Woman Foster, Lynn (1914 - 1985)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Mosman, New South Wales, Australia
- Playwright, Radio producer, Radio writer, Script editor and Television writer
Written by Chris Arneil, National Film and Sound Archive
Born in Sydney in 1914, Lynn Foster aspired to be a writer and spent her teenage years writing numerous plays. She would later become an important pioneer in the radio industry, being the first woman in Australia to write and direct a major radio serial on a national network. She also played a major part in the advancement of the status of writers in the radio industry.
Initially limited by a lack of paid writing opportunities, Lynn Foster was 19 when she was offered a job at the radio station 2UE Sydney after winning second prize in a playwriting competition it had organised. While initially only writing small pieces for 2UE, in 1936 she began writing scripts for the Broadcasting Service Association (BSA) production unit, whose programs were broadcast around Sydney on 2GB and 2UE. This writing team became known as the Macquarie Players in 1938, and it was there that she honed her skills writing for radio.
Preferring freelance work, Foster wrote for a number of different sponsors during the war years before becoming the main adaptor of radio scripts from America for Lux Radio Theatre. In 1942, Foster became the director of the serial Big Sister, the first nationally sponsored morning serial, billed as 'the first Australia-wide show designed exclusively for women, with the biggest cast of stars in any show on the air'. Adapted from American scripts, the serial was extremely popular, attaining top ratings among daytime programs during its five-year run. Lynn Foster's direction on Big Sister gained her enormous respect among her peers and colleagues; they fondly dubbed her 'The Sergeant' due to both her authority and iron discipline.
In 1944, Texas-born radio producer Grace Gibson began her own radio production company in Sydney, Grace Gibson Productions, and chose Lynn Foster as the company's first director. In 1945, Foster wrote the radio play Lost Generation to assist in the sale of war bonds, first directing a cast of leading radio actors and later adapting the play for theatre. Lynn Foster received a letter of appreciation from Prime Minister Ben Chifley on behalf of the Government, thanking her for this contribution to the war effort.
Lynn Foster's experience and authority led to her becoming the spokesperson for writers in commercial radio when they successfully lobbied to be transferred industrially from the Australian Journalists Association to Actors Equity. This laid the foundations for the formation of the Writers Guild, where she would later become a member of the management committee.
After Big Sister finished in 1946, Lynn Foster wrote and directed the serial Crossroads of Life, this time using all original scripts. She wrote a part for her friend, actor Peter Finch, and persuaded him to accept the weekly wage she offered in order to save the fare to travel to London, where he later became well known as an actor. Foster went to London in 1949, a year after Finch. She stayed for twenty years, writing radio and television scripts. After returning to Sydney in 1970 she worked as a writer and script editor on the television soap opera Number 96. She passed away in Mosman, Sydney in 1985, aged 71.
Additional sources: Foster, Lynn: Interviewed by Diana Combe: Oral History, 10 February 1985, 191376; National Film and Sound Archive.
National Film and Sound Archive
- Lane, Richard, The Golden Age of Australian Radio Drama 1923-1960: A History Through Biography, Melbourne University Press, Carlton South, Victoria, 1994. Details
- Arneil, Chris, Women in Radio - Foster, Lynn, Women and Leadership in a Century of Australian Democracy, National Film and Sound Archive, 2014. http://www.nfsa.gov.au/research/papers/2014/02/28/women-and-leadership-century-australian-democracy/#foster. Details
- 'Every Day Brings Another Play: Sydney Girl's High-speed Job', Australian Women’s Weekly, 31 October 1936, p. 38, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/47495243. Details
- 'The World of Women: Writes and Produces Plays for Radio', The Examiner, 7 January, 1947, p. 5, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/60994989. Details