A "Ham's" Wife Confesses
August 1938 Radio News

August 1938 Radio News
August 1938 Radio News Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio & Television News, published 1919-1959. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

A little while back I mentioned that Melanie, my XYL of 38 years, out of the clear blue sky announced that she might like to earn her amateur radio operator's license. If I'm not mistaken, it was after she OCR'ed this article entitled, "A 'Ham's' Wife Confesses," from a 1938 issue of Radio News magazine where Mrs. Dorothy Hagerty decided to earn her ticket. Over the many years of performing such duties for articles I select from my many hobby and professional magazines to post here on my RFCafe.com and AirplanesAndRockets.com websites, Melanie has seen a score or more of similar articles where a wife decides to join in on her OM's pastime. Some have learned to build and fly model airplanes and helicopters, to skipper R/C sailboats, race drones, and to outfit and operate Ham shacks. Melanie is still working through the Level 1 Technician ARRL Ham Radio License Manual. We've been working on test equipment usage (o-scope, analog and digital VOM, power supply, signal generator, etc.) using my meager but good enough collection of components. I'll keep you posted...

BTW, amongst the many licensed Ham operators are astronauts, including Barbara Morgan, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Linda M. Godwin, Laurel Clark, and Sandra Magnus, most - if not all - of whom broadcast from space.

A "Ham's" Wife Confesses

A "Ham's" Wife Confesses, August 1938 Radio News - RF Cafe

This picture of the author proves that a wife can be pretty, brainy, and a good op.

By Dorothy Hagerty, W6JMH

Can a wife share her husband's hobby of ham radio? The author goes into this important domestic problem.

This article is directed to the wives of hams, present or prospective - with all due respect - and represents the views and opinions of this XYL.

I ask your indulgence while I express my concept of this all important subject of amateur radio in the home. You see, I am in a position to do this inasmuch as I am first and foremost a woman and a wife and, secondly - a ham. I modestly admit my success in both accomplishments.

I became interested in radio several years ago when I was preparing for a career in aviation. I spent most of my time at the airport - not in a plane - but in the radio control room where the equipment and operator were located that established contact with the mail planes at frequent intervals. Of course, that was not amateur radio, but the operator usually had in his possession a ham ticket - and it was radio.

However, those were the early days of transport flying and rules were not so strict in the radio room as to visitors. So quite undisturbed, I became acquainted with mercury vapor rectifiers and vacuum tubes.

Yet it was not until I met my husband that I considered becoming an operator myself. Very soon I learned that my husband-to-be was one of the amateur species. All I had to do was to express my interest in radio - and we were married!

It took me a few weeks to recover from such a speedy courtship and consider my new position. But it wasn't until he began talking to me with one ear cocked at the receiver, listening for DX, that I resolved to investigate the ether myself. As a result, I began a earnest study of condensers and coils, transformers and tubes.

When Hubby became aware of my efforts, he positively beamed! Needless to say, his encouragement urged me on. He took great pride in my attempt to master the code. Every evening when he returned home, I had a long list of questions to ask him - all about the Kennily-Heaviside Layer, and why crystal control was advisable - and though the list was often quite long, he never became impatient. He positively glowed with satisfaction as he explained these things to me, and though I regard him as a perfect husband, I am certain other husbands would be just as eager to help if their wives would only manifest some interest in their radio activities.

I studied fundamentals and practiced code and drew diagrams in my spare time for two months. And I didn't find much spare time with all the entertaining that is part of a bride's regime. When the day arrived for me to take my examination, I must admit that I was excited and had rather vague ideas as to the outcome. But the test was completed without difficulty. Later, when I received word stating that I had passed the examination and that I had been assigned the "call" of W6JMH, I was thrilled beyond words.

Now I cannot claim a brilliant mind, neither am I considered exactly dumb. For it requires more intelligence to become a ham and remain one than most wives give their husbands credit for. Nor did I receive any consideration because I was a woman. There were many women before me and there have been many since. But I worked to achieve my license and "call" and I don't consider it beneath my dignity to accept a word of praise now and then.

Most of you have not given this much thought. You have not considered how much genuine pleasure you yourself would receive - nor how great would be your husband's satisfaction.

I know there are some women who think their husbands are just a little bit queer with their radio activities, but have these women wondered what this fatal fascination is - that it maintains such a hold on its enthusiasts? Or perhaps they are not inspired to take the trouble to find out.

A"Ham's" Wife Confesses - RF CafeOn the other hand, there are many wives who are indeed clever - who do not complain when dinner is kept waiting - or when they must spend their evening listening to ham conversation, for they know that their men are home and not spending money foolishly or getting into mischief. They realize that if they indulge their husbands in regard to this radio business they will gain favor and benefit more by doing so. YL's & XYL's are aired from these calls.

Amateur radio has been a definite bond between my husband and myself. We have experienced a great many contacts which have resulted in hours of keen enjoyment. Enjoyment that you cannot realize until you call a CQ and hear a chap in New Zealand coming back, or an old friend from your home town.

We can always count on one topic of conversation that interests both of us and, as I can carryon an intelligent conversation on this subject, hubby can tell me what's the matter with the transmitter when it won't oscillate, and I can understand! And when the confounded meter jumps nearly off its scale during a QSO, I have a very good idea what's the matter and how to fix it. Later, when hubby comes home, I can explain it to him so he will understand!

