just last year the station was converted to a Spanish language version of its Evangelistic message.


Keith Gerlach
Copyright © 2003
Revised: 12/15/03.