Ora Nichols: The Most Influential Woman in Radio

During the early radio era, men were the directors, composers, and sound effect technicians. But it was actually a woman- Ora Nichols- who brought sound effects to radio, even though today the radio sector is dominated by men. nichols

Nichols was the first and only woman to run a radio sound effects department at the time. She lead the CBS sound team that brought the famous radio broadcast “War of the Worlds” to life. Often butting heads with Orson Welles, she developed innovative ways to create realistic sounds on the radio- for instance, mimicking the sound of jets by modifying an air conditioner unit, or using the turning of a cast iron lid to make the sound of an alien apace craft door opening, and making the sounds of Martian cylinders unscrewing, army bomber planes flying, and New York City being destroyed under a Martian gas attack. She would spend hours inventing new sound effects, such as one that simulated machine gun fire.

Nichols and her husband Arthur Nichols freelanced for NBC and CBS for years. Ora Nichols was once voted “the most influential woman in radio.”

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