Distant cities and countries take on new meaning when you contact amateurs living in these places. It is the next best thing to traveling there in person. It is an aerial adventure, to be sure, for your signal has spanned land and sea and been picked up by another amateur in some far-away land.

One makes many new friends. Amateur radio is a very democratic hobby, for it lures professional men, actors, flyers, farmers and bankers; the poor and rich alike. Among the better known are: Frank Hawks, Herbert Hoover, Jr., Freeman Gosden, Carter Glass, Paul H. Davis, Andy Santella, and Hal Kemp, as well as many others, not to mention the ladies.

How many of you wives have received QSL cards? It makes you feel so important. Collecting verification cards can become a hobby in itself, also the stamps thereon. How much nicer it is to have your own personal QSL. It gives you a nice warm feeling when you go to some other ham's home and view your particular card on the wall. Especially when you are a YL operator - it more likely will be framed!

We enjoy most of all a radio week-end excursion, when we pack one of the transmitters in the car along with a good lunch and plenty of hot coffee, to drive into the country - combining radio and pleasure.

We never have any disagreements about spending money on radio, for I understand what he needs to complete the power supply or when he has to replace a filter condenser, as the case may be. Also, there is my own transmitter which occasionally needs some replacement. This is merely one advantage I have over you other ladies. Another is that my OM can't fool me when buying any radio material. I know the value of most all equipment and know what is necessary and what isn't. A well known feminine trait is that of getting a good bargain. I am no exception in that respect. I like to shop around and get a better bargain than my husband did.

And because I do indulge my husband his whims in regard to radio, he is more than generous when it comes to my capricious notions.

The pride of possession cannot be denied whether man or woman. I am certainly proud of my FB station. My OM painstakingly designed a fine sensitive receiver for my especial use, and together we constructed my transmitter. I say together - for you can be certain that I was right on hand when it came to building the frame, and we worked side by side throughout the entire period.

I don't claim to be able to build an entire transmitter and I won't vouch for my wiring - but, by heaven! I can solder a connection and use a drill, and I'm an expert coil winder-upper! Did you ever take a soldering iron in your hands, XYL, and try to apply it to a patch of solder? Believe me, it's an art - make no mistake about that. I discovered that I could make the most amusing things with solder - and I keep my costume jewelry in constant repair. Much to the disgust of the OM here, I have a great time measuring the resistance of fruit and vegetables with the ohm meter. Did you ever measure the resistance of a potato? Try it some time.

Of course, it has been rather difficult to get a meal together at times - what with climbing over tools and getting tangled up in hook-up wire. But for the most part, we have lived in apartments and the kitchen table has to serve as the tool bench. There are at least two shelves in my kitchen devoted to jars and boxes of condensers and resistors as well as nuts and bolts - to say nothing of a couple of drawers and even a suitcase under the stove! I don't mind in the least, for I know that when we do have more room my husband will allow me to arrange things as I like. My greatest ambition is to have a large room for our radio shack with a fine glass top desk and huge maps and globes and perhaps a fireplace for genuine comfort - yes, I'm sure of that - a real fireplace with a big log blazing - I couldn't think of putting my OM out in a corner of the garage. I want my husband with me. I want to share his ideas and help create new ones. I know when he is "chewing the rag" on the air it may not be exactly "big talk," but at any rate he is not cavorting around town with questionable company - nor gambling nor drinking. Of course, if you have a man you don't care to take the trouble of locking up at night - that is something else.

Perhaps you will ask why it is that a woman has to do all the adjusting. My answer to that is - for that she was created. After all, it is the wife who supplies most of the glamour and illusion in marriage. It is part of her job to create an atmosphere where her man can escape from reality into a world apart - a world where he can masquerade and forget that he may be just an inadequate breadwinner.

I have had occasion to observe several couples who are both amateurs and they appear to get so much out of life. In every case, they are intelligent, interesting individuals with a sense of humor and a great capacity for having a good time.

Speaking of a sense of humor - your husband certainly has to have one when he comes home and there is no dinner ready and you are carrying on a QSO with some fellow. A YL or an XYL receives many proposals and that alone is certain to keep your husband interested in you. You cannot realize how it pleases me when another husband tells me what a fine wife I am, and how he wishes his wife could see things as I do.

My husband has given up trying to work DX because I am able to contact so many more countries than he, clue to having more time to "angle" for the elusive DX.

I have been active in amateur radio for five years and I intend to continue. I only hope that I will have the pleasure of a QSO with some of you radio wives in the future.

If you can forget for a minute that I am an amateur and and remember that I am a woman, let me tell you as one wife to another, there is nothing that keeps a woman so young and attractive as some live interest. I have tried several and find that amateur radio fully answers my demands for a spare time activity. There is no hobby or recreation that is as worth while and inexpensive.

A well known novelist recently advised all women to create some hobby which would be a sort of insurance against misfortune and unhappiness, and maintain it in the face of ridicule even, but hold fast to it and keep it alive. It cannot help but add charm and interest to any woman. An active mind is a young mind and an alert mind is a happy one. Remember, too, what Grover Cleveland said: "It is a condition that confronts us - not a theory !"



Posted January 29, 2021