Partner Mary Margaret McBride

Queer Places:
230 Central Park S, New York, NY 10019
111 High Point Mountain Rd, West Shokan, NY 12494

Mary Margaret McBride - Historic Missourians - The State ...Moving to New York in the 1920s, where she worked as a publicist and journalist, Mary Margaret McBride met Estelle H. "Stella" Karn (1893 - March 13, 1957), who became her lifelong friend.

They had met in 1920 as co-workers at the Interchurch World Movement, where Karn wrote press releases for missionaries. She had originally honed her skills as a press agent on the rough and tumble traveling carnival circuit. At an interfaith convention in Atlantic City, according to McBride, they got to know each other better, and upon their return to New York, moved in together—a third-floor Greenwich Village walkup on West 4th Street. All masks cast aside, it sounded like a typical Village romance. In 1929 they moved to Park Avenue.

It was in the Village, too, that McBride experimented with more radical politics as a member of the Heterodoxy club. The membership boasted an eclectic mix of remarkable women committed to enlightenment and social reform. Prominent "Heterodites" included art and literary patron Mabel Dodge Luhan; Elizabeth Irwin, who founded the Little Red Schoolhouse; activist and editor of The Masses Crystal Eastman; playwright and co-founder of the Provincetown Playhouse Susan Glaspell; actress, labor activist, and daughter of Senator Robert La Follette, Fola La Follette; members of the CPUSA Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Rose Pastor Stokes; and Grace Nail Johnson, the only African-American member, a life-long civil rights advocate, active in the NAACP. McBride remained a member of the Heterodoxy club until its demise in 1940, and ten years later, was living uptown with Stella Kann, in a duplex on Central Park South, overlooking the park. Her shows were broadcast from there.

McBride and manager Stella Karn would produce their show and then market it directly to sponsors in the New York area or broader national arena. This format allowed McBride and Karn to have complete agency over the content and format of the show. The two were consistently able to maintain a level of support from sponsors, meaning that they were able to produce content that was exactly how they envisioned it, free of outside changes. This model was also one of McBride's notable contributions to broadcasting, as it paved the way for independent producing.[7]

McBride described their meeting, “One day a bouncy woman, with eager brown eyes and auburn hair rolled into a bun, burst into our office and announced that she would be handling publicity for us.” McBride and Karn worked together for years, with Karn managing McBride and her show. McBride described the two of them in a Reader's Digest edition in 1962 as, "No two people were more unlike. My reaction to a crisis was to dissolve into tears; Stella's was to charge into battle." The two moved in together in a small apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. McBride and Karn relied on each other for the entirety of their professional and personal lives.[8]

McBride describes their first endeavor as a complete gamble motivated solely by Karn's optimism. During the Great Depression, the opportunity came for McBride to audition for a radio show, one of the only sources of entertainment at the time. When McBride got the job, she immediately recommended Karn as the person to handle the business side of the show's affairs. Karn and McBride became business partners, and Karn's first act on the job was to give her partner a raise.[8]

McBride and Karn made a name for themselves as pioneers in the field of broadcasting, and also as trailblazers for the future of lesbian and bisexual journalists. McBride and Karn established their show as a connection point for lesbian and bisexual female creatives, forging friendships with influential names in broadcasting such as Ann Batchelder and Lisa Sergio.[9]


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