Today in 1952, the first TV episode of the soap opera Guiding Light.

It was the first daytime radio soap to make the jump to the small screen, and it was one of many hit shows led by a writer and producer sometimes called the “queen of soaps,” Irna Phillips.

Phillips was born in Chicago in 1901, as one of ten children.

She got sick a lot when she was young and spent a lot of time reading stories in books and then making up her own.

She spent several years teaching in schools and colleges before ending up working at Chicago’s radio powerhouse WGN.

While working there in 1930, Phillips created a serialized drama called Painted Dreams.

Not only did she write the scripts, she also did the sound effects and was one of the two voice actors portraying the show’s six characters.

Painted Dreams found its audience pretty quickly, which prompted Phillips to see if she could get the show on one of the big radio networks.

WGN didn’t want to give up the rights to the show, so Phillips just created another one… and another one, and another one, and another one.

In the 1940s, Phillips was showrunner for five different shows.

That’s about as prolific as you can get.

The Library of Congress says that she was writing about two million words a year.

Most of the time she wrote out loud; she said she could dictate a script a lot faster than she could type it out, and could even act out the different characters’ voices as she talked.

Some of the most famous elements of soap operas started in those scripts.

Phillips ended episodes on cliffhangers.

She used organ music to emphasize the emotional tone of a scene or a storyline.

She put characters on trial and gave them amnesia, and she brought characters from one show on as special guests on other shows.

In addition to Guiding Light, Philips led or wrote for virtually all of the best known soap franchises in TV history, like Days of Our Lives, Another World, and One Life To Live.

And the other creators of some other big-name soaps, like the founders of All My Children and The Young And The Restless, got their starts working for Phillips.

It’s more than fair to say that for the entire world of soap operas, Phillips was, as the name of one of her shows puts it, the guiding light.

Tennis fans are getting ready for the start of Wimbledon early next month.

Anytime a ball goes into the net in a big-time Wimbledon match, you’ll see a youngster run over and retrieve it.

There was reportedly an attempt once to see if ball dogs could do that work better than kids.

A pilot project found the dogs did a good job at quickly retrieving the balls, but they were not always willing to give the balls back.

Irna Phillips (Jewish Women’s Archive)

The Queen of Soaps Speaks…for Herself (Library of Congress)

Bid to replace Wimbledon ball boys with dogs flopped as they didn’t return them (Daily Star)

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