This website is made possible by generous donations from users just like you. $18 helps keep JWA online for one day.  Please consider making a gift to JWA today!
Close [x]


You are here

Share Share Share Share Share Share Share

Irna Phillips

Irna Phillips created soap operas for radio and television that were followed by massive audiences, including Guiding Light, and introduced plotlines that shaped the format of many soaps that followed. Phillips dreamed of becoming an actress and taught English and drama at junior colleges and teachers’ colleges in the Midwest while working at a Chicago radio station on her summer breaks. In 1930, she created one of the first radio soap operas, Painted Dreams, moving to NBC with a new creation, Today’s Children, in 1932. In the 1940s, she created five more soaps, including Guiding Light, which became the first radio serial to successfully transfer to television in 1952. Phillips was known for her cliffhanger endings and her use of organ music to create moods, and was one of the first scriptwriters to utilize the plot devices of the amnesia victim and the murder trial. She went on to write for other soap operas, including As the World Turns, Another World, and Days of Our Lives, and served as a consultant for Peyton Place.

More on: Radio, Television, Writing
Date of Birth
July 1, 1901
Place of Birth
Chicago, Illinois
Date of Death
December 23, 1973

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Irna Phillips." (Viewed on December 15, 2018) <>.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

The JWA Podcast

listen now

Sign Up for JWA eNews


Discover Education Programs

Join our growing community of educators.

view programs