226 episodes

First-person diaries, sound portraits, and hidden chapters of history from Peabody Award-winning producer Joe Richman and the Radio Diaries team. From teenagers to octogenarians, prisoners to prison guards, bra saleswomen to lighthouse keepers. The extraordinary stories of ordinary life. Radio Diaries is a proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.

Radio Diaries Radiotopia

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.6 • 1.2K Ratings

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

First-person diaries, sound portraits, and hidden chapters of history from Peabody Award-winning producer Joe Richman and the Radio Diaries team. From teenagers to octogenarians, prisoners to prison guards, bra saleswomen to lighthouse keepers. The extraordinary stories of ordinary life. Radio Diaries is a proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    The End of Smallpox

    The End of Smallpox

    Humanity isn't great at eradicating diseases. But there is one disease that humanity has managed to eradicate: smallpox.Smallpox was around for more than 3,000 years and killed at least 300 million people in the 20th century. Then, by 1980, it was gone.Rahima Banu was the last person in the world to have the deadliest form of smallpox. In 1975, Banu was a toddler growing up in a remote village in Bangladesh when she developed the telltale bumpy rash. Soon, public health workers from around the world showed up at her home to try to keep the virus from spreading. This is her story.

    • 21 min
    Meet Miss Subways

    Meet Miss Subways

    Most beauty pageants promote the fantasy of the ideal woman. But for 35 years, one contest in New York City celebrated the everyday working girl: Miss Subways. Each month starting in May 1941, a young woman was elected “Miss Subways,” and her face gazed down on transit riders as they rode through the city. Her photo was accompanied by a short bio describing her hopes, dreams and aspirations. The public got to choose the winners – so Miss Subway represented the perfect New York miss. Miss Subways was one of the first integrated beauty pageants in America. An African-American Miss Subways was selected in 1948 – more than thirty years before there was a Black Miss America. By the 1950s, there were Miss Subways who were Black, Asian, Jewish, and Hispanic – the faces of New York’s female commuters. This episode originally aired on NPR in 2012.Follow us on X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram @radiodiaries. Learn more at our website, radiodiaries.org.

    • 10 min
    The Gospel Ranger

    The Gospel Ranger

    This year marks 90 years since Claude Ely wrote "Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down." The song was written as Ely was supposed to be on his death bed. Instead, Ely, known as the "Gospel Ranger," went on to inspire the birth of rock & roll. Follow us on X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram @radiodiaries. Learn more about our stories on radiodiaries.org. 

    • 16 min
    Mandela's Election: 30 Years Later

    Mandela's Election: 30 Years Later

    This month marks 30 years since Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first democratically elected president. However, the story of Mandela's rise to the presidency isn't all that simple. The four years between Mandela’s release from prison and his election to the presidency were some of the most violent in South Africa's history. That's the story you'll hear this week, as we revisit one of our favorite releases: Mandela: An Audio History.Listen to the full Mandela: An Audio History series at mandelahistory.org. Find all stories from Radio Diaries at radiodiaries.org.Follow us on X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram @radiodiaries. 

    • 17 min
    Working, Then and Now

    Working, Then and Now

    50 years ago, radio broadcaster Studs Terkel published a book called WORKING: People Talk About What They Do All Day, and How They Feel About What They Do. Terkel went around the country with a tape recorder and had conversations with ordinary Americans about their jobs and their reflections on them. The book ended up being an unexpected bestseller. For a long time, the recordings of these interviews went unheard, but back in 2015, we and Jane Saks at Project& were given access to the original raw interviews. We also tracked down some of the people Terkel had interviewed to catch up on their lives, and made a series called "Working, Then and Now." 50 years later, it's interesting how much some jobs have changed, and others have disappeared entirely. Today on the podcast, we revisit that series in an hour-long special.

    • 57 min
    My Iron Lung (Revisited)

    My Iron Lung (Revisited)

    Paul Alexander, one of two people in the U.S. still relying on an iron lung to survive, died on March 11, 2024 at the age of 78. Paul contracted polio in 1952 at six years old, and has had to rely on an iron lung — a big metal ventilator that encases the body from the neck to toes — since then. We spoke to Paul a few years ago about his life and the lessons he’s learned from living under uncommon circumstances. So, this week on the podcast, we’re sharing some of that conversation, as well as revisiting the story of the now the only person in the U.S. still relying on an iron lung to survive: Martha Lillard.

    ***

    This story has support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and listeners like you. Music from Blue Dot Sessions, Epidemic Sounds and the song “Iron Lung” by Taylor Phelan and the Canes. Follow us on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram and Facebook @radiodiaries, and visit us at radiodiaries.org.

    • 16 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
1.2K Ratings

1.2K Ratings

eg portland ,

Loved this program

Well done always. I loved this last series about unmarked graves. Profound.

lindafbird ,

Bias?

I don’t know if this could be called reporting. At least not in a professional way. I ‘m not that intetested in hearing how hard it was for the interviewer or that she felt like throwing up. There were times that the interviewer and her experience and opinions was the story - not the people she was reporting on. Wish she would step back and stick to reporting on the events - her drama and emotions seem out of place for one that wasn’t a part of it.

kimberjs ,

Unmarked Graveyard

I’m sad that the Unmarked Graveyard series has ended. It is a deeply engaging series that looked at the lives of the anonymous people who surround us and reminds us that we are all only a heartbeat away from becoming an unknown, anonymous body in the eyes of authorities—lost with no past and buried in an unmarked mass grave, little more than biological waste. I genuinely wish the series would continue restoring names and lives to the dead by telling their stories.

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