$5,000 in 1956 currency is equivalent
to about $46,000 in 2020, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' "Inflation
Calculator." That is the value of the amateur radio equipment used by Mrs. Mary
Burke in her work handling "an average of 3000 messages per month, principally for
service personnel overseas." For her tireless wireless efforts, she was the first woman to
win the coveted Edison Award Cup (sponsored by General Electric). Most of Mrs. Burke's
communications was via Morse code, where she restrained herself to "about 30 words
a minute to maintain accuracy". Way to go, Mary!
April 1957 Radio & TV News
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early
electronics. See articles from
Radio & Television News, published 1919-1959. All copyrights hereby
Mary Burke, W3CUL
Wins 1956 Edison Award
"Mae" Burke, winner of 1956 Edison Award, confers with husband
Al, himself a ham.
Top honors go to ham who handles from 3000 to 70,000 messages a month for GIs
and home folks.
For the first time in the five-year history of the Edison Radio Amateur Award,
top honors have gone to a woman operator - Mary ("Mae") Burke, W3CUL, a 45-year-old
housewife of Morton, Pa.
Operating eight hours a day in six different radio message nets, Mae handles
an average of 3000 messages per month, principally for service personnel overseas.
As one of the nation's top "traffic" operators, she uses Morse almost exclusively.
According to Mrs. Burke, she "stays at about 30 words a minute to maintain accuracy."
Mae gives a lot of credit to her husband Alfred, W3VR, who takes the responsibility
for maintaining their $5000 worth of gear, in addition to cooking breakfast and
dinner so that she can keep her early morning and late afternoon schedules.
She received the Edison Award Cup and $500 check at the annual awards banquet
held in Washington, Feb. 28th.
Mrs. Burke has handled a total of 312,000 messages since 1949 - sometimes reaching
a total of 10,000 messages a month. Her longest stretch of operating without missing
a schedule was 1825 days - five years without taking a vacation or even a single
The committee felt that such devotion to duty, voluntary though it is, deserved
recognition on a national scale.
In addition to the major award, citation plaques were presented to James P. Born,
Jr., W4ZD of Atlanta, Ga.; Julius M. J. Madey, K2KGJ of Clark, N. J.; Harry L. Fendt,
W2PFL of Great Kills, N. Y.; George W. Bailey, W2KH of New York, N. Y.; Sam E. Baker,
W3FIQ of West : Springfield, Pa.; C. Newton Kraus; W1BCR, Warren, R. I.; Martha
Shirley, W0ZWL, Black Hawk, S. D.; and the "Operation Deepfreeze" committee of the
Radio Amateurs of Greater Syracuse.
The 1956 Edison A ward judges were: Herbert Hoover, Jr., under secretary of state;
Commissioner Rosel H. Hyde of the FCC; Chairman E. Roland Harriman of the American
Red Cross; and G. L. Dosland, president of the American Radio Relay League.
Fifty candidates representing twenty-one different states were nominated by friends
and associates for efforts in emergencies, educational work, Civil Defense organization,
and handling messages to overseas servicemen.
The Edison Award is sponsored annually by the General Electric Company.
Posted April 2, 2020
(updated from original post on 12/2/2013)