Hummert, Anne (c. 1905–1996)

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Hummert, Anne (c. 1905–1996)

American writer who, with husband Frank, created the first daytime soap opera. Born around 1905; died on July 5, 1996, in New York City; graduated magna cum laude from Goucher College, Baltimore, Maryland, 1925; married a journalist (divorced); married Frank Hummert, in 1934 (died 1966): children: (first marriage) one son.

Anne and Frank Hummert were the creators of the first daytime soap opera "Just Plain Bill," which premiered on radio in 1933 and immediately caught the imagination of radio listeners throughout the nation. The afternoon soaps quickly became a national trend which continued with the advent of television and has only recently fallen victim to a diminished afternoon audience and the popularity of the talk show. During the 1930s and 1940s, however, the Hummerts were churning out a total of 18 popular daytime serials, 90 15-minute episodes a week.

Anne Hummert was born in New York City around 1905, graduated from Goucher College in 1925, and began her career as a reporter, taking a job with the precursor of the International Herald Tribune in Paris. Within a year, she had married and divorced a colleague and was back in the United States with an infant son to support. She settled in Chicago, employed as an assistant to Frank Hummert, a copywriter and partner in the Blackett, Sample & Hummert Agency. They were married in 1934. At that time, commercial radio was in its infancy and programming was limited to the evening hours when listeners were free to gather around the radio. While advertisers were dimly aware that housewives were home all day and were the major purchasers for the family, the Hummerts grasped the opportunity at hand, providing an afternoon drama so compelling that women and afternoon stay-at-homes tuned in. Within months after the introduction of "Just Plain Bill," the saga of a barber in the small town of Hartville who had married above himself, the airwaves were flooded with copycat programs, including several new offerings from the Hummerts. Advertisers, eager to peddle their wares to a captive audience, were lining up in droves to sponsor the new shows.

The Hummerts lived and wrote together for 32 years, until Frank Hummert's death in 1966. Anne, a millionaire several times over, survived another 30 years, healthy and vigorous almost to the end. She died in her New York apartment on July 5, 1996, at the age of 91.


Thomas, Robert McG., Jr. "Obituaries," in The [New London] Day. July 21, 1996.