Florence Violet McKenzie

Mar 07 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Traveling for spring break? Need something new to listen to? This isn't a new audio program, but I just heard it this week, and it was so well-done I wanted to share it here. Signals, Currents, and Wires: The Untold Story of Florence Violet McKenzie about Florence Violet McKenzie (1890-1980), Australia's first woman electrical engineer (her 1923 diploma is in the collection at the Powerhouse Museum), first Australian woman to hold an amateur radio license, founder of the Wireless Weekly, correspondent of Einstein's, founder of the Electrical Association of Women and the Women's Emergency Signalling Corps. Oh, and she taught over 12,000 servicemen at her signalling school--she was a gifted teacher of Morse code, visual signalling, and international code. And she did all that teaching as a volunteer, refusing all offers of payment, saying it was her contribution to the war effort. The podcast is a fascinating hour-long study of her life and work, starting with her girlhood tinkering with switches and wires, and following her legacy through interviews with her students and colleagues.

There's something a little funny about listening to a program about a Morse code specialist on an mp3 player. But Catherine Freyne and the folks at ABC Radio National have made an excellent program here, and it's something I would never have heard broadcast in 2009. It's the kind of content that deserves to be downloaded and heard by a very wide audience. (And now I'm off to check out some of the other Hindsight programs available for download. As far as I can tell, there aren't transcripts of the program available on the site, it's audio-only content, with online summaries and images.)

If you listen to the podcast, and decide that the untold story needs to be told more, McKenzie is still "redlinked" at Wikipedia. Perhaps you can start her an entry there?

Image below: Florence Violet Wallace (as she was known in her younger days), photographed with a wireless set. (Source)

Florence Violet Wallace, wearing a headset, at her wireless

Florence Violet Wallace, wearing a headset, at her wireless

One response so far

  • Zuska says:

    Love the photo, and thanks for this post. There are so many women whose stories we have not been told - we think there just weren't any, or only a few "great" names, but they were there all along doing important work.