I’ve Endured: Women in Old-Time Music

Close-Up on Women in Old-Time Music

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Sunshine Sue Workman

Photo of Sunshine Sue Workman
Library of Virginia


Keosauqua, Iowa

Date of Birth

November 12, 1912

Date of Death

June 13, 1979

Sunshine Sue Workman – born Mary Arlene Higdon, and later Mary Workman by marriage – worked on numerous country radio stations and programs, including WLS’s National Barn Dance; WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky; WRVA in Richmond, Virginia; and the Old Dominion Barn Dance, which was carried on CBS radio and WRVA. She performed for a while in a group known as Sunshine Sue and the Happy Valley Girls, which included “champion girl fiddler” Ramona Riggins (later Jones). Sunshine Sue emceed the Old Dominion Barn Dance from 1946 to 1957, along with singing and performing on guitar and organ. She was called the “Queen of the Hillbillies,” a title given to her by Virginia governor William M. Tuck, a huge fan of her show. 

Not only did Sunshine Sue step in front of the mic on stage, but she also had an impact behind the scenes. She oversaw the financial side of the Old Dominion Barn Dance and also hired much of the talent that appeared on the show, even working with them to fine-tune their acts and signing them to exclusive contracts. As writer Caroline Morris notes in her book about WRVA: “Workman was not only the face and voice of the Old Dominion Barn Dance, but also the program’s talent agent and producer, becoming perhaps the only woman in America to fill those three roles simultaneously.”

Take a Listen

Select Discography

  • “I Wish It Wasn’t So”
  • “Pioneer Mother of Mine”

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