First Woman on U.S. Television

(Photo of Edna Mae Horner.)

Barbara Walters, Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer may be among the most recognizable women on TV today, but a less-familiar woman holds the distinction of being the first to appear on U.S. television.

When AT&T held its pioneering demonstration of television on April 7, 1927, Edna Mae Horner, an operator at the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, helped guests in Washington, D.C., exchange greetings with the audience in New York. Throughout the presentation, viewers in New York could see and hear Edna as she called eager audience members to the transmitting equipment.

In reporting the day’s events, The New York Times noted that Edna was “one good-looking girl with fluffy hair, and as cool and efficient as if she had been at the television-telephone switchboard all her life.”

(Photo of Edna Horner at switchboard of first U.S. television broadcast.)

Edna Horner makes connections at the switchboard during the April 7, 1927, demonstration of television.

To thank Edna for her work, AT&T Executive Vice President E.B. Craft invited her to New York in May 1927. According to an AT&T employee-newspaper account of the trip, Edna “visited the Laboratories building…and inspected this end of the television system over which her face and voice had so often been transmitted. The remainder of her visit was spent in…sightseeing, shopping and theatergoing.”

AT&T’s archives contain no more information about Edna, whose broadcasting career probably ended almost as quickly as it began — making her not only the first woman on television, but also the first to experience those fleeting 15 minutes of fame.