10 Sorority Women From the Golden Age of Television

To close out Women’s History Month, 10 sorority women from television’s earlier years are spotlighted.

Today’s college students cannot possibly fathom what life was like in those days when there were only a handful of channels on the television – ABC, NBC, and CBS and maybe a local channel or two. In the metro NY area we had a couple of independents channels WNET (the PBS station), WOR, WNEW, WPIX. Broadcasting stations shut down for the night and there was sign-off at night and sign-in at dawn when the programming started up. In between there would be a test pattern. In the ‘50s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s, video recorders were not readily available, so if you missed a show when it was on TV, you did not have the opportunity to view it until it was rerun, usually during the summer. These sorority women were on the air during those pre-cable television years.

Fran Allison (1907-1989), Alpha Gamma Delta. Allison was a comedian and singer who appeared on radio and television. She is best known for her role in NBC’s weekday puppet show, Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. It was on the air from 1947-57. The link is to an amusing commercial. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPAq1_FJjw8

Fran Allison with Kukla and Ollie

Fran Allison with Kukla and Ollie

Barbara Feldon, Kappa Kappa Gamma. Feldon played Agent 99 on the 1960s show Get Smart. She was also a model and did commercials including this one that may have seemed racy for the time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DMxoGdR71k

Aneta Corsaut (1933-95), Alpha Omicron Pi. You can still catch Corsaut on the air as Helen Crump, Andy Taylor’s love interest in The Andy Griffith Show. She later played Andy Taylor’s wife in the spinoff Mayberry R.F.D. The link is to the trailer for the The Blob, the 1958 independent film in which she and Steve McQueen made their acting debuts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc-x4BB_esw

Nancy Kulp (1921-1991), Pi Beta Phi. Kulp worked as a journalist and did service in the U.S. Navy during World War II before entering the acting field. Kulp’s ability to play slightly odd characters kept her busy. She is best known for her role as Jane Hathaway, Mr. Drysdale’s secretary in The Beverly Hillbillies. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p58NveKCHRU

Carol Lawrence, Alpha Xi Delta. Primarily a Broadway actress, Lawrence was Maria in the original Broadway production of West Side Story. She also appeared in guest roles on many television shows. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjT5AYFRT7A

Pat Priest, Delta Zeta. Priest’s mother Ivy Baker Priest, the United States Treasurer from 1953-61, was also a Delta Zeta. Priest was the second actress to play Marilyn Munster in The Munsters. She appeared from 1964-66.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cR5X6jRk8b4 (she comes in at about 4:20 and 5:20. And who knew that the pilot’s Lily Munster bore s striking resemblance to Morticia Gomez?) 

Dinah Shore (1916-94), Alpha Epsilon Phi. Shore was multi-talented; she was a singer, actress, and television personality. She hosted several television shows, including a variety show and later, in the 1970s, a lifestyle show, before that was an everyday genre of television show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdeCjOre2R0&list=RDPdeCjOre2R0 (with Frank Sinatra cooking spaghetti sauce.)  With Pearl Bailey https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaxBVUOkyLs#t=20

Dawn Wells, Alpha Chi Omega. From 1964-67, Wells played Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island (“a three-hour tour”).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kITTN0k4u9k

Mary Wickes (1910-95), Phi Mu. In 1934, Wickes made her Broadway debut. She worked in radio with Orson Welles, appeared in films and then began appearing on television in 1949. She played a variety of characters. Lucille Ball was a good friend of hers and she played a variety of guest roles on I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, and Here’s Lucy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt2TMDL-WU0

Mary Wickes

Mary Wickes

Leigh Taylor Young, Kappa Alpha Theta. In 1966, Taylor-Young played Rachel Welles on Peyton Place, a prime time soap opera. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-Kd9pRwR-Q

To read about the other sorority women highlighted during Women’s History Month, see http://wp.me/p20I1i-1wp And if you enjoy these posts, subscribe and get updates when new material is posted. Also take a look at my pinterest page, www.pinterest.com/glohistory/.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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