Yesterday, Agnes Eckhardt Nixon died. She is considered the Queen of Modern Soap Operas. Unlike some of her soap opera characters, there will never be anyone to replace her. Nixon became a member of the Northwestern University chapter of Alpha Chi Omega as a junior transfer from St. Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana. At Northwestern, she studied under Alvina Krause, a storied drama teacher. Charlton Heston, Jean Hagen, and Patricia Neal, a Pi Beta Phi, were her drama school classmates.
Nixon began writing plays for radio when that was an option for performing dramas, in pre-television days. A meeting with Irna Phillips, the creator of the modern soap opera, and an alumna of the Phi Sigma Sigma chapter at the University of Illinois, led to Nixon’s career as a soap opera writer. Some accounts say that the meeting was arranged by Nixon’s father who wanted to dissuade his daughter from entering the field and instead join the family business selling burial garments. Nixon took with her the script she had written for professor Armand Hunter’s class. Phillips read her “A” paper and hired her then and there, two weeks after graduation. Phillips took Nixon her under her wing, until Nixon was ready to fly on her own.
In 1951, Nixon married and began a family. Four children were raised in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, a locale which would later serve as a model for Pine Valley, the comunity she would create 20 years later.
During the 1950s. Nixon was a daytime drama writer for CBS and NBC. Her work included Another World, Guiding Light, and Search for Tomorrow. She then answered ABC’s offer to develop One Life to Live. The show went on the air in 1968. All My Children followed two years later in 1970. Loving ran from 1991-93. While at first she wrote all or many of the scripts, her role transitioned into being an executive or consulting producer for the shows.
College women who lived during the dark ages of the 1970s and 1980s, when shows were aired and then never seen again, may remember crowding around a television. Some devotees would not schedule classes during the times these shows were on. The day’s plot line was often discussed over dinner. Agnes Nixon’s work is in the fabric of so many women’s college experiences. May she Rest in Peace.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2016. All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/