The 'Soaps' in Chicago...

"Today's Children"

And the 1935 "Today's Children" Family Album

"What the future will bring into their lives, no one knows. How will Ellen settle the age-old problem of career versus marriage? Will Fran marry Henry Matthews or will her renewed interest in Ralph Martin lead to further complications? Will Bob make a success in politics is he merely headed for more trouble, and just what Kay think of the whole business? Listen---and find out..."

Curator's note: The above quotation comes from the "Today's Children" Family Album, offered to listeners as a premium in 1935 by the Pillsbury Flour Mills Company, the sponsor of one of network broadcasting's earliest soap operas. The album---with original text and illustrations---is presented here as a hypertext document. No proof-of-purchase or postage fees are required.


Today's Children was the first network soap of Irna Phillips. The show evolved from Painted Dreams, a continuing dramatic sketch Ms. Phillips devised in 1932 that was integrated into a mid-day WGN variety show. Painted Dreams centered on the often problematical lives of the members of the Malone family, headed by the folksy and very wise Mother Malone.

A year later, when WGN resisted her efforts to make Painted Dreams free-standing and to offer it to a network, Ms. Phillips took the show to WMAQ. She changed the name of the show and the surname of the family around which the plot revolved. Mother Malone thus became Mother Moran. Within a few months Today's Children acquired Pillsbury sponsorship and a secure network slot.

Ms. Phillips and WGN engaged in a lengthy legal battle over who had ownership rights to Painted Dreams. She eventually lost on appeal. But by that time the success of Today's Children---and the other soaps that she devised and wrote in its wake---more than compensated for her defeat in court. (In addition to writing the show, Ms. Phillips played the role of Mother Moran and doubled as Katherine Crane.)

Today's Children was a major contributor to the revolution in daytime network broadcasting that shifted emphasis from music and variety programs (which were expensive to produce and difficult to sponsor) to continuing dramatic episodes (which were cheap by comparison and easy to sell). By the time Pillsbury offered the "Today's Children" Family Album, the soaps had become so much in demand that NBC was obliged to add three studios to its Merchandise Mart complex simply to handle the production pressure.

By the mid-1930's, commercial broadcasters had realized that women in the age range of 18 to 45 were their most significant audience---and that the soaps were the most effective way of reaching them.

Learn more about your favorite "Today's Children" characters:

Mother Moran thumbnail Mother Moran Frances Moran
Terry Moran
Dot Lucy
Dick Crane Bob Crane
Kay Norton Crane Bill Taylor
Arthur Donley Ralph Martin
Henry Matthews Joan Young
Katherine Carter Louis Roen, your Today's Children announcer

Additional Today's Children links:

A synopsis of the story to date

Mother Moran's Golden Rules for parents

Lucy's Golden Keys

Bob and Kay's recipe for a happy married life

Lucy's bedtime prayer

Other poems recited by Lucy

Eileen's tribute to her mother

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