Nixon, Agnes, 1922-2016
- Existence: 1922 - 2016
Agnes Eckhardt Nixon was born on December 10, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois. Nixon’s parents separated when she was a child, and she was raised by her mother and grandmother in Nashville. Upon graduation from St. Cecilia High School in Nashville, Nixon attended St. Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana for two years before transferring to Northwestern University in fall of 1942. While at Northwestern, Nixon was a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority as well as the honorary speech fraternity Zeta Phi Eta. As a student in Northwestern’s School of Speech, Nixon studied under famed drama teacher Alvina Krause and studied alongside fellow students Charlton Heston and Patricia Neal. Additionally, Nixon began writing radio plays while at Northwestern, including a piece titled “No Flags Flying,” which based upon the story of her late fiancé, an aviator who had been killed tragically during World War II.
Upon graduation from Northwestern in 1944, Nixon began writing radio plays under Irna Phillips, who is considered to be the creator of the modern soap opera. Phillips served as a mentor for Nixon, and the two worked together on Phillips’ weekly radio soaps The Woman in White and As the World Turns, which later made the move to television. In addition to her work with Phillips, Nixon worked as a contributing writer to numerous radio series throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, including Robert Montgomery Presents, Somerset Maugham Theatre, Studio One Presents, and Armstrong’s Theatre of Today.
Agnes Eckhardt married automobile executive Robert Nixon in 1951, and the two raised four children together: Cathy, Mary, Robert, and Emily. The Nixon family lived in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. The northwest suburbs of Philadelphia would inspire Nixon’s setting for All My Children, known as Pine Valley.
Agnes Nixon served as a writer for daytime dramas on both CBS and NBC throughout the 1950s and 1960s, including Guiding Light, Search for Tomorrow, and Another World. She was then approached by ABC to develop a series that became One Life to Live, premiering in 1968. When her next endeavor, All My Children, premiered two years later in 1970, Nixon’s husband Robert left the automobile industry and the two created a production company titled Creative Horizons, Incorporated. Nixon served as both head writer and executive producer for All My Children, and the show ran for forty-one years and produced over ten thousand episodes.
In 1982, inspired by her own Irish heritage, Nixon wrote the epic television miniseries The Manions of America, which starred Pierce Brosnan and depicted an Irish family’s migration to the United States in the 19th century. A year later, a new soap opera creation of Nixon’s premiered on ABC titled Loving, and ran for thirteen years.
After their conclusions on ABC in 2011 and 2012, All My Children and One Life to Live were briefly revived in 2013 for The Online Network and made available to stream on the Internet.
As an innovator in the soap opera world, Agnes Nixon has worked to portray underrepresented and taboo social issues on her shows that would likely not have been approved for primetime programming. While writing for Guiding Light, Nixon created a storyline encouraging women to get pap smears inspired by a friend who had passed away from cervical cancer. As a result, she was awarded a “Sentinel for Health Pioneer Award” from the Center for Disease Control in 2002. Additionally, All My Children would go on to depict sexual assault, the AIDS crisis, interracial relationships, antiwar movements, as well as the first onscreen abortion, received by Susan Lucci’s character Erica Kane.
Agnes Nixon is a multiple Daytime Emmy Award-winner (including a Lifetime Achievement Trustee Award), one of the Library of American Broadcasting’s “Giants of Broadcasting,” and a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Science’s Hall of Fame. The Agnes Nixon Playwriting Award at Northwestern University was established in 1979 in her honor. Nixon is also the recipient of Northwestern’s Alumni Merit Award. She resides in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.