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'Working' Then And Now: Terkel Interviews 'Token' Female Ad Executive

In the 1970s, Studs Terkel took a reel-to-reel tape recorder to record interviews with people about their jobs. (George Geesey)
In the 1970s, Studs Terkel took a reel-to-reel tape recorder to record interviews with people about their jobs. (George Geesey)
We are marking a milestone, 50 years of NPR, with a look back at stories from the archive.

In the fall of 2016, I was sitting in traffic en route to my job at a creative agency. I was drained by the long commute, hours and nagging questions of meaning and self-doubt.

On Morning Edition, Steve Inskeep began introducing the Studs Terkel interviews titled 'Working' Then And Now. I heard the voice of the "token" female ad executive" Terkel spoke with in 1972 and was riveted.

I was bowled over by her confidence and the matter-of-fact way she spoke about her success. At the same time, she acknowledged the tightrope I found myself walking — being creatively engaged at work, then going home and wondering whether any of it mattered.

That interview shook me. I'm certain it helped lead me to work at National Public Media. Because like that mystery executive, I'm good at what I do — and now I'm doing it in service of an organization I believe in. —Sara Barbour, Production Manager, NPM Creative


In the '70s, Studs Terkel talked to an ad executive, who explained how as a "token woman" she had to navigate the male-dominated industry.

This interview and others that Terkel recorded for his 1974 book, Working, were boxed away in his house until recently, when Radio Diaries and Project& combed through them and produced a series of audio stories, Working Then And Now. Thanks to the WFMT Studs Terkel Archive and the Chicago History Museum. More stories from the series are also available on The Radio Diaries Podcast.

Copyright NPR 2021.

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