Aux transmitter (L), phasor (C) and Main transmitter (R)
Back up studio at transmitter site.
Transmitter site, former location of the studio. The WDEE-FM transmitter building used to be located behind this building adjacent to one of the towers.
Notes on the stations "WOMN" years:
The first radio station to identify itself as a woman's station was
In 1977, Robert Herpe, the owner of WPLR-FM in
Branham was also enthusiastic about a format for women. "I said
`yes', all the while wondering how it would happen. There was the thought of making it a station for women without a thought as to what that meant. `Women' made up a diverse community in
Herpe acquired WCDQ-AM and applied for a change of call letters on June 30, 1978. The new call letters were WOMN-AM, and the station was identified by the broadcasters, on the air, as WOMAN radio. WOMN-AM began broadcasting with the new woman-centered format August, 28, 1978, a day picked to coincide with Women's Equality Day, according to Les Thimmig, the director of women's programming at WOMN-AM.. The station, as Herpe envisioned it, would provide in-depth coverage of events from a woman's point of view, and would work to improve communication between women and men. Herpe also wanted to "give a chance to that other 50 percent of the world to give input to the media." Kalt was very cautious, however, to avoid putting the label "feminist" on the new format. In an interview with a reporter he said, "Studies show about 50 percent of people are turned off by overtly feminist things, while the rest like it. So why lose half your audience before you even get going?"
The initial response by
station format was good. Kalt and his sales staff presented WOMN-AM to
advertisers as "the only station programmed totally to the needs of today's
woman. When you use WOMAN to reach New Haven Women your message is delivered to decision makers, heads of households, and spenders of discretionary income." The station was commercially sold out the first three weeks it was on the air. Its advertisers included local supermarket chains, record stores, auto dealers, the New Haven Nighthawks minor hockey club and a new racquetball club which featured a daycare facility for new members.
The media response to the station was significant. There were
articles in Business Week, Ms., Vogue, in addition to The New York Times, area newspapers and industry publications. Newsweek magazine's cable program "Newsweek Woman" taped a feature on the
station; Swedish national television sent a crew and a correspondent for a
A feature article on WOMN-AM appeared in Ms. in March, 1979.
Headlined "Tuning in on the Voice of WOMN-AM", the story described the new station, its innovative programming and the people who had put the station on the air, and those who were operating it. In the article, reporter Fran Hawthorne captured the essence, of the radio station when she wrote, "The station began broadcasting last August to speak to and about women; it tries to play music that women like, highlight issues of importance to women and bring attention to female artists."
The public affairs programming spoke decidedly to women from a
cultural feminist perspective. Among the features aired during WOMN-AM's first several months of operation were programs on parents' role reversal, the women's movement, nurse-midwives, birth control, battered women, women's music, Susan B. Anthony, and sexist language.
The Mother Goddess was the subject of a WOMAN Feature broadcast November 14 and repeated November 18, 1978. In an interview with Elizabeth Maffeo, an astrologer, teacher, and herbalogist, WOMN-AM director of women's programming Les Thimmig and Maffeo discussed Merlin Stone's book When God Was a Woman. In her introduction, Thimmig said, "when the shift in religious focus took place from the mother to the father principle, there was a great deal of violence." She continued, "The people firmly believed in their goddess structure, and they intended to keep it, but the fist of the very strict father principle took over."
Another feature program on WOMN addressed the issue of sexual
harassment in an interview with feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon, then a
The station also examined abortion in a two-part series which
presented both sides of the issue. In a feature aired on January 22, 1979, Nancy Wickett, a board member of the Connecticut National Abortion Rights Action League, raised concern about the chipping away of rights, six years after the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. Wickett defended her group's position relative to those opposed to it. She vigorously attacked those who sought restrictions on women's access to abortion. "I really resent the term pro-life because it implies that anyone who does not go along with their thinking is anti-life. We believe very strongly in the quality of life and in the right of the woman to choose." In the broadcast, Thimmig described the issue as "a red-hot one, sparking passion and anger on both sides."
On the following day, the station explored the other side of the
abortion debate was. Carol Murphy, president of the Pro-Life Council of
Women's program director Thimmig also explored alternate forms of sexual expression in a five-part series on gay lifestyles which was broadcast on WOMN-AM. In the first installment, Thimmig interviewed two lesbians who had come out of the closet. The first woman, a 21-year old who had been out for three years, dismissed her mother's reaction to her being a lesbian by insisting she was only going through a phase. "Well," the daughter explained, "I've been going through this `phase` since I was 15 when I realized that I did tend more toward women." The second woman interviewed was a 29-year old lesbian mother who had been out for three years. She explained how the experience had liberated her. "There was an intensely euphoric feeling which I have never experienced before or since. And I knew that all of those years of pretending, to aim for `Harriet Housewife`, and reading Playgirl and all of that - to hide my homosexuality -was just that. It was hiding, it was playing at being instead of actually being who I was."
