Janet Brewster Murrow

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Sometime before 1938, Janet Murrow began to write scripts for the BBC, but it wasn't until November 23rd of that year that she made her first of several radio broadcasts for CBS, Janet Murrow's War Correspondence I.D. issued by the War Department, March 13, 1945which she continued throughout the coming years. In contrast to the BBC, American broadcasting companies traditionally and CBS, in particular, assigned women correspondents to cover the so-called woman's angle. And so Janet Murrow largely but not exclusively talked about "food rationing, the scarcity of cosmetics, the dream of postwar nylons, [or] the separation of parents from their children."2 In addition, she wrote all of her husband's scripts portraying conditions inside bomb shelters, which he refused to enter. Janet Murrow also edited many of his scripts and other writings. While she was not paid for doing CBS broadcasts, she clearly did help to reduce her husband's workload. In fact, her husband did not encourage Janet to do more broadcasts, despite the fact that she wrote well and had an excellent deep broadcasting voice. As she told her parents in a letter in 1943: "I think he doesn't want me to give him competition! He likes me to be busy and prominent and successful, but not in his line."3

Throughout the war Janet Murrow also wrote articles and stories and cabled news to Liberty Magazine. For a brief time she worked for the British-American Liaison Board, an organization that attempted to reduce tension between British civilians and American soldiers in Britain. She lectured throughout England both for the U.S. Embassy, the Office of War Information, as well as the British Ministry of Information on American Life, and she wrote scripts for a BBC school program series on American history.

Janet and Edward's son, Charles Casey Murrow, was born in November 1945.

Family, Work, and Legacy, 1946-1998

Edward R. Murrow and Janet Murrow (right, seated) with Omar Bradley (left) and Mrs. Bradley (left, seated), late 1940sJanet, Casey, and Edward R. Murrow left London to return to the U.S. in March 1946. Only a few months later, on July 14th 1946, Janet was among the first to be awarded the British King's Medal for Services in the Cause of Freedom, recognizing her contribution to Anglo-American understanding.4 Once back in the States, Janet set up and organized her family's life in New York as well as on their farm in Pawling, New York, and eventually their life in Washington, DC.

She still made the occasional broadcasts with her husband or as a substitute for him. In 1953, for example, Janet and her husband reported together on the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and on June 21, 1957, she substituted for her husband,Edward R. Murrow with his wife, Janet, and son, Casey, in front of their house in Pawling, New York, 1955-57who was in Burma, on Person to Person. Viewers and press reviews lauded her performance, and the program was soon considered one of the best in this popular series.

In 1949, Janet Murrow was elected to the Board of Trustees of Mount Holyoke College, a position she eventually held until 1970. As Board member she traveled widely, raised over $2 million, and was named National Chairman of the Fund for the Future in 1963. In 1970, five years after her husband's death, she returned to Mount Holyoke College to work for its Arts Museum, later holding the position of Executive Director of the Art Advisory Committee. She was also a member of the boards of both, National Public Radio and the Henry Street Settlement in Greenwich Village. She was the chairman of the board of directors for Reid Hall Inc. and she was director of the board of the English Speaking Union in New York.

Dedication of the Murrow Center, 1965: Janet Brewster Murrow, Casey Murrow, and Hubert H. Humphrey In the decades following her husband's death, Janet Brewster Murrow was tirelessly active in furthering his legacy. Already in 1965, Janet and her son Casey attended the dedication of the Edward R. Murrow Center of Public Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, presided over by Vice-president Hubert H. Humphrey. In 1969, she donated some of her husband's papers to Tufts University. She donated her own papers plus the remaining papers of her husband to Mount Holyoke College in the decades that followed.

Janet Brewster Murrow died on December 18, 1998, in Needham, Massachusetts.

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2 Kendrick (1969).
3 Quote in: Cloud and Olson, p. 96 (citing Janet's letter to her parents from February 15 1943); types of broadcasts listed in Kendrick, p. 188.
4 Great Britain Honors 1,277 Americans for Wartime Aid to Empire and Allies (UP), The New York Times, July 15 1946. The King's Medal was first instituted in 1945 'in furtherance of the interests of the British Commonwealth in the Allied cause during the war.'

Credits

Text and Selection of Illustration Susanne Belovari, PhD, M.S., M.A., Archivist for Reference and Collections, DCA
Digitization Michelle Romero, M.A., Murrow Digitization Project Archivist
Images Image of Edward and Janet Murrow, courtesy of Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, MA, USA. All other images: Edward R. Murrow Papers, ca 1913-1985, DCA, Tufts University, used with permission of copyright holder.

Partial Bibliography

For a full bibliography please see the exhibit bibliography section.

The Edward R. Murrow Papers, ca 1913-1985, DCA, especially: Janet Murrow, script, 27th February, 1944; also Joseph E. Persico Papers, DCA.

Murrow, Janet Brewster: I have been unable to locate the earliest Janet Murrow broadcasts. The finding aid to Sub-group 2, Series A: Janet Brewster Murrow Papers, Correspondence 1929-1965, in Edward R. Murrow and Janet Brewster Murrow Papers, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, includes a detailed, excellent summary of Janet's papers, her activities, and life. The Mount Holyoke Archives also has Janet's broadcast scripts "The Bundles Reach Britain" (June 22, 1941), "Bundles for Britain Program" (1942), an untitled script about Christmas in England (December 12, 1943), untitled scripts about the V-bombs (July 9 1944), "Farm and Factory in Southern New England" (October 26, 1944), and an untitled broadcast script describing the first peacetime Christmas after the war (December 22, 1945). The papers also contain typescripts of what appears to have been lectures or speeches but might also have been used for broadcasts.

Great Britain Honors 1,277 Americans for Wartime Aid to Empire and Allies (UP), The New York Times, July 15 1946.

Miall, Leonard. "Obituary: Janet Murrow," Independent, The (London). Dec 23, 1998 (accessed online).

Obituary, "Janet Brewster Murrow, 88, Radio Broadcaster," New York Times, Dec 22, 1998 (accessed online).

Cloud and Olson (1996).

Kendrick (1969).

Persico (1988), esp. chapter 7: Janet.

Who's Who in America, vol. 31, 1960-1961.

See also records available on Worldcat:
Murrow, Janet Brewster. One Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Records, (Mount Holyoke College: 1961-1966)

Murrow Janet Brewster. The Lake Forest Branch of Bundles for Britain presents Mrs. Edward Murrow , Deerpath Theatre, Lake Forest, Thursday, November 13, 1941, 8:45 p.m. 1941, (Lake Forest Ill.: English Book 1941). This is a program booklet for a benefit held to support Bundles for Britain. The benefit program consisted of "Information please" a motion picture short, Mrs. Edward R. Murrow, London representative of Bundles for Britain, and "Blackout" the United Artists picture starring Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson. Also, the booklet includes information on the Lake Forest Branch of Bundles for Britain.