The station's program mainstay was music, and the music format was Album Oriented Rock (AOR). Cindy Bailen, the station's music director, mixed both male and female artists, but broke the traditional AOR mode by requiring a minimum of one female artist to every two male artists played.  The female disc jockeys also played feminist music by artists like Holly Near and Chris Williamson tucked in between traditional and better known artists like Fleetwood Mac, Linda Rondstadt, Bonnie Raitt and Laura Nyro. Bailen paid close attention to the lyrics of the songs broadcast on WOMN-AM. Music lyrics considered sexist or demeaning were not played. The issue of rock lyrics was an important one to the programmers at WOMN-AM, and to the women's liberation movement generally. In 1970, Marion Meade had written about the degrading image of women portrayed in the lyrics of rock music. Meade pointed out that "since rock is written almost entirely by men, it's hardly surprising to find it riddled with notions of male superiority. And, for that matter, the entire rock `culture` screams of sexism."
Programmers at WOMN-AM also gave thought to the commercials aired by the station. Commercials that promoted stereotypes of women as helpless or flighty were sent back for re-writing. Thimmig told Ms., "I don't think we'd be big on advertising a Clint Eastwood movie." Station president Herpe articulated a clear policy when he stated "We have strict acceptance standards.
The copy should not put down women in any way."
Within a year, serious problems that threatened its future
developed at WOMN-AM. The station failed to distinguish itself in the Arbitron ratings and advertising revenues fell off. Some of the station staff attributed the difficulties to the music selection played. Kalt believed the format became too feminist. "All we wound up playing," he said, "was message music, followed by a p.s.a. (public service announcement) for a rape crisis center and later in the hour a segment on Planned Parenthood." The narrow focus was detrimental to the station's success. "We lost sight of the general women's community."
Added to that liability was the fact that the station remained a low-power AM daytime facility.
At least one disc jockey at WOMN-AM believed that there was a
homophobic reaction to the radio station in the
WOMN-AM ceased to operate as a radio station programmed
specifically for women in September of 1979. Five months later, the on-air staff was instructed to stop calling the station WOMAN radio on the air, and exclusively identify it as W-O-M-N. The programming reverted to Top 40, and feminist programming all but disappeared. Later in 1980, the station unofficially renamed itself PLR2 in an effort to capitalize on the success of its powerful FM counterpart. By then, almost all of the on-air staff from WOMN-AM had left the station.
WOMN-AM was not the only radio station to change its format to
woman-centered programming. On January 1, 1982, WWMN-AM, licensed to
before the station became "
With promotion that included birth announcements declaring "It's a
girl!", baby blue and pink billboards, and 10 second television commercials, the station began broadcasting its new format New Year's Day, 1982. WWMN-AM built its programming around women. It also featured women air personalities, including Jacque, a Detroit-based psychic. A daily afternoon call-in show was hosted by a
As in the case of WOMN-AM, there was national publicity that included articles in Billboard, Advertising Age and local newspapers. A segment about WWMN-AM appeared on "Newsweek Woman", the same cable program that earlier had done a feature on WOMN-AM. The five-minute "Newsweek Woman" program presented interviews with Cavanaugh, and with Linda Lanci, the music and program director. The program also featured interviews with three men and one woman randomly stopped on the street in
station for women.
Cavanaugh explained that station management decided to take a
narrow programming approach. He said, "We started looking at the possibility of appealing to females. There was, as far as we could perceive, a vacuum for that sort of thing [radio programming for women] in
Lanci said that she had received calls from men who did not like
the woman-centered programming being broadcast on the station. "Automatically, they think this is a `feminist' station." She believed that if the station "can work in Flint, it can work just about anywhere."
The men interviewed on the street expressed cautious acceptance of WWMN-AM. One man said the station would be all right "if they play a little country" while another man, dressed in a coat and tie, said the bottom line is profit, and "if they can make a profit with men or women, it's all right." The only woman shown said she liked to listen to the station because, "I like the music and I like not having any commercials." It was precisely the lack of commercials and advertising support that made the station not economically viable and prompted a format change.
Lobby looking into air studio.